By Mary Boyle
Most of the area theatre companies take a break over the summer months, when everyone would rather be outdoors and soaking up the sun, but there are a few whose season only coincides with Wisconsin's warmest months, and they bring their performances outdoors, with an almost exclusive focus on the most famous of playwrights: William Shakespeare.
Now entering their third season, the Summit Players are a group of mainly Marquette Alumni who are determined to make Shakespeare accessible to families by performing for free at State Parks throughout Wisconsin. This year, the production is the hilarious Comedy of Errors, and if last season is any indication, they will have the audiences in stitches. Their plays use the original language, but they are edited for time, and to be as family-friendly as possible, while still retaining the brilliance that the Bard intended. They even offer a pre-show workshop that is perfect for school-aged kids. The Players will be just north of Oz at Kohler-Andrae State Park on Saturday, July 29th. The workshop is at 5:30 p.m., and the show is at 7; note that you will need a vehicle admission sticker to get into the park. To see the Summit Players full schedule and learn more, go to: www.summitplayerstheatre.com/
Optimist Theatre in Milwaukee has been doing Shakespeare in the Park in Milwaukee since 2010, and they return this season with Much Ado About Nothing. This year the production has been moved from its old home at Kadish Park to the Marcus Center's outdoor stage, the Peck Pavilion, as part of the Center's Live at the Peck Pavilion Series. With seating, a roof overhead, and the ability to purchase food and drink on site, this new location is sure to be a big hit. The production opens for a preview the evening of Thursday, July 6th, and opening night is Friday, July 7th. All performances begin at 8 p.m., with the exception of a noon matinee on July 18th. Performances are free, and it is recommended to arrive no later than a half hour before the performance to claim your seats. The final performance is Saturday, July 22nd. To see the full schedule and learn more about Optimist Theatre, please visit: http://www.optimisttheatre.org
If you are willing to travel, one of the best outdoor theatre experiences in Wisconsin is in Spring Green at the American Players Theatre. APT has multiple productions, both modern and classic, throughout the summer on two different outdoor stages, but they never fail to perform at least one of Shakespeare's plays. This year, APT has selected two by the Bard: A Midsummer Night's Dream and Pericles: Prince of Tyre. APT is an incredibly unique theatre experience, and a trip to the Driftless Area is always a treat. To learn more about APT's complete season, including free concerts, go to: https://americanplayers.org/
As the Bard, himself, wrote: "All the world's a stage." His work certainly has traveled the world, and stood the test of time. Find out why at a stage near you this summer.