Whether they are produced under the stars, in the moonlight, by the sea, or in local parks, Shakespeare plays are performed outdoors throughout the United States every summer.
Some aspects of modern theater would probably have surprised William Shakespeare, from electrical lighting to women acting onstage. The idea of performing his plays outdoors, however, would have seemed entirely routine. The plays that Shakespeare wrote were staged in large, open-air playhouses like the Globe—and in other outdoor settings when his company was on tour. (Of course, his plays commanded audiences indoors, too, from the Blackfriars Theatre to the royal court.)
Explore how different US theaters and festivals are staging Shakespeare in the open air this summer with the gallery of images below.
A scene from the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2016 production of Henry V. Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival 2016.
(L to R) Phil Wong as the Clown and Phil Lowery as the Old Shepherd in San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of The Winter’s Tale. Photo: Jay Yamada
Marti Gobel and the Ensemble. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Directed by Joseph Hanreddy. Door Shakespeare. Photo by Torey Byrne.
Seattle Shakespeare Company, Wooden O, Free Shakespeare in the Parks, Hamlet. 2016
(from left) Jonny Orsini appears as Ferdinand, King of Navarre, Kristen Connolly as the Princess of France, Kieran Campion as Berowne, and Pascale Armand as Rosaline in William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost, directed by Kathleen Marshall, running August 14 – September 18, 2016 at The Old Globe. Photo by Jim Cox.
Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, free 75-minute family-friendly production of Twelfth Night to neighborhood parks throughout the city. Part of Shakespeare 400 Chicago, July 14–August 14, 2016. (Pictured: Loyola Park.) Photo by Julie Stanton.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 2016. The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare. Directed by Desdemona Chiang. Scenic Design: Richard L. Hay. Costume Design: Helen Q. Huang. Lighting Designer: Yi Zhao. Composer and Sound Designer: Andre J. Pluess. Choreographer: Valerie Rachelle. Dramaturg: Gina Pisasale. Voice and Text Director: David Carey. Fight Director: U. Jonathan Toppo. Phil Killian Directing Fellow: Lavina Jadhawani. Photo: Jenny Graham.
Eric Schabla, Bobby Bowman, Kelsey Brennan, Christopher Sheard, Ninos Baba and James Ridge, The Comedy of Errors, 2016. American Players Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren.
From left to right: Ensemble (Grace Trapnell), Maria (Jes Bedwinek), Princess of France (Jennifer Ellis*), Rosaline (Obehi Janice*), Katharine (Margaret Clark) and Ensemble (Marisa Gold). Love’s Labour’s Lost. Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures.
Carolyn Holding (Cressida) and Christopher Joel Onken (Troilus) in Troilus and Cressida, 2016, Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen
Shakespeare in Detroit, The Merchant of Venice at New Center Park, 2016
Romeo and Juliet in CSC’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Romeo and Juliet” touring to parks this summer. By Mikki Schaffner Photography.
Nashville Shakespeare Festival
(L) Demetria Thomas as Beatrice, (center) Susie Parr as Hero and David Huynh as Claudio and (R) Patrick Poole as Benedick in Houston Shakespeare Festival’s Much Ado About Nothing. Photo courtesy of the University of Houston.
As Hamlet, Deborah Staples (left) has a challenging conversation with Eva Balistrieri, who plays Ophelia, at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. Credit: Pete Guither. (c) 2016 Illinois State University
Shakespeare Dallas, Crowd at the park
Shakespeare at Notre Dame Young Company, Pericles
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Horatio (Christiana Clark), Osric (Benjamin Bonenfant) and Gertrude (Robin Goodrin Nordli) watch as Hamlet (Danforth Comins) and Laertes (Tramell Tillman) engage in a fencing match. Photo by Dale Robinette, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Idaho Shakespeare Festival Amphitheater. (c) Idaho Shakespeare Festival.