What’s onstage at Shakespeare theaters this summer

Theater lovers gather for Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks. Courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Dig out the lawn chairs, find the bug spray, and pack the cooler: Summer Shakespeare is back. Take a look at the productions that the Folger’s theater partners have onstage in July and August. Plus, don’t miss streaming digital productions from the American Players Theatre, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Shakespeare@! Here’s what’s onstage this summer:

There’s lots to see at American Players Theatre: Tom Stoppard’s Rough Crossing and Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s An Iliad are onstage through early August, and Cymbeline, directed by Marti Lyons and featuring an all-female cast, opens August 12. Can’t make it to Wisconsin? With the company’s APT At Home program, you can also watch any (or all!) of this summer’s productions from home.

⇒ Related: Mark your calendars: Cymbeline director Marti Lyons joins us for the Shakespeare Lightning Round on August 18.

The cast of “The Adventures of Pericles,” from the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Photo: Brandon W Vernon.

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s rollicking The Adventures of Pericles runs through August 1 at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City, MD. The production takes an upbeat approach to the story of a family sundered by the sea and then miraculously reunited; a ball-pit, slide, and lots of music make for a joyful evening of theater.

This summer, Chicago Shakespeare Theater celebrates the 10th Anniversary of Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks with a re-envisioned creative community engagement program. Through a unique collaboration with local artists and arts organizations, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks presents DREAM: A Community Reimagining of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starting August 24, created with Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, Cage Sebastian Pierre, GQ, and Joriah Kwamé and created and performed with collaborators from six featured partner neighborhoods aross Chicago including: Me’Lo The Generation Hero and DJ Jeremy Heights from Englewood; Move Me Soul from Austin; Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center from Hermosa; Mariachi Sirenas from Little Village; and Yin He Dance from Chinatown. Artisans from the Fulton Street Collective in West Town are collaborating on the design of the production’s pop-up mobile stage.

The cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” from the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s FREE Shakespeare in the Parks Tour.

The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s free Shakespeare in the Park tour continues this month with its productions of some of Shakespeare’s greatest hits: Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Macbeth. Catch these six-actor productions in over forty parks around the Queen City. The performances are free and open to the public, no registration or RSVP needed. Show up early to snag the best seats and make sure there’s room for your picnic blanket, and remember to check your chosen venue’s specific COVID protocols.

In Boston, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s free Shakespeare on the Common production of The Tempestwith John Douglas Thompson in the roll of Prospero, continues through August 8.

Ryan Schabach in Door Shakespeare’s one-actor Hamlet.

Door Shakespeare’s one-actor production of Hamlet continues through August 17, starring Ryan Schabach as 17 different characters. “Everything about this production of Hamlet is condensed, bold and straightforward,” writes Ozaukee Living Local, “Fans of Hamlet who are wondering how Schabach can pull off the sword match between Laertes and Hamlet at the end of the play: you have to see it to believe it.”

At the Hudson Valley Shakespeare FestivalNew York Times Critic’s Pick The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington is onstage through July 30. The Tempest begins August 5; it will be the Festival’s final production at its longtime home at the Boscobel House and Gardens before it moves to its new location in Philipstown, NY. 

The Idaho Shakespeare Festival returns to live performances this summer with productions of Sleuth (through August 1), The Tempest (beginning August 12), and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (beginning September 10). There have been some changes since the Festival’s last outing in 2019, Dana Oland writes in the the Idaho Statesman, including changes to seating to encourage social distancing and a new menu for Café Shakespeare from James Beard Award semifinalist chef Sarah Kelly and her husband, restaurateur David “DK” Kelly.

At the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, catch Measure for Measure and The Winter’s Tale, running in repertory through early August.

