From parks and vineyards to an 18th century abbey and a zoo, outdoor summer theater in Connecticut is as entertaining as it is wildly diverse. When it’s just too nice to spend a summer night in a dark theater, then it’s time to spend it under the stars. You won’t have to travel far to find the most delightful, if not the most unlikely place for outdoor summer theater in Connecticut. So pack a picnic, grab a blanket and plan on a night under the summer skies.
Shakesperience Productions, Inc.
117 Bank Street
Waterbury, CT 06702
So what do Shakespeare and grapes have in common? Why it’s Shakespeare in wine country, of course. Shakesperience Productions in Waterbury has a very busy summer planned as it presents “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which will tour Connecticut vineyards throughout the Nutmeg State during the summer. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be produced at at McLaughlin Vineyards in Sandy Hook on August 27 and at Haight-Brown Vineyard in Litchfield, on September 17. Rain dates for most performances are scheduled for the following day. Tickets are $12.
Connecticut Free Shakespeare
Beardsley Park Zoo
1875 Noble Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06610
If the word “Free” caught your attention, you’ll want to know that it’s absolutely true. There is no fee for this fine theater. However, free also means free spirited enough to set up in a zoo. Who wouldn’t enjoy theater at the Beardsley Park Zoo with exotic sounds in the background, show-off peacocks strutting about and a great performance unfolding beneath a starry sky? This is a professional Equity company, that continually delights audiences. “The Three Musketeers” is this summer’s production. The zoo’s picnic grove opens at 6:30 p.m. so you can pack a dinner or snack or purchase one at the zoo’s concession stands. Guilford productions are Aug. 3 – 7, and then the production is over for the summer! The main stage begins at 8 p.m. and admission is free.
Musicals at Richter
100 Aunt Hack Road
Danbury, CT 06810
You’ll want to spread out a blanket on an emerald green lawn adjacent to Richter’s PGA golf course. This community group of actors performs when the sun sets on an open stage with a nearby tent for the musicians. You can count on big showy musicals all summer long. This summer, “Oliver” plays July 28-Aug. 13. Tickets are $23 with discounts for seniors and children.
The Gary – The Olivia Performing Arts Center
At the Abbey of Regina Laudis
273 Flanders Road
Bethlehem, CT 06751
There’s a heavenly quality about The Gary-The Olivia Theatre. This roofed outdoor summer theater never fails to draw audiences from far and wide. Built in 1982 on the grounds of the abbey for the Benedictine nuns, it is always a surprise to find the contemporary theater next to a barn that houses an 18th century crèche that belonged to the King of Sardinia in 1720. It’s worth a trip to this theater even when a show is not on the boards. Tickets are $18. “Oklahoma” will be showing August 3-7.
The Elm Shakespeare Company
New Haven, CT 06520-6029
Pretend that you’re a duke for a day. How would you measure out justice in the dukedom? Would you be reasonable? Forgiving? Rigid? Or rule by the book? Laws have been around for a long time and in Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” the duke’s right hand man is given the opportunity to rule the land. Discover how far he goes when it comes to measuring out justice in The Elm Shakespeare Company’s production which runs through Sept. 4 in Edgerton Park, New Haven. This company has grown so much in its 15 year history that now, more than 30,000 people turn out each year for this outdoor summer event. Take full measure of the fun! It’s free, although a suggested donation of $20 per adult is greatly appreciated.
Summerwinds Performing Arts Center
40 Griffin Road North
Windsor, CT 06095 (860) 683-2485
Summerwinds in Windsor is one of New England’s premier outdoor music venue. It is dedicated to providing a broad range of high quality concerts, family entertainment, and events for the region and promoting the Greater Hartford/Springfield Area as a cultural/arts destination. They host prestigious entertainers and thrilling performances such as Steve Miller Band, Bruce Hornsby and more! The Performing Arts Center is operated by Celebrate Windsor, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the performing arts to Windsor and the Greater Hartford community.With an expansive landscape and a beautiful pavilion, it’s a great place to enjoy fantastic movie for a great price. Visit site for performances and pricing details.
Joanne Greco Rochman is the arts editor of The Fairfield County Review, a columnist, critic, feature storywriter and English professor. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Republican-American and Hersam-Acorn Publications.