Theatre Under the Stars: A Guide to Outdoor Productions in New York
By Carey Purcell
June 13, 2013
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.
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 The Comedy of Errors, directed by Daniel Sullivan, running through June 30, and an original musical adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost, which will be performed July 23-Aug. 18.
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. Additionally, a virtual lottery can be entered online at shakespeareinthepark.org.
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. This summer’s productions include Cymbeline (July 11-27) and, in a case of art imitating life, Richard III (Aug. 1-17). More information can be found at shakespeareintheparkinglot.com.
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.
This summer’s lineup features Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, which can be seen in Central Park Thursday-Sunday through June 23 at 7 PM, with Family Workshops held June 15 and 16 at 5 PM. The production will make its Brooklyn debut in Prospect Park Tuesday-Sunday June 25–30 at 7 PM. In July, New York Classical Theatre will partner with the River to River festival to present The Tempest in Battery Park. Performances run July 1-28. More information can be found at newyorkclassical.org.
Calling themselves “the other free Shakespeare in the Park,” Hudson Warehouse’s summer season of classic works of drama features The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) in June, King Lear in July and The Three Musketeers in August. Performances take place Thursday-Sunday at 6:30 PM and are held at the North Patio of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Riverside Park (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.
This annual series of performance art that tours the five boroughs will feature a hip-hop musical adaptation of King Kong, written by Randy Weiner and Alfred Preisser. This production revisits the larger-than-life gorilla, framing it around a story about hip-hop music. King Kong will be presented in five public parks July 30-Aug. 22. Read Playbill.com’s previous coverage of the show here. For more information about SummerStage, including a full calendar of events, visit cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage/.
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. This summer audience members can catch Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Tempest. Performances run in repertory July 24-Aug. 18. They will also moonlight Newport Green in Jersey City and conclude with gala performances in Southampton's Agawam Park. Performances are free, and no tickets are necessary. More information can be found at hiptohip.org.
Boomerang Theatre Company
This summer Shakespeare program's 15th season will feature Richard III. Performances will be held in Central Park June 22-July 14. No tickets are required to watch the show, which takes place at the Boomerang Rock (69th Street and Central Park West). The season continues in September with three plays performed in repertory: Shaw's Candida, Jeffrey Hatcher's To Fool The Eye and the world premiere of Johnna Adams' Lickspittles, Buttonholers And Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens. More information can be found by visiting boomerangtheatre.org/boom/index2.php.
River to River Festival
A month-long festival that runs June 15-July 14, River to River features numerous performances, including blessing the boats: the remix, a re-imagining of Sekou Sundiata’s acclaimed solo theatre work, blessing the boats. The production runs June 27-30 at Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Theater Two. Another work featured in the festival is You, My Mother: A Chamber Opera in Two Parts, by Two-Headed Calf & Yarn/Wire. Performances are held June 30 and July 2-3 at Pier 17, South Street Seaport. A performance schedule and more information can be found by visiting rivertorivernyc.com.
Harlem Summer Shakespeare
Now in its 24th season, Pulse Ensemble Theatre will present The Taming of the Shrew in a four-week engagement in the Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park (679 Riverside Drive at 145th St). Performances of Shakespeare's story about the battle of the sexes run July 10-Aug. 4. More information can be found by calling (212) 695-1596 or visiting pulseensembletheatre.org.
An immersive, outdoor theatre adaptation of "Frankenstein" will be performed July 5-6, 11-13 and 18-20 at 8:30 PM. An original adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel about a scientist and his re-animated creation, the production will feature live music and specially commissioned projections. A series of original short films will provide insight into the human past of Frankenstein's Creature.
For those seeking a more family-friendly show, Piper Theatre will present the Tony Award-winning musical You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown July 6, 12-13 and 19-20.
Visit pipertheatre.org for more information.