Even with climate change monkeying with its ever-moderate climate, the Bay Area reliably has a ton of outdoor theater going on in a multitude of styles over the summer months, even creeping into the fall.
There is as usual a whole lot of Shakespeare playing hither and yon, including the return of Marin Shakespeare Company’s summer season for the first time since 2019 under new artistic producer Jon Tracy. There are at least two “Much Ado About Nothings,” two “Hamlets,” two “Twelfth Nights” and two “King Lears,” including an all-female and nonbinary one at Silicon Valley Shakespeare.
The venerable California Shakespeare Theater isn’t producing any of its own work this year as the company regroups from severe financial shortfalls, instead hosting various music and performance events at its Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda. Cal Shakes plans to return to producing next year for its 50th anniversary season.
But there’s a wide variety of other outdoor offerings to be found: agitprop musical comedy from the San Francisco Mime Troupe, site-specific immersive theater from We Players, circus in the park with Circus Bella, a couple of brand-new plays from Actors Ensemble of Berkeley, Broadway musicals on Mount Tam and at the Woodminster Amphitheater, and both Shakespeare & Performing Arts Regional Company in Livermore and Santa Cruz Shakespeare doing plays by San Francisco’s own Lauren Gunderson.
Here’s a sampling of this year’s al fresco offerings in the Bay Area to get the intrepid theatergoer started. Remember to wear sunscreen and bring layers for that late afternoon temperature drop.
Actors Ensemble of Berkeley
Where: John Hinkel Park Amphitheatre, 41 Somerset Place, Berkeley
What’s playing: “A Room with a View,” July 1-16, “Faeries of the Moonlight,” Aug. 19-Sept. 4
Tickets: Free; www.aeofberkeley.org
Details: Open ground amphitheater seating with small cushions available and food and drink available for purchase.
Berkeley Shakespeare Company
Where: Kensington Community Center Amphitheatre, 59 Arlington Ave., Kensington, and Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Road, Kensington (July 14-16)
What’s playing: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Musical!” July 7-30
Tickets: $15-$20; www.berkeleyshakes.org
California Shakespeare Theater
Where: Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way (off Highway 24), Orinda
What’s playing: Young People’s Symphony Orchestra, June 11; “Good Medicine: A Night of Live Native Stand-Up,” July 8; Paper Moon Presents the Siesta Valley Music Series featuring Animal Liberation Orchestra, Aug. 5-6; Mosaic of Music concerts Aug. 12; We Players presents “The Keeper,” Aug. 18-27; San Francisco Shakespeare Festival presents “Cymbeline,” Sept. 16-24.
Tickets: Prices vary by event; www.calshakes.org
Details: Bruns Amphitheatre will host a variety of music and stage shows over the summer in lieu of Cal Shakes productions; check with venue as to what amenities will be available.
Where: Performs in various Bay Area parks
What’s playing: “Bananas!,” June 8-July 16
Tickets: Free; www.circusbella.org
Details: All performances use open lawn seating; picnic blankets or low folding chairs welcome but not provided.
Where: Old Mill Park Amphitheatre, 375 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley
What’s playing: “Romeo and Juliet,” Aug. 12-Sept. 4
Tickets: Free; www.curtaintheatre.org
Details: Open seating on chairs and benches in a shaded redwood grove behind the Mill Valley Public Library. A smattering of refreshments available for purchase.
Where: John Hinkel Park Amphitheatre, 41 Somerset Place, Berkeley
What’s playing: “The Tempest,” through June 11
Tickets: Free; www.infernotheatre.org
Details: Open ground amphitheater seating. Bring your own blankets, cushions or low lawn chairs.
Marin Shakespeare Company
Where: Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University, 890 Belle Ave., San Rafael
What’s playing: “Hamlet,” June 16-July 16, “Twelfth Night,” Aug. 4-Sept. 3
Tickets: $16-$40; www.marinshakespeare.org
Details: Performances are in the evening in a pleasant, quiet amphitheater with seating on the ground. Basic refreshments and cushions are available.
The Mountain Play
Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Mill Valley
What’s playing: “Into the Woods,” through June 18
Tickets: $25-$190; 415-383-1100, www.mountainplay.org
Details: Performances in the early afternoon in a sunny historic amphitheater high up Mount Tamalpais with seating on the ground. A variety of refreshments are available for purchase. Very limited parking, shuttle service available.
Orinda Starlight Village Players
Where: Orinda Community Center Amphitheatre, 28 Orinda Way, Orinda
What’s playing: “The Secret of Chimneys,” June 2-July 1, “It Runs in the Family,” July 21-Aug. 12, “Pinocchio,” Sept. 8-30
Tickets: $10-$20; 925-528-9225, www.orsvp.org
Details: Amphitheater wooden and stone step open seating. Bringing blankets and picnic food is encouraged.
