Statue of Juliet, Utah Shakespeare Festival


Get thee to a playhouse. Shakespeare’s spirited romantic comedies and riveting tragedies are as popular today as they were 400 years ago when he entertained London theatergoers, proving the prediction of his friend and fellow playwright Ben Johnson: “He was not of an age, but for all time.”

Here are six atmospheric places across the U.S. to take in a Shakespeare production this summer. If none of them are in your neighborhood, check out the Shakespeare Resource Center’s extensive listing of Bard-related festivals and theater companies from Hawaii to New York’s Hudson Valley.

The Old Globe, San Diego, California
This regional theater company located in Balboa Park has three theaters, including one modeled on the famed, circular-shaped Old Globe in London. Like the original, it was destroyed by a fire and subsequently rebuilt. Staging of the Bard’s works, though, take place in the larger, open air Lowell Davies Festival Theatre. For those who want more information and insight, there is a lecture series on topics related to the featured plays.

The line-up: Twelfth Night (June 21-July 26), The Comedy of Errors (August 16-September 20)

Shakespeare in the Park, New York City
Watching the Bard’s dramas on sultry summer evenings in an open-air theater in Central Park is a ritual for New Yorkers. Scoring free tickets requires patience, but the payoff is worth the effort. Tickets are given out each performance day at 1 p.m., with some staking a spot in line as early as 6 a.m. when the park opens. Big spenders can obtain tickets in advance by making a donation to the Public Theatre ($200 per ticket).

The line-up: The Tempest (through July 5), Cymbeline (July 23-August23)

Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Oregon
Surrounded by towering peaks and lush pine forests, this Pacific Northwest town boasts one of the oldest and largest professional nonprofit theaters in the United States. Founded in 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival stages an eight-and- a-half-month season of Shakespearean and other classic plays in three local venues, including an outdoor Elizabethan-style amphitheater.

The line-up:  Antony and Cleopatra (June 2-October 9), Much Ado About Nothing (through November 1), Pericles (through November 1)

American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, Virginia
Situated in the historic Shenandoah Valley is the American Shakespeare Center’s 300-seat Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only full-sized re-creation of the indoor theater Shakespeare and his comrades built on part of London’s Blackfriars Monastery. Even more impressive? Performances are staged in the Elizabethan tradition with natural lighting, simple stage sets, and recycled costumes.

The line-up: Hamlet (through June 13), Much Ado About Nothing (through June 14), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (June 16-November 29), Antony and Cleopatra (June 17-November 27), The Winter’s Tale (July 8-November 28)

Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC
The world’s largest collection of printed works by William Shakespeare is housed at the Folger Shakespeare Library just a stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol. In addition to putting on regular exhibitions, the Library is also home to the Folger Theatre, an intimate, Elizabethan-style venue where the current production is a twist on a popular Shakespeare work. Playwright Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead expands upon on the exploits of the two courtiers from Hamlet. The play runs through June 28.

Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City, Utah
At this Shakespeare shrine in southern Utah, playgoers can experience some additional insights about the production they have come to see. This “surround experience” includes an opportunity for Bard enthusiasts to ask questions about the play at an Orientation before the curtain goes up. The next day they can take part in a Literary Seminar, joining scholars and other fans to discuss the featured play. Additional events and activities include Backstage Tours for a peek at props, costumes, and more.

The line-up: King Lear (June 27-September 4), The Taming of the Shrew (June 25-September 5), Henry IV Part Two (June 26-September 5), The Two Gentlemen of Verona (September 24-October 31)

[Photo: EverywhereOnce.com]