Want to introduce your kids to Shakespeare in a budget-friendly, low-risk way? Look no further than a Backyard Bard production of Comedy of Errors or All's Well That Ends Well, a 45-minute version of the Shakespeare comedy that is rife with slapstick and puns and appropriate for all ages. The shows, brought to you by GreenStage, are held in local parks — even dogs are welcome!
Backyard Bard is a division of GreenStage, a company that has been performing Shakespeare in the Park for 26 years. Its motto is “Big Shakespeare, Little Parks.” A troupe of four actors tours in and around Seattle’s smaller parks from July 1–Aug. 16, performing two plays: All’s Well That Ends Well and The Comedy of Errors.
The shows are free, and GreenStage says that they hope the production "serve as a gentle introduction to the best parts of the larger play.”
As one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, The Comedy of Errors is also his shortest show. Backyard Bard further condenses it to about 45 minutes for a perfect bite-size taste of the master playwright’s work.
Four very busy actors, three of whom play more than one role, bring this story of mistaken identity to life. Chris Martinez as Antipholus, Ty Bonneville as both Luciana and Balthazar, Anna Richardson as Adriana and Angelo, and Helen Roundhill as Dromio blended well in this fun farce.
The actors add to the fun by interacting with the crowd, running around in the audience and playing off remarks from spectators. All four actors were adept at physical, slapstick comedy, which had the audience laughing out loud, especially the kids. The intimate nature of the setting pulled us in; being able to see the actors’ facial expressions added to the experience.
From my 14-year-old daughter: “Thine Shakespeare was a brilliant man indeed/ and it seems these actors have taken heed/ to a new and hilarious intent/ when they doth find where the gold chain went!” (In other words, she loved it.)
Parents should know
I spoke briefly with director Marc “Mok” Moser, who said that both of the Backyard Bard plays are appropriate for all age levels. The casual atmosphere and outdoor environment make it easy to bring younger kids. Even wandering toddlers should be welcome!
If you go ...
Cost: All shows are free, but donations are happily accepted. Bring a few bucks for when they pass the hat at the end of the show to donate if you are able.
- The start time seemed somewhat flexible and it didn't seem necessary to get there very early the day we went.
- Bring a blanket or chair, snacks, water, a picnic or even the family dog! Director Marc Moser said that each venue has a public restroom and is dog-friendly.
Snacks: Before the show, the director sells Shakespeare chocolate coins and other promotional items.