Summertime is here at last, and that means summer Shakespeare. Book your tickets and pack a picnic, because there’s no better way to spend a warm June or July evening than watching a Shakespeare play under the stars.
We asked our theater partners across the United States what they’re up to this season. Find your region of the United States below to discover your local Shakespeare provider and learn what’s onstage. Then, tell us what you’re planning to see this summer in the comments! Is there a touring Shakespeare company or summer theater festival you never miss? We want to hear about it!
Shakespeare in the West
African-American Shakespeare Company
In collaboration with the Craft Institute, the African-American Shakespeare Company presents Echoes of Us, July 15 – 17. Directed by Tony Award-nominee Michele Shay, Echoes of Us is a series of curated monologues from writers spanning the African diaspora that dramatize the interconnectedness of the Black community.
Colorado Shakespeare Festival
This year, Colorado Shakespeare Festival celebrates the reopening of its newly renovated indoor venue, the Roe Green Theatre. CSF fans can enjoy two productions on that stage, The Winter’s Tale, directed by Wendy Franz, and Richard Bean’s comedy One Man Two Guvnors, a contemporary adaptation of The Servant of Two Masters directed by Tim Orr.
On its iconic outdoor Mary Rippon Theatre stage overlooking the front range of the Rocky Mountains, CSF is offering two beloved plays this summer. Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Kevin Rich, runs through August 13. King Lear, directed by Carolyn Howarth, features legendary actress Ellen McLaughlin, who originated the part of Angel in Angels in America, in the title role. CSF’s one-night-only Original Practices production of The Comedy of Errors on August 6 is already sold out.
Catch the Colorado Shakespeare Festival this summer in Boulder, CO now through August 13.
Idaho Shakespeare Festival
It’s a busy summer at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. Little Shop of Horrors closes June 10—it was such a hit in 2022 that the Festival brought it back for another summer. But if you missed it, don’t worry! There’s still time to see Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Kate Hammill’s acclaimed adaptation of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and Idaho’s first performance of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.
The season comes to an end in September with Dracula: The Bloody Truth. Director Charles Fee offers a recipe for the play: “Using a large bucket, combine equal parts of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and The Hound of the Baskervilles, a large helping of stage-blood, a dash of Transylvania, two oversized incisors, bitters to taste. Stir with ice and top with fog. Best served in early autumn.”
Off Square Theatre Company
In July, Off Square Theatre Company begins its 11th season of Thin Air Shakespeare in Jackson Hole, WY. Pack a picnics and a blanket and join the company July 7 – 9 and 13 – 16 for an exciting evening of Shakespeare under the beautiful Wyoming sky. Rehearsals begin next week for Richard III, directed by Edgar Landa. Landa and the company are working with a composer and musicians to create an original score to complement the production. “Resources from the Folger have been especially useful for this production and for our audiences,” adds Artistic Director Natalia Duncan Macker. We’re blushing!
The Old Globe
Summer is already off to a hot start at The Old Globe in San Diego, where Destiny of Desire – A Telenovela for the Stage, is playing through June 25. You won’t want to miss this brilliantly funny homage to telenovelas with live music and dancing.
There’s more to come. The company’s 2023 Summer Shakespeare Festival under the Stars features two of the Bard’s true comic masterpieces: Twelfth Night, playing through July 9, and an I Love Lucy-style Merry Wives of Windsor, beginning July 30.
Starting July 1, experience a train trip like never before with Passengers, a production by Montreal-based contemporary physical theatre troupe The 7 Fingers. This innovative show blends acrobatics, theatre, music, and dance in a truly magical performance. Last but not least, in Crime and Punishment, A Comedy, Dostoyevsky’s turn-of-the-century masterpiece is reimagined as a 90-minute romp of a morality tale, performed by five ridiculously talented actors who play over 50 zany characters, riffing on the famous novel and all of Russian literature. Raskolnikov ‘n’ friends take the stage beginning July 15.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Madeline Sayet’s touring production of Where We Belong, produced with DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in association with the Folger, stops off at OSF starting August 24. It returns to DC in February 2024 for a run at Folger Theatre.
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
In its 41st season of Free Shakespeare in the Park, the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival presents Cymbeline, directed by Resident Artist Maryssa Wanlass. “Maryssa has performed in and taught nearly every program the Festival offers,” says the festival’s John Western, “She’s been in a number of Free Shakespeare in the Park productions and this will be her directorial debut with that program. She’s talked about setting the play in an alternate-universe fantasy realm (which I think makes sense for Cymbeline) and I’m looking forward to seeing her vision for this epic tale!”
