Seattle's Child

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outdoor summer theater

Outdoor summer theater performances at ideal for kids.

Shakespeare (and more) in the park: Family guide to outdoor summer theater

Sit, relax and enjoy the show

Watching an outdoor summer theater performance is a fine way to introduce kids to the theater –  it’s free (donations encouraged) and restless kids can get up and move around. Many of the plays are Shakespeare and while much of Shakespeare’s prose will go over the heads of young kids, they will grasp that it’s about playground drama they experience regularly – power, loyalty, plotting, battles.

These performances are intimate; no walls separate actors from the audience crowding in close to 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 are impressive. With very limited props, actors have to create worlds on the park lawn or minimal stage. They may need to 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, airplane noise overhead,  stray frisbees, or excitable dogs.

 

Seattle Shakespeare Theater

The Seattle Shakespeare Theater will be performing “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” from June 27 through August 4, 2024, at multiple parks – Volunteer Park, Luther Burbank Park, Richmond Beach Park (Shoreline), Lynndale Park (Lynnwood), Riverton Heights Park (SeaTac), Klahanie Park, Issaquah Community Center,  Mural Amphitheater at Seattle Center, Columbia Park, Wiggums Hollow Park (Everett), Wright Park (Tacoma) and Des Moines Beach Park. See the full 2024 schedule HERE.

 

Seattle Outdoor Festival at Volunteer Park

The best showcase of outdoor theater in Seattle is the annual Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival in Volunteer Park, this year on Saturday, July 13 and Sunday, July 14, 2024. For two days you’ll get to see multiple theaters performing in several locations in the grand park, including in the Conservatory, on the lawn, and best of all, in the beautiful Amphitheater.

If you don’t make it to the festival, there will be several other opportunities to watch those shows performed at the Outdoor Festival at other Seattle-area parks in July and August as well as more shows performed by additional theaters.

Address: 1139-1157 Volunteer Park Rd, Seattle, WA 98102

 

GreenStage Theater

Check out these free Shakespeare in the Park this summer to see when and where they will be performing “Twelfth Night“, “Henry VI, part 2&3“,  and “Backyear Bard: All’s Well That End Well AND Julius Caesar Performances“. The Backyard Bard shows, shortened versions of Shakespeare’s plays (one hour each) are sometimes shown back-to-back with a generous break in between. If you’re uncertain how much Shakespeare your kids will take, this is a great option. Also, since the cast is just a few versatile actors, it is fun to see the performers switch characters, or, at times enlarge the cast by calling up audience members.

Twelfth Night: July 12 –  August 17 – Multiple locations. Check out their 2024 schedule here.

Henry VI, part 2 & 3: July 12 – August 17 – Multiple locations. Most events are at 7 p.m. but check for special days with different times. 2024 schedule here.

Backyard Bard: July 12 – August 17. Multiple locations. Times vary. Check out the 2024 schedule here.

 

Seattle Opera 

Seattle Opera will have free performances of their 2024 touring production, Monkey and Francine in the City of Tigers at regional parks and performing arts centers. Performances will be from June 1 through July 21 on various days and locations. This 45-minute opera for youth audiences, a folktale from around the world to tell the story of Monkey and his brainy sister, Francine. The siblings must learn to cooperate to escape a hungry crocodile and outwit the greedy Lord of the Tigers. This performance combines multiple styles of music from Bollywood, Ethiopian jazz, Latin, and classical. This is appropriate for all ages and families with children. Bring your own chair or blanket! You must RSVP here.

June 1 (1 p.m. and 3 p.m.) at Postmark Center for the Arts.

June 22 (10 a.m. Storytime/ 11 a.m. performance) at Powell Barnett Park

June 23 (10 a.m. Storytime/ 11 a.m. performance) at Othello Playground

July 20 (10 a.m. Storytime/ 11 a.m. performance) at Othello Playground

July 21 (10 a.m. Storytime/ 11 a.m. performance) at Highland Park

 

Burien Actors Theatre

Fallen Angels a family-friendly comedy by the English playwright Noël Coward. They will have multiple showings from July 21 to August 18 at 5 p.m. in multiple locations in the Seattle area. This is a delightful romp through the lives of two best friends who find themselves in a bit of a pickle. Julia and Jane are two happily but complacently married women. When the charismatic Frenchman they had separate flings with before marriage suddenly announces a visit, they panic. As they try to keep their passionate past a secret from their husbands, chaos and hilarity ensue.

