Summer is a great time to get away and enjoy a well-deserved rest. The great news is that theater can travel with you! From coast to coast, you can find amazing theater in beautiful vacation spots. Whether you want to make the productions the centerpiece of your trip or simply a sideshow, there are amazing options available.
Shakespeare festivals are the most common summer theatrical entertainment available. Almost every state has at least one running in the summer months. Don’t let the name fool you, though. Most Shakespeare festivals offer a wide variety of productions, from classical theater to musicals and modern fare. Oregon Shakespeare Festival is among the best known in the country. They run 11 shows across three theaters in a beautiful mountain town in Southern Oregon. In addition to productions of several Shakespeare plays, they are also staging the world premiere of Manhattan by Mary Kathryn Nagle and a radically reimagined production of Oklahoma!
Similarly, the Stratford Festival in Canada has its roots in Shakespearean productions. The picturesque Ontario town was named in honor of Shakespeare’s birthplace. Now, Stratford stages a dozen productions over the course of a summer. This season, they are presenting four Shakespeare plays.
Shocking as it may be, however, some of you might not want your travel exclusively planned around these theatrical destinations. In that case, it might be great to check out theatrical events at festivals like Powerhouse. This festival has recently become a hotbed of new work development and is run by Vassar College and New York Stage and Film. This season, they are workshopping musicals by Jason Robert Brown and Duncan Sheik. Another great summer venue for new plays recently has been Berkshire Playhouse, which annually stages the Berkshire Theatre Festival. With expanded offerings, the festival now includes classic plays, opera, and comedy.
A little further up the road is the storied Williamstown Theatre Festival. This festival got its start as the summer home of the Yale Drama program and has grown in popularity as a summer escape for Broadway stars. This season features Matthew Broderick in a world premiere comedy by Douglas Carter Beane, Eden Espinosa and Carmen Cusack in a new musical called Lempicka, and the premiere of a new Adam Rapp play, The Sound Inside, starring Mary-Louise Parke. These are just two of the seven productions being staged in a state-of-the-art facility in a gorgeous setting.
Closer to home, many cities take advantage of available theater space by staging fringe festivals during the summer when many of the venues would normally be unused. The fringe festivals take their name from the original Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which started up literally on the fringe of the Edinburgh International Arts Festival. That festival is a rather exclusive and traditional offering that was not able to accommodate the number of artists clamoring for a spot nor necessarily was it the right festival to present non-traditional works. The Edinburgh Fringe sprang up on the outskirts of the original festival and offered opportunities for these artists and their works to be showcased. Since then, fringe festivals have established themselves in many major cities around the world.
Whether you want to get away for a week of wall-to-wall theater, take a long drive into the country for a quick escape, or are simply looking to roll out of bed and see something unique, there’s an opportunity to enjoy theater this summer.