Shakespeare in the Park festivals

The Delacorte Theater in New York City's Central Park

Shakespeare in the Park is a term for outdoor festivals featuring productions of William Shakespeare's plays. The term originated with the New York Shakespeare Festival in New York City's Central Park, originally created by Joseph Papp. This concept has been adapted by many theatre companies, and over time, this name has expanded to encompass outdoor theatre productions of the playwright's works performed all over the world.

Shakespeare in the Park started as an idea to make theatre available to people of all walks of life, so that it would be as readily available as library books.[1] The performances are more often than not free admission to the general public, usually presented outdoors as a summer event. These types of performances can be seen by audiences around the world, with most festivals adapting the name for their productions, such as Vancouver's Bard on the Beach. Many festivals incorporate workshops, food, and other additions to the performances making this type of theatre experience an interactive community event.

United States


The Montford Park Players, a community theater company, has been staging free Shakespeare productions in Asheville, North Carolina since 1973. The productions were first staged at a municipal park on Montford Avenue and, in 1993, moved to its current location, the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre.[2]


The Baltimore Shakespeare Festival present productions outdoors each summer in the Meadow at the Evergreen Museum & Library.[3]


Commonwealth Shakespeare Company presents professional productions of Shakespeare in Boston Common. The first production was in 1996 at Copley Square; a year later the program was moved to the Commons, first at the Parkman Bandstand and more recently at the Parade Ground.[4]


Shakespeare in Delaware Park describes itself as the United States' 2nd largest Shakespeare festival (following New York Shakespeare Festival). It is held in Buffalo, New York's Delaware Park.[5]


Cincinnati Shakespeare Company originally was incorporated under the name Fahrenheit Theatre Company. Beginning with a small grant in 1993, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is a professional theatre company in the heart of downtown Cincinnati's Backstage district. They perform the classics as well as rarely seen works. The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company annually presents the Shakespeare in the Park summer tour.[6]


The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival offers the only free outdoor Shakespearean performance in Cleveland.[7]


Inspired by the New York Shakespeare Festival, Robert "Bob" Glenn started The Shakespeare Festival of Dallas in 1971 as a free summer Shakespeare Festival. Renamed Shakespeare Dallas in 2005, the company produces three free Shakespeare productions each summer at the Samuel-Grand Amphitheatre in Lakewood.[8]

Hutchinson, KS

The Hutchinson Shakespeare Company, founded by Lynsey Becher and Gaye Birkhead in 2016, does one production per summer such as the inaugural A Midsummer Night's Dream An attempt is made to perform in multiple parks for each production.

Jersey City

The Hudson Shakespeare Company, founded by L. Robert Johnson in 1992, features a summer season where the company stages productions for each month of the summer. Besides Shakespeare standards such as Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream, they often produce one to two lesser done productions a season such as The Two Noble Kinsmen, Cardenio and Henry VIII. Based in Jersey City, NJ, they also tour as part of their summer season to other New Jersey locations such as Fort Lee, Hackensack, Kenilworth, Hoboken, West Milford and also to Stratford, CT. [9]

Kansas City

The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival was founded by Tony winning Broadway producer Marilyn Strauss in 1993 at the urging of Joe Papp[10] with a production of The Tempest in Southmoreland Park. In 1998, they began to produce two productions per year, with a total of 23 production at the start of the 2011 season.[11]


Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is a non-profit, professional theatre company in Louisville, Kentucky that produces and performs the works of William Shakespeare. The main productions offered are the annual summer series of plays presented free to the public at Central Park. This series, commonly called "Shakespeare in Central Park", sprung from an initial production in the park by The Carriage House Players in the summer of 1960. They also perform shows in other venues, as well as conduct educational programs related to acting and other theater-related skills.


Shakespeare Miami (formerly The Miami Shakespeare Festival) is a non-profit, professional theatre company based in Miami, Florida dedicated to producing the works of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare Miami's programming is unique in that it is staged each January, taking advantage of South Florida's temperate winters. Their mandate is to promote literacy, culture and a passion for the arts through free performances of the works of William Shakespeare. [12]

New York City

For more details on this topic, see Shakespeare in the Park (New York City).