The show will be accompanied by live performances of original music composed for the production by Min Khang, who recently composed original music for the festival’s touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
This season, Free Shakespeare in the Park adds a venue to its tour: In addition to performances in San Francisco, Cupertino, and Redwood City, they’ll join the California Shakespeare Theater in Orinda for their multidisciplinary arts series. The tour kicks off in Cupertino’s Memorial Park on July 22 and continues through September 24.
Seattle Shakespeare Company
The Seattle Shakespeare Company celebrates the 30th anniversary of Wooden O, its free Shakespeare in the Parks program, with a PNW-inspired, sea shanty-esque version of The Tempest.
My favorite part about Wooden O is the breadth of the community that we get to serve when we meet them where they are. It is so wonderful to see families and friends enjoying the show together, with some food and even pets! We get to share these amazing stories with people of all ages, and we get to make it accessible in a number of ways that our indoor shows can’t be.
– Jordan Lusink, Seattle Shakespeare Company
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
Summer at Theatricum Botanicum’s beautiful Topanga Canyon theater begins this month with Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Don’t miss Queen Margaret’s Version of Shakespeare’s War of the Roses, a new production compiled and directed by Ellen Geer that draws from Henry VI Parts I, II, III, and Richard III and centers on Queen Margaret and the women and children of Shakespeare’s civil war saga. Finally, catch Terrence McNally’s A Perfect Ganesh, beginning July 15. McNally’s play finds humor in the self-searching American abroad: Two friends travel to India with heavy baggage in tow, reeling from loss and personal demons. The god Ganesha, manifest in their fellow travelers, points them toward the revelation that sometimes the greatest journey is surviving life.
Utah Shakespeare Festival
The Utah Shakespeare Festival’s season begins in June in Cedar City, UT, with Romeo and Juliet, Jane Austen’s Emma, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and A Raisin in the Sun. As the summer continues, the festival adds the little-performed Timon of Athens and Coriolanus and the madcap comedy The Play That Goes Wrong. The festival’s free, family-friendly Greenshow runs evenings six nights a week, June 21 through September 9.
Shakespeare and Summer
Explore a selection of stories, podcast episodes, and quizzes to get you in the mood for summer.
Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 4 Pack the picnic basket. Grab a blanket. Don’t forget the bug spray. Shakespeare under the stars is a long-standing tradition in America and around the world. Rebecca Sheir talks with scholars and theater artists about the social…
Summertime in the Folger collection: Sunshine, youth, and harvest
Ask a Librarian: Summertime in Elizabethan England
Q: I know about Queen Elizabeth I’s summer progresses, but how did ordinary people spend their summers in Shakespeare’s time? A: For most Elizabethans, summer presented little opportunity for a vacation from regular work routines. There were still farms to tend,…
Quiz: Plan the perfect summer and reveal who you are in A Midsummer Night's Dream
Five Folger Finds for beating the heat and cooling off this summer
Is the July heat getting to you? Here are five items from the Folger Shakespeare Library collection that are just right for summertime. 1. A 1699 guide to swimming “In the seventeenth century, swimming was viewed not so much as…
How Queen Elizabeth I spent her summer vacation
Elizabeth I arriving at Nonsuch, Franz Hogenberg after Georg Hoefnagel. Hand-colored engraving from Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum, ca. 1598. Folger Shakespeare Library. (Click the image to see a zoomable version in the Folger’s digital image collection.) You thought you had…
Antioch Shakespeare Festival: John Lithgow, Robin Lithgow, and Tony Dallas
Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 99 Over the course of three summers in the 1950s, Arthur Lithgow and a troupe of actors he’d gathered performed every single one of Shakespeare plays, in rep, at the Antioch Shakespeare Festival, also known as Shakespeare…
Outdoor Shakespeare: The pioneers of a summer tradition
Shakespeare by the sea, on the river, in the park or garden, on the common – in the summertime Shakespeare’s plays are everywhere outdoors! High-profile shows in New York’s Central Park or at Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival may come to…
Quiz: Which copy of "Midsummer" are you?
Shakespeare in the Midwest
American Players Theatre
Summer repertory is in full swing at the American Players Theatre! Playing in the outdoor Hill Theatre: The Merry Wives of Windsor, one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies; David Ives’ rowdy farce The Liar; and Wilder’s great American classic Our Town, not staged at APT in 30 years. In the Touchstone, Marco Ramirez’s electric story about boxing great Jack Johnson, The Royale, and the US premiere of Sonya Kelly’s flowing meditation on forgiveness, Once Upon a Bridge. In August, APT is excited to present Romeo & Juliet, featuring two Deaf actors in the roles of Romeo and Friar Laurence, with the cast acting as a chorus to speak their signed lines aloud. Captioning will be available for all performances of Romeo & Juliet via GalaPro captioning service.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Beginning July 14, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s summer family musical returns with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, directed and choreographed by Amber Mak. Dazzling production numbers, including the title song and the showstopping “Be Our Guest,” will fill the Courtyard Theater, introducing young audiences to the magic of live theater. This 75-minute version of the Academy Award-winning film and Tony Award-winning stage musical promises to be the perfect outing for audiences of all ages at Chicago Shakespeare’s home on Navy Pier.
