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Shakespeare in the Park Comes Out to Play

Picture this. A pinkish evening in early summer. Trees form a tall, green backdrop for an open stage. You’re reclining on a grassy hill with just a blanket between your bare feet and the cool ground. Wine is in hand, naturally, and eager audience members lounge around you. The only sound is of wind wrapping itself in and out of tree branches.

Before you can take another sip of Malbec, actors appear on the arborous stage. Then Theseus’ booming voice interrupts the lull of wind mixed with branches. Shakespeare in the Park has finally begun, and you’re all ears.

One of summer’s simplest and most rewarding pleasures is an outdoor play or concert. Consider upgrading your outdoor activities by watching a Shakespeare performance to shake up your summer weekend routine.

You don’t need an English degree to enjoy a performance of Shakespeare, either. Although the language of each script is admittedly difficult, physical cues from the actors and the reactions from other audience members will help you understand the action.

When buying tickets for your first Shakespeare play, leave a little prep time to spare. Pick up a copy of the play you’re buying tickets to so that you enjoy the show as much as possible. Reading it ahead of time is a good idea because doing so will familiarize you with all of the drama you’re about to see. Plus, following the dialogue once you’re in the audience will be much easier if you’ve read it before.

And don’t think you are alone in struggling to understand—and even enjoy—Will’s masterpieces. So few people follow his flowery language that all of the plays are available with modern English translations. You know what that means. We just took away your only excuse for not liking Shakespeare.

With regard to liking Shakespeare, we think part of his genius is the wide range of his plays’ subject matter. “Romeo and Juliet” may not float your boat, but who’s to say “Henry VIII” won’t grip you? Of the bard’s comedies we’re partial to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and we love “Macbeth” when feeling moody.

Bringing a friend along who’s willing to try something new may help you follow along, too. Share notes during intermission. Maybe you caught something that she didn’t, or she can explain some significant plot element that you missed (blame the Malbec).

Take up your local theatre’s next offer for a refreshing and unusual evening. Attend the outdoor Shakespeare performances in your area and you can pick your own favorite.