The original Shakespeare in the Park was founded in 1954 by American producer and director Joseph Papp as the New York Shakespeare Festival. Its beginning was a series of free workshops in New York, which eventually led to free public performances in Central Park.[3] Since 1961 an outdoor amphitheatre, the Delacorte Theatre, has accommodated these productions. Many celebrity actors have worked the Delacorte.[13] People line up as early as 6 a.m. to ensure they reserve tickets for the evening performance.[14] While the festival is called Shakespeare in the Park, many seasons have featured works by other playwrights, including Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett.[15]

Also, Hip to Hip Theatre Company performs free Shakespeare in a variety of parks and other venues in Queens, as well as locations in Southampton and in Jersey City, New Jersey.[16]

The Hudson Warehouse was founded in 2004 by Nicholas Martin-Smith, and present free Shakespeare and other productions at the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Riverside Park.[17]

Since 2000 New York Classical Theatre presents free Shakespeare productions in New York City's Central Park and Battery Park, among other locations. At the end of each scene, audience members participate by following the actors to a new space in the venue.[18]


Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet production in Clark Park

This Philadelphia theater company offers the largest, free outdoor production of Shakespeare's plays in the greater Philadelphia area. Shakespeare in Clark Park was formed in the fall of 2005 by Marla Burkholder, Maria Möller, Tom Reing and Whitney Estrin. In their inaugural season, Shakespeare in Clark Park presented four performances of Twelfth Night, drawing an audience of over 2,000 people. Those audiences have grown to over 5,000 and the annual show has become a staple of summer in Philly.[19]


Jennifer Tober founded Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks in 2005. Their performances are free and utilize various public parks in the Pittsburgh area.[20][21]

Portland (Oregon)

Founded in 1970, Portland Actors Ensemble performs free Shakespeare-in-the-Parks in the Portland area. Each summer they present two productions, a "Twilight Tragedie" in the evenings and a touring comedy in the afternoons.[22]


The Rochester Community Players have staged free Shakespeare productions at the Highland Bowl in Highland Park each July since 1997.

San Francisco

Free Shakespeare in the Park began in San Francisco in 1983, with its debut production of The Tempest in Golden Gate Park. Produced every year in San Francisco, Pleasanton, Cupertino, and Redwood City from July through September, this program stages professional theater free of charge throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.[23]

San Pedro

Shakespeare by the Sea was launched in 1998 by Producing Artistic Director Lisa Coffi. It presents free Shakespeare productions in San Pedro, Los Angeles and throughout Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura Counties.[24]


Since 1989, GreenStage has been producing free Shakespeare in major parks in and around Seattle. In 2014, they completed the entire Shakespeare canon.[25]

In 1994, a theater company called the Wooden O started annual summer Shakespeare performances at the Luther Burbank Amphitheater on Mercer Island, Washington. In later years park venues including Lynnwood, Washington and Auburn, Washington were added. In the spring of 2008 the Seattle Shakespeare Company merged with Wooden O and continues to present free Shakespeare productions throughout the Puget Sound region.[26]

St. Louis

Since 2001, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has presented free, outdoor productions in Shakespeare Glen, Forest Park each summer. The Festival is the only free, professional theatre in the region. It has since expanded its outreach to produce a full season of programming, which includes educational productions and classes in Missouri schools, a five-day community marathon of Shakespeare's plays called SHAKE 38, and a civically-minded original production, inspired by a St. Louis neighborhood and based on one of the Bard's works, called Shakespeare in the Streets. Official site


Michael J. Trout and Richard G. Fallon Founded the Southern Shakespeare Festival and Renaissance Fair in 1996. It is held in Tallahassee, Florida's Kleman Plaza Tallahassee before it became the location of a parking garage. Currently, being organized for re-launch.

