In simpler times, a big night out meant people gathering under the stars for a theatre performance, where they could be whisked off to another world for an evening.

 

This summer, there's a way you can travel back to the Elizabethan times and experience Shakespeare the way it all began.

 

Ottawa independent theatre ensemble A Company of Fools is touring city parks this month and next to put on nightly shows of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

 

The play follows two pairs of lovers — Claudio and Hero, who are in love, and Benedick and Beatrice, who are at each other's throats — and has a storyline full of twists and turns and villainous plots.

"For a lot of people, Much Ado About Nothing is their favourite Shakespearian play," said director Richard Gélinas. "It's really a lot of fun, and has one of Shakespeare's most famous couples in it."

The opening night of the all-ages show is this Friday at Strathcona Park in Sandy Hill, with subsequent shows running at parks all over Ottawa until August 10.

A Company of Fools was co-founded in 1990 by Margo MacDonald, who plays Beatrice in the summer series.

MacDonald had just graduated from the University of Ottawa and wanted to put her theatre skills to use right away.

With no money to afford to rent any kind of performance space, MacDonald put together a cast to perform street theatre before moving on eventually to fringe festivals and indoor theatres.

Now, almost 20 years later, the company has come back to its roots.

Fools' artistic director Scott Florence said that the company has been struggling a bit financially since the economy turned, but he sees that being forced to make do is actually an opportunity for something more artistic and creative to emerge.

"Art thrives in uncertain times. It's when people want escapism more than ever."