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Shakespeare (and more) in the park: Family guide to outdoor theater around Seattle, summer 2019



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For a few short weeks each summer, a brave group of Seattle's actors take their work outside, presenting plays in the parks.

These performances are intimate; no walls separate actors from the audiences crowding in closely catch the action. They are affordable; the cost is whatever you want to pay when they pass the hat. And the skill and imagination on display here is impressive. With only a box full of props, actors have to create worlds on the park lawn. They can switch between roles within a second, with the aid of a hat, a swagger or a change in voice. And they often have to improvise, keeping the play going no matter what comes at them: be it rain, sirens, stray frisbees, or excitable dogs.

Some of these plays are directed at children. Two that would be good to catch are the 14/48 Projects show “The Totally True and Almost Accurate Adventures of Pinocchio” and Theater Shmeater’s “The Fabulous Fable Factory.”

Others are directed at adults, but are enjoyable for older children or precocious youngsters. Green Stage has a pair of Backyard Bard shows, shortened versions of Shakespeare plays (This year, it’s the "Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Measure for Measure"), sometimes shown back-to-back with a generous break inbetween. If you’re uncertain how much Shakespeare your kids will take, this is a great option. Also, since the cast totals four actors, it is fun to see the performers switch characters, or, at times enlarge the cast by calling up audience members.

Older kids with a proven love of theater might enjoy some of the full-length offerings including GreenStage’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” tackled with an all-female cast, and Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Wooden O’s production of “Twelfth Night.” You might also go for “Romeo and Juliet” (On the one hand, timeless romance, on the other: three murders and two suicides).

Bring: a blanket, layers, water, some cash to put in the hat, and, if you like, a picnic. Don't bring packaging that can make noise. You never realize how much noise a bag of chips makes until you try and open one quietly. Also, outdoor theater is designed for a human audience, so it's not a good idea to bring dogs. There are of course exceptions; a stalwart service dog, say. But for many dogs, seeing a play isn't that much fun, and they can disrupt the action, if for example, an actor swirls a cape in their direction. Camp chairs are a good idea for some, but avoid blocking anyone's view: the taller the chair, the farther back in the audience you need to sit.

The best, most convenient showcase of outdoor theater in Seattle is the Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival on Saturday, July 13 and Sunday, July 14 in Volunteer Park. Every show touring area parks, plus a few extras, are there for the viewing in the park’s amphitheater or on one of its lovely lawns.

If you are busy with something else this weekend, check the plays websites for the schedules of when they are coming to another park near you. Here is GreenStage’s schedule. Go to the play websites for schedules for “The Totally True and Almost Accurate Adventures of Pinocchio,” “The Fabulous Fable Factory, ” “Twelfth Night” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

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