Later in the summer, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks offers free pop-up performances in partnership with arts partners and community-based organizations. This year’s production weaves together popular music and multidisciplinary performances with favorite scenes and speeches from Shakespeare’s plays, exploring how can we all be heroes in our everyday lives—for ourselves, our families, and our communities. Directed and choreographed by Tor Campbell, this new work is imbued with an imaginative, collaborative spirit, and features Alexis Willis, the Beverly Arts Center, Emma Lyons, Jose ‘iasEL’ Gonzalez, Move Me Soul, Noelle Klyce, and the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is thrilled to bring back FREE! Shakespeare in the Park for another summer season. This year, the company brings The Comedy of Errors to neighborhoods across its tri-state area. All productions are free and open to the public! The park tour runs from July 14 – September 3.
June 16, CSC celebrates Pride Month with Shakesqueer, a bawdy, bard-y burlesque and drag show featuring local burlesque troupe Smoke and Queers. Tickets are $10 and all proceeds support the company’s DEIA fund.
Leda Hoffmann directs As You Like It, a joyful tale full of poetry, wit, romance, and humor. Longtime company member Scott McKenna Campbell makes his Door Shakespeare directing debut with The Old Man and The Old Moon, a musical tale of a man who has kept his post as the sole caretaker of the moon for as long as he or his wife can remember. When she is drawn away by a mysterious melody sparking memories of their shared past, the Old Man must decide between duty and routine, or love and adventure. He chooses the latter, which takes him on a sea-faring epic encompassing storms, battles, leviathans of the deep, and cantankerous ghosts, as well as the fiercest obstacle of all—change. The season runs June 28 – August 26.
“The 2023 summer season is full of joy. It is a celebration of who we are and the journeys we take to get there. It explores challenges that lead to discovery and a deeper understanding of person and place. These stories fit perfectly under the magnificent maple that canopies our stage. I can’t wait for poetry and music to fill our little forest here in Baileys Harbor.”
– Amy Ensign, Door Shakespeare Producing Artistic Director
Illinois Shakespeare Festival
This summer marks the return of a three-show repertory season for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. The season opens on June 24 with Shakespeare’s farcical romp The Comedy of Errors, directed by Doug Finlayson. Beginniung July 1, the festival celebrates the 400th anniversary of the publication of the First Folio with Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, directed by Lori Adams. Two weeks later, The Tempest hits the boards directed by Chris Anthony. The three shows rotate in performance through August 5. The season ends August 6 with the festival’s popular fundraiser variety show The Bard Bash. All performances are on the grounds of the beautiful and historic Ewing Cultural Center in Bloomington, IL.
Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival
The Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival is thrilled to introduce Hamlet 50/50, a world premiere adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, with previews beginning August 15. Directed by Vanessa Morosco, who adapted the text with Peter Simon Hilton, Hamlet 50/50 boldly reimagines Shakespeare’s drama to create greater gender equity and balance amongst both the cast and crew. “This provocative new model of production and performance promises to be a game changer for theatrical professionals and audiences alike,” writes the festival’s Jason Comerford.
St. Louis Shakespeare Festival
At the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, Twelfth Night continues through June 25 for free in Forest Park. Critics and audiences are in love with this musical Latinx story of finding love in unexpected places. Director Lisa Portes imagined Twelfth Night as a refugee and Queer positive story—Shakespeare’s “most out play,” as she puts it. In this production, Viola and Sebastian find themselves in an Illyria not unlike Miami Beach after setting out from Cuba, shipwrecked and lost at sea. There they meet the celebrity inhabitants and quickly get mixed up in a glamorous world bursting with music (a live Latin combo is on stage every night), romance, and high times.
Starting August 1, the festival’s TourCo production of The Merry Wives of Windsor starts a regional tour throughout 24 St. Louis public parks. The show, directed by Suki Peters, is inspired by the TV sitcoms of the ‘90s. “These TourCo productions are the ultimate summertime theater experience,” says the festival’s Allie Magee, “If you live or are passing through STL this summer, chances are good we are coming to a park near you.” The free, family-friendly show begins at 6:30 pm and is over by 8 pm. Pack chairs and a picnic and enjoy.