Joe Penczak in Act 5 of the Troupe of Friends 2011 production of Richard II

Westfield, NJ

Troupe of Friends offers free outdoor Shakespearean performances in Westfield, New Jersey. The shows are typical staged at Mindowaskin Park on Labor Day weekend. The company was formed in 2006 by Artistic Director Joseph Penczak. Among the shows they have produced are The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, Henry IV Part One, Julius Caesar, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Richard 2, The Taming of the Shrew, King Lear, Waiting For Godot, and Endgame. Welcome friends


Optimist Theatre presents free Shakespeare in the Park in Milwaukee, WI. Official site


The Australian Shakespeare Company (Melbourne)

The Australian Shakespeare Company was founded in 1987 by Glen Elston, the man responsible for pioneering outdoor theatre performances of William Shakespeare's plays in Australia. The company has performed for more than a million people across all the different regions of Australia. They make it a mission to draw audiences of all age groups to their shows.[27]

The Sydney Shakespeare Festival (Sydney)

The Sydney Shakespeare Festival is one of the largest Shakespeare festivals in Australia. It takes place on Sydney Harbour's foreshore at the Bicentennial Park, from early January through until about mid February. Founded in 2007, it has grown to be one of Sydney's premiere summer attractions.[28]

Shakespeare in the Park Festival at Toowoomba (Toowoomba)

The Shakespeare in the Park Festival at Toowoomba is another location for al fresco Shakespeare performances in Australia. Originally presented in Toowoomba's Queen's Park (2004-2011), this festival recently moved (2012) to the University of Southern Queensland's Toowoomba campus. Presentations on the open-air mainstage since the festival's inception in 2004 include The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Comedy of Errors, Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Cast includes Creative Arts students from the University of Southern Queensland and also includes a variety of other events to compliment the mainstage offering each year.[29][30]

Shakespeare WA (Perth)

Western Australia also holds a large Shakespeare in the Park festival in Perth at King's Park Botanical Gardens. The plays for this festival are set to be performed by the same company (Shakespeare WA) through 2014. This festival is usually held from mid January to mid February, and is the largest single theatre event in Western Australia.[31]

New Zealand


Summer Shakespeare has been an annual outdoor theatre event in the capital city, Wellington, since 1983. The large-scale, large-cast productions have taken place in a variety of settings including the Dell in the Wellington Botanic Gardens, Civic Square, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, onsite at Victoria University and at Gladstone Vineyard in the Wairarapa. Productions have ranged from some of the most popular to some of the most obscure plays in the Shakespeare canon.


Shakespeare in the Park has been performed in the outdoor amphitheatre at The PumpHouse Theatre, Lake Pupuke since 1996.[32] incorporating traditional costumes and settings.


The Dream in High Park (Toronto)

The Dream in High Park is the oldest annual outdoor theatre event in Canada, currently entering its 33rd season in 2016. Since its inception in 1983, an estimated 1.3 million people have enjoyed the tradition of theatre under the stars. The Canadian Stage Company, who performs the Dream, is nationally and internationally acclaimed, and is Canada's leading not-for-profit contemporary theatre company. It was founded in 1987 with the merger of CentreStage and Toronto Free Theatre, and is dedicated to programming international contemporary theatre, and to developing and producing landmark Canadian works.[33]

Shakespeare In The Ruff (Toronto)

Shakespeare In The Ruff was born from the ashes from the previous company Shakespeare In The Rough which performed in Toronto's East End neighbourhood of Riverdale between 1994 and 2006. The new company launched in 2012 focuses on creating unique contemporary adaptations of Shakespeare's work and providing opportunities for emerging artists. As part of the company's community work, they run a youth apprenticeship program called the Young Ruffians which pairs up high school students with a member of the professional company for the duration of rehearsals and performances.[34]

Shakespeare by the Sea Festival (St. John's)

Shakespeare by the Sea Festival Inc., a community-based organization, produces and promotes artistic works with a focus on William Shakespeare. It unites seasoned and developing talent and aspires to excel in all aspects. The festival is the longest running outdoor summer theatre event in the St. John's area. Since 1993, the Shakespeare by the Sea Festival has been performing the works of the famous Bard all around the St. John's area – from the cliff-top meadows of Logy Bay to the historic World War II bunkers at Cape Spear – from the cobblestoned courtyard of the Murray Premises to the lush landscapes of Bowring Park. Since that time, the Festival has grown into a much-anticipated annual event.[35]

