Weyburn actress in cast for virtual Shakespeare production

Chelsea Woodard to be part of 'Romeo and Juliet' in online performance

Home is where the Bard is, and Theatre Calgary, in association with The Shakespeare Company and Hit + Myth, is getting ready to bring a summer tradition to your screens, as they present “Shakespeare by the Bow… online”, with a production of “Romeo and Juliet”. Among the cast of players for this production is Weyburn’s own Chelsea Woodard, in her first role with the theatre program.

It is love at first sight for Romeo and Juliet, two teens from rival families. As their courtship blossoms, one of the greatest love stories of all times unfolds. Watch Shakespeare’s classic story of star-crossed lovers from the comfort of your home, as Alberta’s emerging artists take on this universally accessible love story, and stay true to the heart of the play, while acknowledging the times we find ourselves in.

article continues below

With the appropriate restrictions on public gatherings in Calgary set through the summer, the company is unable to present Shakespeare by the Bow in their traditional location on Prince’s Island Park. However, to keep a 32-year Calgary summer tradition alive, Theatre Calgary has re-imagined the experience as an approximately 50-minute long show that has been adapted by Haysam Kadri and Jenna Turk, and will once again feature a diverse cast of young emerging artists, and be directed by Kadri.

”It was imperative for Theatre Calgary to not lose our outdoor summer tradition production of Shakespeare by the Bow, and the work and experience we provide for Alberta’s emerging artists,” says Theatre Calgary Artistic Director Stafford Arima. “I knew that I had to figure out a way to ensure that ‘ShakesBow’ could still have its voice and presence be seen, while being incredibly creative and innovative in moving online.”

The artists rehearsed and will perform from their individual locations to adhere to social distancing, and each performance will be a live streaming performance. There will be a number of surprises too, including guest cameos along with specially created animation for this production from Kurt Firla(kurtfirla.com).

The program is for theatre students who have graduated in the last five years, and as Chelsea graduated in 2016, she was eligible to join the cast for this summer.

“It’s been the weirdest, coolest experience ever,” she said in an interview, noting that all of the actors and actresses have been rehearsing alone at their residence, and then by Zoom as they put their lines together.

She admits she’s disappointed this production won’t be presented on their stage on Prince’s Island Park, as she noted the stage area is on a hill surrounded by trees and near the Bow River.

“It’s something I wanted to be a part of for a really long time,” she said. Chelsea recorded her auditions in March, right around when the pandemic restrictions began to be put in place, and admitted that for a while, through April, she was unsure that they would be able to put their play on, with the cancellation of the Calgary Stampede and the Calgary Folk Festival among other things.

“The fact we are still able to bring the Shakespeare on the Bow to Calgarians and to folks all across the country is a pretty cool thing,” she said, noting she’s made sure her family in the Weyburn area know about it as well as her friends across the country.

Romeo and Juliet will be portrayed by real-life couple Zach Running Coyote and Anna Dalgleish. Rounding out the acting ensemble are Chelsea (as Tybalt), Melanie Bahniuk, Billy Brown, Siddharth Kumar, Kaeley Jade Wiebe and Kiana Wu.

“Every performance is a live-stream, two nights a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.,” said Chelsea, noting this will not be recorded and shown canned each night. “That was really important to our director.”

Chelsea’s character, Tybalt, is a Capulet, and the Montagues are her worst enemies, “so a big part of the show are the fight scenes.”

As Chelsea explained it, this is where the use of animation and video games comes in to symbolize the fierce fights without the cast being on the stage all together.

“It’s pretty neat. It’s one of the coolest things in the show, and we definitely hone in to the quarantine aspect,” said Chelsea, noting the storyline has an emphasis on there being a plague, forcing everyone to stay at home, in order to make the story relevant to people who are watching this in a socially-distant way at home.

“With the recent COVID-19 crisis that brought our city and the theatre world to a standstill, I’m thrilled that Theatre Calgary has found a safe and innovative way to showcase the talent of the future of Canadian theatre artists,” said director Kadri.

This is Chelsea’s first year living in Calgary, as prior to this she and her partner spent five months touring around Australia in a van, and they returned to Canada at the end of February, just before the pandemic starting locking everything down, including international travel.

“I’m so grateful I can be a part of this,” she said, noting she also contributes a musical aspect to the production as between scenes she and another cast member will perform some pop songs that have had their lyrics adjusted to reflect the pandemic state we’re in.

The official opening on Saturday, June 27 at 7 p.m., and the show is set to run through July 18. To access the play, go to their websiteat theatrecalgary.com, and click on the link for Shakespeare By The Bow.

In keeping with tradition, there is no fixed cost to watch this performance, however opportunities to donate back to the program will be available via a simple text-to-donate, and more details on this will also be available at theatrecalgary.com.