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Freewill Shakespeare Festival returns with a wee bit of magic

Organizers dip into the Bard's catalogue with A Midsummer Night's Dream and Measure for Measure.
1506 Shakespeare sup CC
Former St. Albert resident Sarah Gale stars in the Freewill Shakespeare Festival running June 14 to July 10, 2022, at Hawrelak Park. SUPPLIED/Photo

After more than two years of pressing pause in the theatrical world, it’s great to see the Freewill Shakespeare Festival 2022 is back. To paraphrase Shakespeare, it’s been a long "winter of discontent."

Sarah Gale, a former St. Albert actor now living in Toronto, has been tapped to perform in Measure for Measure as well as A Midsummer Night’s Dream running on alternate nights from June 14 to July 10 at Hawrelak Park. The festival is the first theatrical production Gale has performed in two years. 

“I’m so happy to be here. Any chance to be in a play, especially after the pandemic, is great. I feel so thirsty for an audience. It’s the missing element for an actor — the audience. I feel so grateful. There is nothing like live theatre where people can gather in one place and share a story,” said Gale. 

In Midsummer Night’s Dream, director Dave Horak revisits a comic romp that follows four young lovers plus a bumbling troupe of actors through an enchanted forest. In one glorious night, the natural and supernatural become one as fairies, pixies, elves, and goblins, come face to face with mere mortals. 

“I play Quince and Mustardseed, a fairy. I did a version of it in high school called Bottom’s Dream. It’s a delightful celebration of love, magic, and theatre,” said Gale, whose two roles are as different as night and day. 

As Quince, Gale plays a carpenter/author/director whose role as a mechanical is to stage a play for Duke Theseus and his wife Hippolyta at their wedding. Mustardseed, on the other hand, is one of the mischievous royal retainers of Queen Titania, ruler of the fairy world. 

Where Midsummer Night’s Dream comes across as a frothy, enchanted land where love’s spells fool lovers and make fools of them, Measure for Measure carries slightly darker tones. Directed by Nancy McAlear, it tempers justice with mercy for unlawful acts that cause innocents grief and misery. 

“In Measure for Measure, I play the Provost, head of a jail involved in shenanigans. I try to help out people and have justice prevail.” 

Memorizing lines from a Shakespearean play is vastly different from her job working at a vaccine clinic during the pandemic. 

“I was working as an administrator at the University of Toronto on McCall Street. That was my pivot during the pandemic. We would check people in and do whatever was needed. I later learned most vaccine clinics were staffed by out-of-work actors who had good people skills.” 

Gale was particularly grateful for the diverse range of clients who attended. 

“We had special migrant clinics and pregnant women’s clinics. We had a weekly Indigenous clinic that started with a smudge ceremony. We made sure people felt welcome, especially with a history of trauma around vaccines. We helped 30,000 people receive vaccines.” 

Although proud of assisting people during the pandemic, her true vocation is acting. Throughout the past two decades, Gale developed a robust theatrical toolkit supplemented by on-screen bit parts. They included Covert Affairs (2010), The Handmaid’s Tale (2017), See (2019), and A Hundred Lies (2021). 

She recently completed a one-day shoot on a TV series, The Horror of Dolores Roach. It’s a macabre urban legend that mashes together love, betrayal, weed, and cannibalism. After 16 years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit, Dolores returns to her old neighbourhood.  

Everyone she knows has gone: her boyfriend, family, and friends. Only an old stoner, Luis, gives her room and board and lets her give massages in the basement of his old, run-down empanada shop. Soon body parts find their way into the empanadas. 

“It was really fun. It was a dark comedy. It was full of shock-value and finding something so gross shouldn’t be funny, but it was.,” said Gale with a laugh, who plays a New York officer investigating the crimes.  

While performing at the festival, Gale is taking time to visit her mother, Kathleen, now a Sturgeon County resident. However, her stay is short-lived since she is due to act in Meet My Sister at the Port Stanley Theatre Festival in August. 

“I love the live experience of theatre. The pandemic brought changes to theatre, and when I had the opportunity to return, I threw my hat in the ring. I’m grateful for this chance, and I hope to do more.” 

Tickets to Freewill Shakespeare Festival are: adult $35, student/senior $25, children under 10 free. A season pass is $65. Visit

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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