The Nashville Shakespeare Festival is back for its 33rd year of summer Shakespeare, this time featuring two of history’s greatest Bards. August Wilson’s Jitney, directed by Chuck Smith of the Goodman Theatre in collaboration with Kennie Playhouse Theatre, opens August 12. Music aficionados might recognize the name of the production’s composer: it’s five-time-Grammy-winning bassist Victor Wooten. Twelfth Night, directed by American Shakespeare Festival co-founder Jim Warren, opens August 26. Both plays will travel to Franklin, TN for a final weekend September 16 – 19.

Jacob Chan, Gabe Krut, Sarah Scanlon, Cameron Knight, Jordan Taylor, and Teagan Earley in Shakespeare at Notre Dame’s Midsummer.

Shakespeare at Notre Dame is excited to return to live, in-person performances with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, August 12 – 29, in a socially-distanced outdoor performance on the University of Notre Dame’s Irish Green directed by award-winning writer, director, and dramaturg Tlaloc Rivas, co-founder of the Latinx Theatre Commons. With over twenty-five years of experience in civic engagement, social activism, and theatrical training and instruction, Rivas looks forward to bringing a fresh, inclusive, and energetic sensibility to one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies.

The cast of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s July 28 reading of Emilia.

This month, join the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for three more readings from their 5 Plays, 5 Directors reading series. July 14, Donya K. Washington directs a reading of King Margaret, a new play that follows the much-maligned Margaret of Anjou through Shakespeare’s history cycle. July 21, Evren Odcikin directs reading of Red Bike, a new solo work by Caridad Svich. July 28, Raphael Massie directs a reading of Morgan LLoyd Malcolm’s hit play Emilia, which tells the story of Shakespeare’s contemporary writer Emilia Bassano. “I am exploring a deeper interrogation into this work and era that I truly love, and that has helped shape me as an artist, in an effort to examine what is possible if you actually create space for everyone,” writes Massie. “Ironically, one of the things that I love most about this play, is that it is not about Shakespeare. For once, he has to take a supporting role. I, in this case, am likewise in a supporting role, desiring to give space and uplift the voices of women during a period when they were largely regarded as property and were not even allowed on stage. In this case, part of my responsibility is to get out of the way, and let. Them. Shine.” Catch the shows live on the Festival’s O! streaming platform; registration is required.

There’s more from OSF coming soon: keep an eye out for more on-demand streaming shows on the Festival’s O! platform this August.

Ron Chapman as Pericles and David Everett Moore as Helicanus in “Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” from the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival.

The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival is rounding out the second week of their ambitious production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, presented in four episodes each with a different director. Episodes 1 – 3 are being presented as live YouTube broadcasts, utilizing the Unified Virtual Space technique that technical director Neal Ormond developed for last summer’s King Lear. The fourth and final episode, starting August 28, will herald a long-awaited return to in-person performances in the park!

Rico Lastrapes, Kelly Karcher, MJ Daly, and R. Hamilton Wright rehearse for “The Comedy of Errors,” from the Seattle Shakespeare Company.

Seattle Shakespeare’s Wooden O returns to the parks this summer with a free, live and in-person production of The Comedy of Errors. Five actors shuffle between multiple roles in Shakespeare’s side-splitting comedy about the mayhem created by sets of twins searching for their lost family.

Listen to beautiful free audio productions of Richard II, The Tempest, and Julius Caesar from Shakespeare@. Teachers should check out the company’s Digital Education Initiative: each play features a free study guide that includes activities, lesson plans, actor interviews, and more.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum.

The Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum 2021 Repertory Season is open now! Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the world premiere of John Guerra’s The Last, Best Small Town are onstage now through November 7th. Theatricum’s outdoor amphitheater nestled under the old growth oak trees of beautiful Topanga Canyon, CA is the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon or evening of theater.

The summer is well underway at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where productions of Richard III, Pericles, The Comedy of Errors, and more are open now and performances of Cymbeline and The Comedy of Terrors will kick off later this month!


American Players Theatre, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Door Shakespeare, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, and Utah Shakespeare Festival are members of the Folger’s Theater Partnership Program.

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