Repercussion Theatre (Montreal)

Repercussion Theatre has been touring parks throughout Montreal for 22 years, bringing the classics to people where they live, for free.[36] They are experienced in providing Shakespeare in the Park across the city, entertaining people who may otherwise not be exposed to the Baird's work.[37] Repercussion Theatre was founded in 1988, when they played four shows in front of 800 people. Now, they are the only touring Shakespeare-in-the-Park company in North America, and faring better than most.[38] They are the only company in Montreal that has consistently produced a Shakespeare production year after year. Repercussion Theatre has recently found a lasting and secure niche in Westmount.[39]

A Company of Fools (Ottawa)

In 1990, Margo MacDonald and Heather Jopling, rooted in the belief that Shakespeare should be seen and not read, recruited almost a dozen young performers and took to the streets. They derived inspiration from the rogue Elizabethan players that once entertained audiences outdoors at the Globe theatre, named themselves A Company of Fools, and began performing for crowds on the streets of Ottawa. In 1998 the Fools began performing in Ottawa City Parks with college shows, and in 2002 the Fools launched the Torchlight Shakespeare series. Besides mounting an average of two productions a year, the Fools hold three annual events (Twelfth Night Celebration, Valentine's Day Sonnet Delivery, and the Ottawa Theatre Challenge) and are active in the Ottawa community.[40]

Shakespeare in the Ruins (Winnipeg)

Shakespeare in the Ruins (SIR) is Manitoba's only professional Shakespeare company. [41][42]

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan (Saskatoon)

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan festival tents south of the Mendel Art Gallery on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan. The plays are staged on the banks of the Saskatchewan River, and take place from July to August.[43]

Freewill Shakespeare Festival (Edmonton)

The Freewill Shakespeare Festival, formerly known as the River City Shakespeare Festival was founded in 1989. It is produced by the Edmonton, Alberta-based "Free Will Players" every summer from late June to mid July. The Festival includes full-scale professional productions of two plays by William Shakespeare, as well as Camp Shakespeare - a summer drama camp for youth ages 8–16. All Festival activities take place in the 1,000-seat Heritage Amphitheater in Edmonton's beautiful Hawrelak Park. In 2008, the festival was renamed the Freewill Shakespeare Festival.[44]

The Bard on the Beach (Vancouver)

Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival was established in 1990. The plays are staged in Vanier Park on Vancouver's waterfront, in open-ended tents, from the end of May through September. Over the years Bard on the Beach attendance has grown significantly from 6,000 patrons in 1990 to more than 90,000 patrons in 2009. The programming has of course expanded from one play to four, and from 34 performances to 215 two decades later.[45]

The Bard's Bus Tour (Ontario)

Driftwood Theatre is Ontario's leading outdoor summer touring theatre company, on the road with The Bard's Bus Tour visiting Ontario communities since 1995. Driftwood Theatre breaks down barriers to experiencing and participating in theatre art by bringing theatre and engagement opportunities to audiences in Ontario who may not have access to professional performance. [46]


One of the Globe Theatres located in London, Great Britain

Shakespeare in the Park currently takes place throughout many European countries. In Europe, ever since the Elizabethan period, theatre has been a crucial part of their cultural heritage and history.[47] The Shakespearean performances take place mostly all over Europe from the East to Central Europe. One of the three Globe Theatres is located in Germany and is called "The Globe Neuss". It was founded in 1991 and is famous for its annual International Shakespeare Festival, where companies from all over the world come to perform.[47]

The German city of Bremen hosts The Bremer Shakespeare Company, which features the largest Shakespearean repertoire on a German stage. Performances at Bremer Park are a huge cultural attraction each year, and the festival also lets guests participate in The Dramatikerwerkstatt - a playwright workshop – where they explore the theatrical process from within.[48]