Shakespeare in the East
Baltimore Shakespeare Factory
Through June 25, the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory presents Gallathea, a queer comedy romp about love and sacrifice by Shakespeare’s influential contemporary John Lyly. “The BSF is so proud to be producing a queer-led performance during Pride Month,” writes Jalice Ortiz-Corral, “Directed by Abigail Funk, our production of Gallathea has everything you could want in a Pride Month show: love, laughs, and leather!”
Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s Black Classical Acting Ensemble brings Macbeth to the stage in the ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City, MD. Kids see the show for free. In July, the company brings its new Shakespeare Beyond the Walls program to four locations around Baltimore with a free production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Commonwealth Shakespeare Company
Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s Macbeth begins July 19. Amid intense civil strife and a decaying social fabric—an insurrection takes hold. In Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, an unexpected prophecy sends Macbeth (Faran Tahir) on a fervent and murderous quest to become the new King of Scotland. A timeless story of ambition versus loyalty and a mainstay of Shakespeare’s canon, Macbeth is directed by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s visionary Founding Artistic Director, Steven Maler, and performed for free in the heart of Boston at the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common.
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
Catch the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s Shipwrecked! An Entertainment—The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself) beginning July 5 on the Outdoor Stage at Saint Elizabeth University in Morristown NJ. This rollicking 95-minute voyage takes audiences from the streets of 19th-century London, to the high seas, to Aboriginal Australia, and back on a non-stop, exhilarating world tour. Its surprising denouement is equally surprising in its relevance, as it raises the issue of fact versus fiction, and how far some are willing to go to stand out in the world—and how much they come to believe their own fabrications. Featuring a live Foley sound score, an endearing dog, and of course, the airplanes! Kids 17 and under see the show for free.
Monday, June 12 at 5 pm ET, STNJ Education Director and incoming Artistic Director Brian B. Crowe joins us live on Instagram for a new episode of the Shakespeare Lightning Round. We’ll talk about summer Shakespeare and the theater’s upcoming season.
Theatre for a New Audience
Beginning July 9, Theatre for a New Audience presents Tennessee Williams’ Orpheus Descending, the story of the passion of two outcasts—Lady Torrance, a storekeeper’s wife and daughter of a murdered Sicilian bootlegger and Val, a wandering guitar player—and their doomed attempt to escape from a Southern Hell. Set in a small town dry-goods store in the Deep South around 1940, Orpheus Descending is a toxic brew of racist violence, bigotry, misogyny, sexual passion, and longing for liberation. Maggie Siff (Billions, Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy) plays Lady Torrance and Pico Alexander (Catch 22, Simon Stephens Punk Rock, A.R. Gurney’s What I Did Last Summer) is Val Xavier. Erica Schmidt, who adapted and directed the Off-Broadway hit Mac Beth—a “raucously exhuberant” Macbeth for seven schoolgirls—and wrote and directed this season’s Lucy (“seamlessly layered, extraordinarily entertaining and …cleverly detailed”), stages this seldom-seen Williams masterpiece in her TFANA debut.
Shakespeare in the South
Alabama Shakespeare Festival
Cabaret is onstage at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival through August 6.
Atlanta Shakespeare Company
At the Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse, Ken Ludwig’s Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood is onstage through July 2. Next month, the company ushers in the middle of summer with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In August, catch The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).
June features two special programs. June 11, celebrate Pride with a staged reading of Liz Duffy Adams’s Born with Teeth, a queer story, performed by queer artists. An aging, unstable ruler, an oppressive police state, a restless polarized people seething with paranoia: it’s a dangerous time for poets. Two of them—the already great Kit Marlowe and the up-and-comer Will Shakespeare—meet in the back room of a pub to collaborate on a history play cycle, navigate the perils of art under a totalitarian regime, and flirt like young men with everything to lose. One of them may well be the death of the other.
Then, June 18, enjoy “The Ghosts of Shakespeare,” part of the company’s new recurring cabaret series, Shakespeare and Song. These Shakespearean “Ghost” Songs aren’t the spooky kind. Instead, they’re the hidden gems from the Bard’s back catalog. The repertoire draws from a variety of 19th– and 20th-century composers, with a strong emphasis on jazz adaptations of Shakespeare’s songs and plays.
African-American Shakespeare Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, American Players Theatre, Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Chicago Shakes, Cincy Shakespeare Company, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Door Shakespeare, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Off Square Theatre Company, The Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Shakespeare Dallas, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, Theatre for a New Audience, and Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum are members of the Folger’s Theater Partnership Program.
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