For theater buffs, summer travel offers the opportunity to enjoy Shakespeare festivals throughout the nation. Nearly 300 festivals in the U.S. celebrate the work of the Bard, and there’s no more pleasant way to spend a midsummer night’s eve.
Here are a few favorites:
• The Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Boulder, Colo.: Breathe in the evergreens as you watch the plays in the outdoor Mary Rippon Theater in a landscaped courtyard on the University of Colorado campus. Bring a picnic to enjoy on the grass beforehand. If it rains, there’s a brief delay, then the production resumes. (Colorado showers are typically brief.)
This summer’s festival, June 8-Aug. 11, offers A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Richard II, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and Women of Will: The Overview (Tina Pack’s look at Shakespeare’s Women). Find out more at coloradoshakes.org.
• Shakespeare in the Park, New York: The Delacorte Theatre in New York’s Central Park is the setting, and this festival is free. All you have to do is stand in line for hours to get tickets. Each evening’s tickets are available at noon that very day. Each person is given only two. Performances are rain or shine, and you can’t put up an umbrella, so if the sky looks iffy, bring something with a hood.
The season, which runs through Aug. 18, includes The Comedy of Errors and Love’s Labour’s Lost. Find out more about the process at shakespeareinthepark.org, but the schedule is at publictheater.org.
• Shakespeare in the Park, San Francisco: The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s free summer series is as informal as theater can get. Grab a blanket and a picnic lunch and consume it as you watch the professional performance on a rudimentary but creative stage in a park.
This year’s production is Macbeth. The shows are in various city parks in the San Francisco Bay Area; the schedule is at sfshakes.org. Then go to sfmta.com and plug in your hotel’s address and the park’s address to figure out how to get there. The performance I attended recently was on the former parade grounds of the Presidio.
By the way, you do know, don’t you, that when you’re in a theater (even if it’s an outdoor one), you are to refer to this production as “the Scottish play”? To mention its name invites bad luck. My husband broke this rule last summer and was very nearly jettisoned from a theater-centric bar.
• Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland: One of the largest Shakespeare festivals, this one runs from mid-February to the first weekend in November. This year, 11 productions — a mix of Shakespeare and other classic theater — will be staged at several venues. This year’s plays by Shakespeare are King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Information: www.osfashland.org.
• Texas Shakespeare Festival, Kilgore: This one’s indoors at the Van Cliburn Auditorium of the Anne Dean Turk Fine Arts Center on the campus of Kilgore College (about midway between Shreveport, La., and Dallas), and that’s a good thing, because Texas summer nights can get pretty hot.
The June 27-July 28 season will include The Comedy of Errors and A Winter’s Tale along with some non-Shakespeare offerings. Find out more at texasshakespeare.com.
Every state offers at least one Shakespeare festival, as does the District of Columbia. California alone has more than 50. Find the links to those and the hundreds of other festivals at shakespearefellowship.org/linksfestivals.htm (Caution: much of the information is badly outdated).