From Central Park to a Downtown Parking Lot: Summer Shows to See Outdoors

New York is heating up — the summer theatre scene as well as the city itself. Playbill.com offers a collection of outdoor productions for theatregoers ready to brave the heat and enjoy seeing a show under the stars.

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It seemed like summer would never come, and now that it has, who wants to spend the warm days and nights inside? Never fear; you can enjoy the warm weather and a show by seeing some — or all — of the many outdoor theatre productions that are offered in New York this summer.

Click through to find out where to watch theatre under the stars.

John Lithgow rehearses for King Lear.
Photo by Tammy Shell

Shakespeare in the Park

Founded by Joe Papp in 1962, Shakespeare in the Park has long been a tradition of theatregoers, with more than five million people attending the performances. This year's offerings include King Lear, with performances beginning July 22 and running through Aug. 17. The tragedy stars John Lithgow as the titular patriarch and Annette Bening, Jessica Hecht and Jessica Collins as his daughters. Performances are held at the Delacorte Theater (accessible by entering at 81st Street and Central Park West, or 79th Street and Fifth Avenue). Tickets are distributed two per person at noon every day. Read Playbill.com's guide to the Shakespeare in the Park line here. Additionally, a virtual lottery can be entered online at shakespeareinthepark.org.

New York Classical Theatre

If you can't sit still for the length of a Shakespeare play, you can enjoy what is known as "Shakespeare on the Run." Rather than remaining in one place throughout the performance, New York Classical Theatre stages their productions in various locations, and audience members follow the actors to different city venues throughout the play. Previous productions have been seen in Central Park, Battery Park, Governors Island and the World Financial Center. The company presents a two-borough, three-park summer tour of Shakespeare's As You Like It, with performances running through July 27. Visit newyorkclassical.org for more information.

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot

If you prefer the works of the Bard in a more urban setting, a production of Shakespeare in the Parking Lot might be the show for you. The Drilling Company's free shows have been performed in a municipal, working parking lot at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Streets for the past 20 years. At times the action is staged around a parked car, and other times the performances stop while the audiences move their chairs to make room for cars. Audience members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and arrive early to secure good seats — at least for the moment. The company presents Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night, with performances running July 10-26. More information can be found at shakespeareintheparkinglot.com.

Bay Street Shakespeare Initiative

Bay Street Theatre will present a reading of The Tempest starring Tony Award winner John Glover ( Love! Valour! Compassion!, Much Ado About Nothing) as Prospero. There will be a paid performance and cocktail reception at a private residential home Aug. 16 and a free outdoor performance for the community Aug. 17 at a location to be announced. Set on a remote island, The Tempest tells the story of the usurped Duke of Milan, as he utilizes magic and wit to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place. Visit baystreet.org for more information.

Boomerang Theatre Company

Two romantic comedies by Shakespeare will be presented in city parks by Boomerang Theatre Company. The four lovers of A Midsummer Night's Dream will make mischief in Central Park at West 69th Street through July 20, and the comedic battle of the sexes, Love's Labor's Lost, will be fought in Bryant Park Aug. 14-30. Visit boomerangtheatre.org for more information.

Hudson Warehouse

Calling themselves "the other free Shakespeare in the Park," Hudson Warehouse's 11th season features Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest through July 27, followed by Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale July 31-Aug. 24. Performances are held at the north patio of the Soldiers and Sailors monument in Riverside Park at West 89th Street and Riverside Drive. Tickets are not required; instead, audience members are invited to sit on the steps and benches of the monument. More information can be found by visiting hudsonwarehouse.net.

Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

Molière's comedy The Learned Ladies plays the campus of the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morris Township. The comedy follows the trials of the young couple Henriette and Clitandre while Henriette's female relations voice their high-brow disapproval. The bourgeois family's conflict provides the comic foundation for Molière's signature farce. Seating is general admission; the amphitheater opens 30 minutes before the show begins. Performances continue through July 27. More information can be found by visiting ShakespeareNJ.org.

Piper Theatre Productions

The Old Stone House & Washington Park in Park Slope is home to the emo-rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (through July 19), as well as the world-premiere production of Mr. Splitfoot, the story of the sisters who founded the spiritualist movement in the 1860s and 70's (through July 20). Piper also presents  The Buffalo Nickels Medicine Show, a vaudeville act by the Brooklyn-based band Buffalo Nickels (through July 20). Visit pipertheatre.org for more information. 

Theater for the New City

Theater for the New City presents EMERGENCY!!! or The World Takes A Selfie. The outdoor musical comedy follows a New York EMT worker on a workingman's grand tour of the world who decides to tackle global problems the way he does emergencies of his NYC beat. Free performances will tour city streets, parks and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs Aug. 2-Sept. 14. Visit theaterforthenewcity.net for more information.

Hip to Hip Theatre Company

Hip to Hip Theatre Company, which draws its name from Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors, tours 12 different Queens County Parks in the summer, performing two different works by Shakespeare — one comedy and one tragedy. The 2014 season features the comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona and the romance Cymbeline, which will tour in repertory July 23-Aug. 17. Performances are free, and no tickets are necessary. More information can be found at hiptohip.org.

Live IN Theater

This immersive theatre company takes murder-mysteries back where they began: the streets of the city. These productions place the audience right in the center of the action, blending the make believe with actual historical — and unsolved — murders. Aspiring crime-solvers can attend The Ryan Case 1873, Henry Case 1895, Lombardi Case 1975 and The Murder of Venus Xtravaganza 1988, where participants are encouraged to help figure out whodunnit. A performance schedule and more information can be found by visiting liveintheater.com.

Harlem Summer Shakespeare

Pulse Ensemble Theatre will present Romeo and Juliet in a three-week engagement in the Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park (679 Riverside Drive at 145th Street). Performances of Shakespeare's tragedy of young love and dueling families run July 24-Aug. 17. More information can be found by calling (212) 695-1596 or visiting pulseensembletheatre.org.

Summerstage

This annual series of performance art that tours the five boroughs will feature Teatro Sea as part of SummerStage Kids Presented By Disney. The Bilingual Arts-in-Education Organization and Latino Children's Theatre in the United States combines educational theatre productions and art workshops/programs. Summerstage will also include Urban Theatre Movement's Handball, a take on gentrification in New York City set in a public park, and the New York Neo-Futurists, who will perform their signature show of original short plays, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Emmy Award winner John Leguizamo will perform his one-man show Ghetto Klown. Visit www.cityparksfoundation.org/calendar/the-metropolitan-opera-summer-recital-series/ for more information.

(Carey Purcell is the Features Editor of Playbill.com. Her work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com. Follow her on Twitter @PlaybillCarey.)

Central Park SummerStage
Central Park SummerStage