Final rehearsals are underway for this year’s production of Bard by the Bay, happening Aug. 25 and 26 at 4 p.m. on the Senator’s Stage at Creamery Square. From left, Sara Forbes, Luke Piotti, Gary Blackwood (director), Kathleen Hicks, and Angela MacDonald. George Klass photo

Theatre lovers and off-off Broadway aficionados are in for an impressive mix of drama, music and straight up fun as the North Shore Players gear up to perform the sixth annual production of Bard by the Bay later this month.

Under the directorship of Gary Blackwood, the cast is now in final rehearsal mode, fine-tuning a wide selection of some of Shakespeare’s greatest hits including scenes from Julius Caesar, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Love’s Labours Lost.

In addition, there will be an adaptation of James Thurber’s classic short story, The Macbeth Murder Mystery, which first appeared in The New Yorker in 1937. Musical scenes include two songs from Shakespearean plays and a third from a Broadway musical, Lone Star Love, based on The Merry Wives of Windsor.

“Six years ago when we started producing Bard by the Bay, we didn’t know if it would work out,” said Blackwood. But it did. “Crowds got bigger each year and the enthusiasm of the audience made it very satisfying.”

For Blackwood, turning audiences on to Shakespeare makes it all worthwhile. People find they understand the language and they often stop by at the end of the performances to thank him and to tell him the North Shore Players have made them want to experience more Shakespeare.

Since its inception, about 80 actors have performed in Bard. In this year’s performance, 14 actors will be on the boards.

“It is very interesting performing and directing here,” said Blackwood. “Some of the actors are very experienced and some have none at all and directing them in the same scene can be not only challenging but also artistically stimulating.”

Paul Silverio is a case in point. He toured North America professionally for two years in a Shakespearean company, performing in Hamilton, Guelph, and Waterloo on the Canadian leg of the tour. He also played Harpagon, the main character, in Moliere’s, The Miser.

In this year’s Bard, he appears as Mark Antony in the flawlessly written, “Friends, Romans countrymen, lend me your ears,” funeral speech from Julius Caesar.

“As Mark Antony, my role is to appeal to the base nature of the mob,” he explained.

Linda Little and Brian Gaulke, two seasoned North Shore actors, share the stage with Silverio. Gaulke, who has taken on bigger and bigger roles in Bard since the outset, plays Brutus, the murderer of Caesar.

“This scene is a timeless commentary on the nature of political power and has great resonance for today,” said Little, who is directing the scene.

This is Nicole Uzans fourth year in Bard. She is performing the introduction from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). In the spring, Uzans starred as Emily Carr in the one-woman show, The Land Lady, packing the house at the Grace Jollymore Joyce Arts Cente in two stirling performances.

She said of Bard, “Every role I’ve done has been different. The show speaks to a variety of scenes and styles.”

Sara Forbes, who will be disguised as a boy in a scene from The Two Gentlemen of Verona, is enjoying her second time on the Bard stage as an actor and singer.

“It’s exciting to be part of the production. Gary is good at bringing out the actor in everyone,” she said.

Bard by the Bay will be performed on the Senator’s Stage at the Creamery Square in Tatamagouche. Play times are 4 p.m. on Aug. 25 and 26. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, and are available at the door. Please bring your own lawn chair and wear sunscreen. Ice cream from Deb’s Ice Cream Shop will be available before the production and during intermission.

In case of rainy weather, the play will be held indoors at The Grace.