Thieves target Shakespeare festival

Organizers of the Victoria Shakespeare by the Sea festival discovered much of their equipment was gone the next morning.

Last Friday’s performance of Much Ado About Nothing went off without a hitch at Fisherman’s Wharf Park. Organizers of the Victoria Shakespeare by the Sea festival closed up shop and headed out for the night, only to discover much of their equipment was gone the next morning.

Steve Duck, executive director of the Vancouver Island Shakespeare Arts Society, immediately noticed many of the chairs at the venue had been toppled over. A closer look revealed some of the walls in the newly-purchased tent were missing, along with LED stage lights, electrical cords, blankets for the audience, props and vests for staff.

The theft left organizers scratching their heads.

“The things that were taken are little or no value to most people. I don’t know what they would do with them,” said Duck, noting the cost of replacing everything is an estimated $3,000. “It’s unfortunate. We’re disappointed that this happened.”

After reporting the thefts to police, organizers were left scrambling trying to replace whatever they could in time for another performance Saturday afternoon. They salvaged a few walls from the wind damaged tents used last year to create the division between the audience and back stage, and reluctantly purchased new lights for the stage.

Nearly everything was replaced except for the blankets supplied to festival goers to keep warm at night, prompting an elderly couple to leave Saturday night’s performance early.

“They were enjoying the performance but they were too cold to sit through the rest of it,” said Duck, noting the site did have security when the thefts occurred.

Organizers need about 30 blankets for the remainder of the festival and are now making a public appeal for donations. The blankets will be passed on to one of Victoria’s homeless shelters at the end of the season.

Duck’s not holding his breath the highly identifiable stolen goods will be recovered any time soon as the investigation continues. In the mean time, organizers will make lemonade out of lemons so the shows can go on.

“We have adapted and we’ll make sure it all goes ahead,” said Duck. “If our blankets are getting used by somebody that needs it, hey good on them.”

Shakespeare by the Sea runs until Aug. 7 and features three shows — Othello, Much Ado About Nothing and a locally-written Shakespeare-inspired play, Richard the Lionhearted. The shows take place every evening at 7 p.m. except Monday, with 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday.

Donors can bring a blanket to any of the performances.