The 2024 dates are July 21, July 26, August 4, and August 18. Here is the 2024 schedule. More dates to come.

 

Island Shakespeare Festival

Head to Langley for a free (pay what you can) performing arts festival featuring King Lear and The Lucky Chance during the summer of 2024. The play King Lear will be performed on a rotating repertory from July 27 to September 7 on different days of the week. The Lucky Chance will be performed from July 19 to September 8 on different days. Check out the website HERE to reserve tickets.

Address: 5476 Maxwelton Rd, Langley, WA 98260

 

Kitsap Forest Theater

For a fantastical outdoor summer theater experience, head out to”Rodgers & Hammerstein Cinderella (Broadway Version)” at Kitsap Forest Theater – a 15-minute drive from the Bremerton ferry dock. Kitsap Forest Theater has been presenting family theater in a sylvan setting with the talented Mountaineer Players for over 100 years (1923-2024). Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella is the new Broadway adaptation of the classical musical. This contemporary take on the classic tale features Rodgers + Hammerstein’s most beloved songs alongside an up-to-date, hilarious, and romantic script. This musical performance will be a delight to the whole family. If you need assistance in getting to the theater, you must arrive by 1:00 pm. $23 adults, $20 students and seniors, $10 kids 6-12/Click here for all the information to plan your visit.

Here is the 2024 schedule: It runs Saturday and Sunday for four weekends: July 27, 28, August 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18; 2024 – 2:00 pm. Check out the Rehearsal Calendar here.

Address: 3000 Seabeck Hwy NW, Bremerton, WA 98312

 

Studio East Shakespeare in the Park: As You Like It

Studio East presents As You Like It, directed by Julie Grant. Enjoy these free Shakespeare performances at Bellevue Youth Theatre Amphitheater on June 7 at 6:30 p.m. and June 8 at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Address: 16051 NE 10th St, Bellevue, WA 98008

 

StoryBook Theatre in the Park: A Little Mermaid

StoryBook Theater in the Park presents A Little Mermaid for FREE at various local parks from August 4 to August 25 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. They recommend bringing a chair and/or blanket as most performances will be held in a grassy field. Life underwater isn’t easy for Sirena, a little mermaid who dreams of running and dancing. In this StoryBook version of Andersen’s classic, the audience decides whether Sirena should keep her legs or high-tail it back to the sea. 

2024 Schedule:

McCormick Park in Duvall
Sunday, August 4 – 11 am & 1 pm

Bellevue Youth Theatre Amphitheater in Bellevue
Saturday, August 10 – 11 am & 1 pm

Downtown Park in Redmond
Sunday, August 11 – 11 am & 1 pm

Sky River Park in Monroe
Saturday, August 17 – 11 am & 1 pm

Anderson Center Amphitheater in Edmonds
Sunday, August 18 – 11 am & 1 pm

Juanita Beach Park in Kirkland
Saturday, August 24 – 11 am & 1 pm

Lynndale Park Amphitheater in Lynnwood
Sunday, August 25 – 11 am & 1 pm

 

Whim W’Him Pop Ups

Whim W’Him returns this summer, 2024, bringing world-class contemporary dance to communities all across Seattle. Join this series of free outdoor performances that will take place at several parks throughout Seattle, including Ballard Commons Park, Jefferson Park in Beacon Hill, Martha Washington Park in Rainier Valley, West Queen Anne Playground, and AIDS Memorial Pathway in Capitol Hill. Go HERE for the 2024 locations and dates to find a performance near you.

2024 schedule: August 22 (6 p.m. Ballard Commons Park), August 22 (7:45 p.m. West Queen Anne Playground), August 28 (6 p.m. Martha Washington Park), August 28 (7:45 p.m. Jefferson Park), August 31 & Sept 1 (ticketed event, BUMBERSHOOT), Sept. 4 (6:30 p.m. AIDS Memorial Pathway)

 

Outdoor Theater at a Park Tips:

  • Bring a blanket, bug spray, sunscreen, layers of clothing, water, some cash to put in the hat, and, if you like, a picnic.
  • Don’t bring packaging or toys that make noise. (You never realize how much noise a bag of chips makes until you try and open one quietly!).
  • Outdoor theater is designed for a human audience, so best not to bring a dog unless they are fine sitting still for at least an hour and won’t be tempted to inspect nearby picnics.
  • 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.

About the Author

Fiona Cohen