Quickly; tell me what word comes to mind when you think about the word summer? (It would be great if you would post your word in the comments)
Ok; did you do it?
Come on; play along. I’ll wait…..
OK; I’m guessing you said Shakespeare. Am I right?
Wow, I’m surprised because Shakespeare and summer go together like, summer and sand, or summer and sunscreen or summer and tomatoes. (Check out my Weekly Photo Challenge post for the meaning of that last pairing)
There’s no better time than summer to get your Bard on. Across the country Shakespeare festivals of every ilk take to the great and not so great outdoors (I once followed a production of Hamlet through a Lower East Side parking lot). That means we get to enjoy some blank verse while sitting on a blanket; under a blanket of stars. We get to experience some iambic pentameter beyond the perimeter of the proscenium arch; a couplet while sipping a couple of brewskies. You get the picture?
I think Shakespeare and other theater pieces can benefit from an outdoor venue. Plays are given a good airing out. Outdoor performances can be generously funded or done on a shoestring budget, but all take care to create productions to take full advantage of the setting.
Audiences seem more open and responsive in and open air setting. The laugher is louder for the comedies. A moving soliloquy spoken in a dark park, with only the sound of crickets, can be an intensely affecting experience. Romances seem more passionate when viewed on a sultry evening; punctuated with a whisper soft breeze.
Certainly there are some things about outdoor theater that can be off-putting. I advise you to arm your forearms and legs, and any other body parts that will be exposed, with insect repellent. As the sun sets the critters can turn the scene into dinner theater; with you as the main course. I’ve seen actors struggle to overcome the ambient noise of certain locations and sometimes audience members forget to practice their inside voice while outside, but despite all that - I highly recommend it.
To help you find a production close to home or close to where you are vacationing, I’m sharing with you links to 2 websites. The Institute of Outdoor Drama has a searchable website; allowing for searches based on theater company name, location or category. Another source of information is the annual New York Times feature article highlighting productions across the country. The list contains indoor and outdoor productions.
Summer theater in the outdoors is Leisure for Less worthy because admission to these productions can be found for free; or for a suggested donation; or at reduced ticket prices. Many of these productions are a training ground for talented yet “undiscovered” actors, directors and production crews. Also, some of these productions attract established stars who are moonlighting and looking to stretch in ways that their television or movie roles (day jobs) don’t allow.
Pack a picnic; pick a Shakespeare tragedy, a Sondheim musical or a Shaw comedy and get thee to a theater in the park.