The origin of The Backyard Bard
Often people ask me where I came up with the name The Backyard Bard. It is a bit confusing, I know. Despite the aesthetic beauty of the words, it took me ages to get it rolling off the tongue. Also, I have had it called The Backyard Barb during a radio interview and even The Backyard Bird by a pastor as he prayed for us at a church service! So exactly what is a "bard" and what is the name all about?
In Medieval times, a bard was the working title of a professional storyteller, employed to tell great stories, to dance, play music and recite poetry. Because of this, William Shakespeare (arguably, the greatest storyteller to come out of the Medieval period) is often referred to as The Bard.
The title of The Backyard Bard was invented in the summer of 2002 when I thought how cool it would be to perform Shakespeare in my own garage, using my backyard lawn as a space for the audience to sit. I would drop fliers in the letterboxes of my neighbours and call the performance, The Backyard Bard, which I thought had a nice ring to it. This idea (like many of mine) never saw the light of day, but my interest in Shakespeare endured and in 2003, I directed a production of Shakespeare's 'Othello' in the Melbourne Fringe Festival.
We had a very low budget and so we went about trying to avoid spending money by getting companies to lend us what we needed for our set and props. To do this effectively, I knew we had to put our little show under some professional-sounding theatre company name. Now, over the years I had come up with lots of names for the theatre company I would one day have. There was "Alektromania" (which literally means to have an obsession with chickens), "Seldom Lexiphanic" (which means to rarely use large words to impress people) and the more Christian-friendly, "Ambassador Theatre". But none seemed more appropriate than the title of The Backyard Bard, for that was what I was trying to do - to make Shakespeare accessible for people, to bring 'The Bard' to people's 'backyard'!
So that was the first show under the title of The Backyard Bard. Now, we had begun to explore Biblical Storytelling the year before with a performance of the entire Gospel of Mark, but it wasn't until the name The Backyard Bard was registered (That's right, you can't steal it!), that we really got into storytelling again. In 2004, we put on a production entitled Storytelling Judges and from that point on I have put every creative venture I have done under the name of The Backyard Bard.
Nowadays, many people associate The Backyard Bard solely with Biblical Storytelling, which is what we mostly spend our time doing. Although we haven't put on a Shakespeare play in a while, the name is still very appropriate I feel, because I approach the Bible in a similar way to Shakespeare. These things that many people feel are old and confusing and outdated, The Backyard Bard has always aimed to make engaging, entertaining and most importantly, accessible.