Building a P.E.I. Shakespearean tradition

Sally Cole
Published on August 15, 2014


Leonato, left, (Terry Pratt), Don Pedro (Keir Malone), Claudio (Patrick Jeffrey) lay a trap for Benedick (Adam Gauthier) in a rehearsal scene from Much Ado About Nothing. The A.C.T. (a community theatre) production comes to life at Robert Cotton Park in Stratford later this month. Performances are Aug. 22-24, Aug. 28-31, 6 p.m., Sept. 1, 2 p.m.



After two successful seasons performing Shakespeare at Robert Cotton Park in Stratford, A.C.T. (a community theatre) is excited about returning to the popular green space to mount its production of Much Ado About Nothing this summer.

“We hope it becomes a tradition. Three times in a row is certainly a good start,” says Richard Haines, director of the show that comes to life in the sweeping outdoor venue from Aug. 22-24 and 28-31 and Sept. 1.

Standing in the park during a break in rehearsals, there’s the rustle of leaves, a soft summer breeze, the fragrance of flowers and countless shades of green as far as the eye can see.

“What’s great about Robert Cotton Park is the diversity of different locations. There are walking trails, gardens, fields, wooded spaces and ponds. There is even a stretch of the trail that goes right alongside the river,” says Haines.

So, in the show cast members are able to move from one place to the other and still have a dramatically different, but still beautiful, natural setting.

It’s an environment that perfectly matches the atmosphere in this year’s show.

“Much Ado About Nothing is a light-hearted play. It’s about mischievousness and love with some jealous machinations thrown in. Then, putting in this attractive setting keeps that feeling of life and energy in the show,” says Haines.

The Shakespearean comedy weaves together the story of two couples. Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, and Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero at the altar on the mistaken belief that she has been unfaithful.

While performing in the outdoor setting is enchanting, the environment can make for some unexpected moments for the actors.

Whether it’s the excitement of impending shower, the sun breaking out of the clouds or the arrival of a swarm of mosquitoes, the outdoor stage is constantly changing.

“We’ve even had some dogs run through the scene. Sometimes we’re waiting for a scene and suddenly we realize there are raspberry bushes beside us, so we’ll have a snack while we’re waiting for a scene,” says Olivia Barnes, who is returning for her third year as Beatrice.

Adam Gauthier agrees.

“We’re ducking around trees, using elements from the actual environment. So it’s much more fluid,” says Gauthier who is returning to the park for his third season, this time playing Benedick.

To add even more realness to the play, Haines has chosen to change the time period.

“When it was originally written, this play was meant to happen at the end of another battle. So it’s the feeling of soldiers returning home triumphant, the celebration of life.

“So looking at the various time periods that were plausible to this play, the end of the First World War jumped out at me.”

It’s also coincidental to note that the beginning of the First World War was 100 years ago.

“It’s a time period where we still had some of the archaic notions about love and relationships that are represented in this play.”

Ideas about marriage have changed over the last 100 years.

“But, from the time this play was written until the First World War, the attitudes were similar enough that the accidents and the understandings still make sense.

“It’s also a bit closer to our present time so it makes it easier for us to connect with.”


If you are going

- What: Much Ado About Nothing.

- When and Where: Aug. 22-24, Aug. 28-31, 6 p.m., Sept. 1, 2 p.m. at Robert Cotton Park, Stratford.

- Admission: Tickets are $18/16 and may be purchased at The Guild, by calling 902-620-3333 or through the website,, or at the door.

- Preparation: Performances will go ahead in any weather except a hurricane. Audience members are advised to dress accordingly, bring sunscreen and bug spray.

- Accessibility: As the actors move from location to location, a golf cart will be available for persons with mobility issues only. Patrons needing the cart can identify that need while purchasing tickets or when they arrive on site.