Christopher Gaze

Like, the best advice he ever received

Part of the fun of Bard on the Beach is that the annual Shakespeare festival isn’t just in Vanier Park next to the water, the city is also part of the set: the skyline forms a backdrop visible through the back of the tent. But when The Taming of the Shrew kicks off Bard’s 30th season this week, don’t expect what happens on stage to look so familiar. This year’s production has a Wild West theme with Petruchio as a sharp-shooting cowboy. And All’s Well That Ends Well, on the Howard Family Stage, takes place in India just before independence from Britain in 1946.

Since artistic director Christopher Gaze launched Bard on the Beach in 1990, it’s grown from one play per season to at least four and from 6,000 audience members to more than 100,000 last year. It has also produced various sideshows: the Bard Village, with a concession, bar and boutique; opportunities to interact with the cast at Talkback Tuesdays; and pre-performance Wine Wednesdays.

Gaze trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in his native England and immigrated to Canada in 1975. When he’s not acting and directing at Bard, he performs on radio, TV and film, and does voiceovers for animation. He also hosts the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s Tea & Trumpets series and Christmas concerts, and has received numerous awards, including the Order of British Columbia.

But judging from his answers to our 10 questions, not all his world’s a stage.

What’s your favourite spot in B.C.? 

Swimming in Kitsilano Pool on a summer morning and then, later in the day, standing in the middle of the Bard Village, surrounded by 1,000 Shakespeare fans.

Where did you go on your last vacation?

The British Virgin Islands, where I got the chance to play tennis with Sir Richard Branson (needless to say, he beat me!). 

What’s your most memorable podcast, film or book?

David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia starring Peter O'Toole. 

Favourite restaurant/bar?

The Vancouver Club—it’s magnificent in every regard. 

What is your morning routine?

Up early, an espresso from my amazing fresh-coffee machine, the Globe and Mail, then Jennifer and I have a hug and the day begins. 

Hobby?

Golf—I love it. I play rarely, and every now and then I’m brilliant, but mostly I’m in trees looking for the ball. 

What is your favourite quote, and what is the source?

Whatever you can do or think you can do, begin it. Genius has boldness, power and magic in it, begin it now. Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

Best advice ever received?

My father and I saw a production of a Shakespeare play together in 1987, and he turned to me afterwards and said, You can do better than that, Gazey. Sadly, he died the next year. A year after that, I took his advice and began Bard on the Beach. 

Your worst job ever?

Volunteering on Christmas Day at a casino when Bard was the benefiting charity. 

If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?

I’d be a PADS (Pacific Assistance Dog Society) dog—a lovely black Labrador—and look after someone that needed looking after.