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10 Places to Catch Outdoor Theater in the U.S.

Literature is a year-round passion, but every season brings its own unique treats. Summer is just around the corner now, and it’s time to come out of those beautiful libraries and into the sunlight! One of summer’s best treats for literature lovers is outdoor drama season. We’ve put together a list of the best places in the United States to catch a great outdoor play. 

Idaho Shakespeare Festival: Boise, Idaho 

Boise’s rise to literary prominence is a pretty recent phenomenon, but don’t tell that to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival organizers. They’ve been putting on this event for nearly 40 years! The Boise foothills make for a unique and beautiful backdrop to Shakespeare’s work.

 

Shakespeare in the Common: Boston, Massachusetts 

America’s oldest city park doesn’t date back quite as far as Shakespeare’s plays, but it’s only off by about 50 years – and you’ll hardly notice when these performances transport you back in time. Next time you’re in the Bay State, catch a show at Parkman Bandstand! Boston’s outdoor Shakespeare festival is free to the public.

 

Theater in the Parks: Chicago, Illinois

That’s “parks,” plural! Chicago’s sweeping outdoor theater program hits parks all over the city with more than 150 individual events. From Shakespeare to “Guys and Dolls,” you’ll find a bit of everything in the Windy City!

 

Ramona Bowl Amphitheatre: Hemet, California 

The Ramona Bowl generally hosts just one play every year – “The Ramona Pageant.” The play is a must-see for drama lovers, though, because it’s America’s oldest and most beloved outdoor play. “The Ramona Pageant” has been put on every year since 1923, making it the longest-running outdoor play in America. It’s also the official California State Outdoor Play. Did you know that was a thing?

 

Miller Outdoor Theatre: Houston, Texas

This partially covered venue includes plenty of outdoor seating and offers drama lovers lots of reasons to stop by. This year’s lineup includes musicals and lots of Shakespeare. Musical acts and movies are also slated for the season.

 

The Lost Colony: Manteo, North Carolina

“The Lost Colony” has been put on in Manteo since 1937, which makes it the second-longest running outdoor play in the United States, behind “The Ramona Pageant” of course. Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Green, the musical tells the story of the Roanoke Colony in Virginia, which mysteriously disappeared back in the 1580s. You can catch “The Lost Colony” on a massive stage at the outdoor theater of the same name in Manteo.

 

Shakespeare in the Park: New York, New York

Shakespeare in the Park is the country’s gold standard in outdoor drama. You’ll be sure to agree – if you can get in! New Yorkers line up very early to get ahold of the coveted free tickets. You can also try the online ticket lottery, but be warned – it’s a long shot. Those that gain entry are treated to an outdoor theater experience that’s second to none. Television and movie stars often take part in the plays. This year is no exception with Sam Waterston and Jesse Tyler Ferguson both performing in The Tempest.

 

Lowell Davies Festival Theatre at The Old Globe: San Diego, California 

The Old Globe has won a Tony Award (did you know that they gave them to theaters?) and when you visit, you’ll see why. This gorgeous outdoor landmark hosts great performances all year long in San Diego’s gorgeous weather. Broadway touring casts come through and, of course, there is a Shakespeare festival.

 

Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival: Seattle, Washington

Seattle’s outdoor theater blitz is short and sweet. The city hosts a rapid-fire succession of plays in locations all over Volunteer Park – all in the span of two days. Multiple theater companies take part, so there’s a lot to choose from. Pacific Northwest residents, mark your calendars! The festival takes place July 11 – 12 this year.

 

Oregon Shakespeare Festival: Ashland, Oregon

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival offers more than just Shakespeare. While the 2015 season includes favorites like Much Ado About Nothing and Anthony and Cleopatra, there are more modern plays that fans of theater will enjoy as well. The festival is not just a summer activity. Many performances started in late February and will run through October.