When I hear stories about people venturing down to the city for the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park, they sound to me like horror stories. Some people wait in long lines for hours, braving the heat (or, more likely, the rain), only to be shut out by unscrupulous folks who nab tickets to turn around and sell them on Craigslist. Sure, Anne Hathaway is terrific and the production is said to be fantastic (when the raccoons aren’t running amok), but surely there’s got to be a better way.
And there is! Many better ways, in fact. Summer is the time for Shakespeare, and you don’t need to waste half a day on line in Central Park to see a show, many of which are also outside and/or free like the Public Theater’s productions. Check out these alternatives:
Of course, one of the most famous and celebrated summer Shakespeare productions outside of the Public Theater is the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. The Bard himself would be jealous of the shows’ backdrop: an impressive tent on the awe-inspiring grounds of the Boscobel Restoration in Garrison. You can bring a picnic dinner to eat before the show — and you should, just to take in the view. This year, the Festival rotates through three shows: Pericles, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Tickets cost between $30 and $46, and shows run through September 6.
To make it even more like Shakespeare in the Park, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is planning on doing one free performance of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). The trade-off: You don’t get the amazing Boscobel view. You do, however, get the alfresco park experience: that show will take place on the green outside the Ridgefield Playhouse on August 8. Tickets are free, but you still need to reserve a spot.
Elsewhere in Connecticut, there are a couple more places for Shakespeare aficionados to visit if you act quickly. Through July 11, the Summer Theatre of New Canaan will run a production of The Taming of the Shrew at the Waveny Park Outdoor Theatre. (Afterwards, it’ll turn into a production of Camelot — not Shakespeare, but still fun.) Tickets cost between $28 and $39. You can also catch one of the remaining free performances of Shakespeare on the Sound’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Those take place at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park in Greenwich.
If it absolutely, positively has to be Twelfth Night… you’re still in luck! The Port Chester Council for the Arts and the Port Chester Recreation Department’s Lawn Chair Theatre has three performances of the show on August 13, 14, and 15. Tickets are free, and the shows take place at Port Chester’s Lyon Park. As the company name suggests, you’re encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets, and other picnic paraphernalia.
And finally, if you really want the closest thing to the Shakespeare in the Park experience — if it has to be Twelfth Night, if it has to be free, and if it has to be at a park in New York City — check out the performances done by Communicable Arts. They’re performing free outdoor shows throughout July in parks across Brooklyn. (Brooklyn is where all the cool stuff happens anyway.) All they’re missing is Anne Hathaway.