The Footsbarn Theatre Company based in France is a travelling troupe who perform outdoor theatre all over the world.[49]

In Italy, The Globe Theatre is located within the museum park in Villa Borghese. The stage is a classical "wooden o" structure, reminiscent of the original Globe stage, and is perfect for staging Elizabethan style productions.[50]

Brussels Shakespeare Society based in Belgium has been performing "al fresco" productions of Shakespeare's plays since the summer of 1976.[51]

Theatrum Gedanense Foundation annually organizes the International Shakespeare Festival in Gdansk, Poland. A week-long festival of outdoor plays and events, the company strives to include not only Polish adaptations of Shakespeare plays, but foreign ones as well.[52]

The British Shakespeare Company; this Leeds-based festival attracts 15 000 people each summer.[53] The British Shakespeare Company is also responsible for helping to initiate a government policy to send "Shakespeare Packs" to school children of all ages and backgrounds, in an effort to introduce Shakespeare at a young age.[53] London's Regent Park is a very special place for an outdoor Shakespeare experience, as the original productions of these great works took place in this very city. The Open Air Theatre Festival has become a famous tourist location, where many locals and tourists alike gather to see the performances. Open Air Theatre was first established in 1932, and is considered one of the largest auditoria in London. The oldest outdoor theatre in all of Britain hosts over 130,000 people annually in its sixteen-week season.[54]

Regent Park is the host of one of London's summer attractions. Since the very first production of Twelfth Night in 1932, the Open Air Theatre has been the home of many seasons of Shakespeare; but also has staged other classical plays, operas, musicals and family shows.[55]

See also


  1. Smith, Olivia (15 August 2009). "Success of free Shakespeare in the Park comes with a price for audiences - but it's worth the wait". Daily News. New York.
  3. 1 2 Free Shakespeare in the park. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  6. Cincinnati Shakespeare company. (2010). Retrieved from
  7. The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival (2010). Retrieved from
  9. Hudson Shakespeare Company
  10. "How it All Started". Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. Retrieved 23 April 2011.
  13. Shakespeare in the Park. (2010). Retrieved from
  14. Cross, H. (2010). Shakespeare in the park guide. Retrieved from
  15. The Baltimore Shakespeare festival. (2010). Retrieved from
  19. Shakespeare in Clark Park. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  27. Australian Shakespeare Company. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  28. Brava Media. (2009). Sydney Shakespeare Festival Inc.. Retrieved from
  29. isntmedia Australia. (2010). Shakespeare in the park festival - toowoomba. Retrieved from
  30. Look at WA Perth online portal-King's Park. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  33. BWW News Desk. (2010, February 9). Canadian stage TD dream in high park presents romeo and juliet. Retrieved from
  34. Globe and Mail (2012, August 18). In an east-end Toronto park, the Bard rides again. Retrieved from
  35. Shakespeare By The Sea Festival. St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. (2009). Shakespeare by the sea festival St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada. Retrieved from
  36. Repercussion Theatre Shakespeare in the park. (2010). Retrieved from
  37. Marijike, D. (2010, May 25). Help support Montreal's repercussion theatre!. Retrieved from
  38. Taylor, D. G. (1997, July 10). How to Succeed in shakespeare repercussions theatre's outrageous fortune. Retrieved from
  39. C, M. (1997, July 10). Repercussion theatre returns to westmount with 'as you like it. Retrieved from
  40. The Olde history, as we know it. (2010). Retrieved from
  41. Shakespeare in the ruins. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  42. Coalition partners in the national effort. (2010). Retrieved from
  43. Saskatoon Kiosk. (2010). Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan festival. Retrieved from
  44. Shakespeare festival announces lineup, new name
  45. Bard on the Beach. (2010). History. Retrieved from
  46. Driftwood Theatre Group. (2016). About. Retrieved from
  47. 1 2
  53. 1 2
  54. Regent's Park Theatre Ltd. (2010). Open air theatre- history. Retrieved from
  55., Initials. (2008). Additional information. Retrieved from

External links

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