TwiningVine Winery, 16851 Cull Canyon Road, Castro Valley; Heirloom East Bay, 9990 Crow Canyon Road, Castro Valley
What’s playing: “James and the Giant Peach Jr.,” June 16-18, “Avenue Q,” July 7-16, “Murder Mystery,” Aug. 19-20, “Pride & Prejudice,” Sept. 8-17
Tickets: $10-$75; www.plethos.org
Details: Open lawn picnic seating and row seating. Refreshments available for purchase.
San Francisco Mime Troupe
Where: Various Bay Area parks
What’s playing: “Breakdown,” July 1-Sept. 4
Tickets: Free; www.sfmt.org
Details: Open seating on lawns. Blankets and food welcome but not provided.
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
Where: Parks and stages in Cupertino, Redwood City, San Francisco and Orinda
What’s playing: “Cymbeline,” July 22-Sept. 24
Tickets: Free; 415-558-0888, www.sfshakes.org
Details: Open seating on lawns, with blankets and low chairs welcome but not provided. Basic refreshments available for purchase. Bruns Amphitheatre in Orinda has assigned seating and refreshment stand.
Santa Cruz Shakespeare
Where: The Grove at DeLaveaga Park, 501 Upper Park Road, Santa Cruz
What’s playing: “The Book of Will,” July 13-Aug. 27, “The Taming of the Shrew,” July 14-Aug. 26, “King Lear,” July 28-Aug. 27, “Exit Pursued by a Bear,” Aug. 16-22
Tickets: $20-$70; 831-460-6399, www.santacruzshakespeare.org
Details: Seating is a mix of reserved benches and chairs and general ground seating, with blankets and low chairs available for rental. Paid parking lot available.
Silicon Valley Shakespeare
Where: Willow Street Park, 1320 Willow St., San Jose, and Sanborn County Park, 16055 Sanborn Road, Saratoga
What’s playing: “Twelfth Night,” June 9-25, “King Lear,” July 28-Sept. 1, “Shakespeare in Love,” Aug. 4-Sept. 3
Tickets: (San Jose) free; (Saratoga) $25-$55; 408-289-1901, www.svshakespeare.org
Details: General seating, on the ground in San Jose and in folding chairs in Saratoga. Basic concessions available.
Sonoma Shakespeare Avalon Players
Where: Buena Vista Winery, 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma
What’s playing: “Much Ado About Nothing,” Aug. 2-13
Tickets: $20-$35; www.sonomashakespeare.com
Details: Performed in a picturesque fountain courtyard at a historic winery. General seating. Bring your own food or purchase a cheese plate.
Where: Darcie Kent Vineyards, 7000 Tesla Road, Livermore
What’s playing: “Silent Sky,” June 24-July 9, “Much Ado About Nothing,” July 15-Aug. 6
Tickets: $10-$60; 925-443-2273, www.sparctheater.org
Details: Performances on a winery lawn with reserved chair seating and refreshments available.
Transcendence Theatre Company
Where: Belos Cavalos, 687 Campagna Lane, Kenwood, and Jack London State Historic Park, 2400 Jack London Road, Glen Ellen
What’s playing: “The Beat Goes On,” June 16-July 2, “The Full Monty,” July 28 – Aug. 20, “An Enchanted Evening,” Sept. 8-17
Tickets: $35-$165; 877-424-1414, transcendencetheatre.org
Details: Reserved chair seating. Refreshments available for purchase, and picnics from home welcome.
Vallejo Shakespeare in the Park
Where: Parks in Vallejo, Benicia, Martinez, Oakland and Piedmont
What’s playing: “Hamlet,” July 29-Aug. 13
Tickets: Free; www.vallejoshakespeare.org
Details: Open seating on the ground. Basic refreshments available for purchase.
Where: Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda, and Villa Montalvo Gardens, 15400 Montalvo Blvd., Saratoga
What’s playing: “The Keeper,” Aug. 18-27, “Adventures with Alice,” Sept. 28-Oct. 8
Tickets: $20-$60; www.weplayers.org
Details: Open seating for “The Keeper,” walking from spot to spot for “Alice.” Layered clothing recommended.
Woodminster Summer Musicals
Where: Woodminster Amphitheater, Joaquin Miller Park, 3300 Joaquin Miller Road, Oakland
What’s playing: “Gypsy,” June 9-18, “Beautiful,” July 7-16, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Aug. 4-13
Tickets: $34-$61, kids 75% off with an adult; 510-531-9597, www.woodminster.com
Details: Reserved seating and refreshments available for purchase. Use paid parking lots or walk up a long stairway from street parking.
Contact Sam Hurwitt at email@example.com, and follow him at Twitter.com/shurwitt.