Outdoor theatrical performances are back on this summer 2023, and here we come. Of course, Broadway beckons, as always – but this is the season to get outside. We’ve rounded up a list of the 16 summer theater, performing arts and Shakespeare festivals best to plan to see in 2023 for lovers of dramas, musicals, classics and more.
summer theater, performing arts and Shakespeare festivals are on for 2023
Nothing compares to the magic of live theater. While we love movies and television, there’s nothing like seeing our fellow human beings perform a story for us in real time. In an age where so many of us struggle to be present – to sink our bodies and minds into the moment we’re experiencing, while we experience it – theater offers itself as an exquisite antidote. From the second those theater lights go out, we aren’t thinking about anything but what’s happening on stage.
And as you may already know, the summer is a marvelous time for new theater productions. Why? Theater festivals, of course. Though there are always excellent performances happening around the world – and no, we don’t just mean in New York and London – the summer season is particularly full of unforgettable new works. Here are sixteen summer theater festivals that you don’t want to miss.
16 places around the world this summer to enjoy live Theater
1. The Shaw Festival
The Shaw Festival, February 28th – December 23rd, 2023. The beloved Shaw Festival has made their home in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario since 1962. Though the word “festival” is something of a misnomer in this case – The Shaw offers incredible theater productions eleven months of the year – The Shaw is worth including for the caliber of their productions. If you’re hoping to visit wine country this summer, you can catch eleven different productions between the beginning of June and the end of August. On the roster? Tom Stoppard’s On the Razzle; Edith Wharton’s The Shadow of a Doubt; James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner; and two plays by Bernard Shaw himself, The Apple Cart and Village Wooing. Plus many more. Stay at: Prince of Wales
2. Stratford Theater Festival
Stratford Theater Festival, April 8th – October 28th, 2023. One of the most prominent theater festivals in the world, The Stratford Theater Festival has shone its spotlight over Ontario, Canada since 1953. Though they are best known for their Shakespeare productions, they also perform musicals, Greek theater, and contemporary works. This season they’ll perform thirteen shows across four theaters, with shows running concurrently so that attendees have the chance to see all or nearly all of the productions. This season’s Shakespeare will include King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard II, and Love’s Labour’s Lost, while the fest’s other well-known titles are Rent, Wedding Band, Monty Python’s Spamalot, and an exciting new theatrical adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time by Thomas Morgan Jones. All shows run through the fall, so you have plenty of time to catch them all – and don’t forget to also check out the festival’s lobby talks, workshops, set tours, and more. Stay at: The Bruce
3. Singapore International Festival of the Arts
Singapore International Festival of the Arts, May 19th – June 4th, 2023. First hosted in 1977, the annual arts festival showcases a massive selection of theater, dance, music, and visual arts. This year’s festival is the second in a three-year arc, all united under the guiding principal: “The Anatomy of Performance.” These festivals will be interrogating the boundaries of what “performance” can encompass in a space that is international, and will include both virtual and in-person events. This year’s subtitle is “Some People,” and many performances will examine the vast spectrum of the human experience. Among the theatrical offerings this summer are Angel Island by Huang Ruo and Brian Gothong Tan, which is inspired by the poetry written on the walls of the Angel Island immigration station; Cuckoo and Lolling & Rolling, both by Jaha Koo; and The School by Jean Ng, Li Xie, and Joavien Ng. Stay at: Raffles Singapore
4. Festival TransAmériques
Festival TransAmériques May 24th – June 8th, 2023. Founded in 1985, FTA is both a theater and dance festival dedicated to contemporary works. Performances are presented in venues and public spaces across the city, and it’s always a memorable week. This year’s program is available online, and includes thirteen theater performances. Among them, Soliloquio by Tiziano Cruz, Mémé by Sarah Vahnee, Bronx Gothic by Okwui Okpokwasili, Reminiscencia by Malichio Vaca Valenzuela, and a radical retelling of Shakespeare’s As You Like It by Cliff Cardinal. Stay at: Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth.
5. Barrington Stage Company
Barrington Stage Company, May 24th – October 15t, 2023. Co-founded in 1995 by Artistic Director Julianne Boyd, Barrington Stage Company is one of the fastest-growing arts institutions in Berkshire County. They are committed to the staging of new work, and their summer productions often find their way to Broadway as well as to other acclaim. This year, they’ll offer seven shows across two stages. Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret. The Happiest Man on Earth by Mark St. Germain. Blues for An Alabama Sky by Pearl Cleage. Tiny Father by Mike Lew. William Finn’s A New Brain. Faith Healer by Brian Friel. And to close the season, Sanaz Toossi’s Off-Broadway sensation, English. Stay at: Hotel on North
Spoleto Festival USA, May 26th – June 11th, 2023. One of the largest performing arts festivals in the United States, Spoleto was originally founded in 1977. Composer Gian Carlo Menotti launched it as a counterpart to the Italian arts festival of the same name. It features dance, opera, musical theater, jazz, visual art, and more. Included in the tremendous program are three theater performances: An Iliad, written by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, directed by Peterson and starring O’Hare; The Book of Life, co-created, written, and performed by Odile Gakire Katese, and co-created and directed by Ross Manson; and Only an Octave Apart, from Justin Vivan Bond, Anthony Roth Costanzo, and Zack Winokur. Stay at: Wentworth Mansion or Belmond Charleston Place.
7. Shakespeare & Company
Shakespeare in the Park, June 8th – August 6th, 2023. Every year, sleepy New Yorkers trundle off to Central Park’s Delacorte Theater at the crack of dawn to line up on the grass and wait for their free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. This summer, the tradition continues with Kenny Leon’s modern-day rendition of Hamlet, starring Ato Blankson-Wood in the titular role. Shakespeare in the Park is always a highlight of the season, and we can’t wait for this fantastic new production. Stay at: 1 Hotel Central Park
8. Shakespeare in the Park
Shakespeare in the Park, June 17th – July 17th, 2022 and August 10th – September 11th, 2022.. Every summer, sleepy New Yorkers trundle to Central Park’s Delacorte Theater in the wee hours of the morning, and line up on the grass to receive their free tickets for Shakespeare in the Park. This year, the tradition continues with two new productions from The Public Theater: Richard III (directed by Robert O’Hara, and starring Danai Gurrira as Richard III), and a musical rendition of As You Like It (adapted by Shaina Taub and directed by Laurie Woolery). We can’t wait. Stay at: 1 Hotel Central Park
9. American Players Theater
American Players Theater, June 10th – November 19th, 2023. This theater played their first show in Spring Green, Wisconsin in 1980, and they have been wowing audiences ever since. This year they have nine shows scheduled: The Royale by Marco Ramirez, The Liar by David Ives, Our Town by Thornton Wilder, Once Upon a Bridge by Sonya Kelly, Anton’s Shorts by Anton Chekhov and Aaron Posner, Mala by Melinda Lopez, Proof by David Auburn, and two Shakespeare plays, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Romeo & Juliet. With several plays running concurrently, and the addition of tours, play talks, Sunday salons, and more, you know there will be plenty to keep you occupied all summer. Stay at: Mineral Point Hotel
10. The Muny
The Muny, June 12th – August 20th, 2023. The St. Louis theater is famous for their summer musicals, and they are back for their 105th season. Prepare yourself for seven crowd-pleasing hits: Beautiful: The Carol King Musical, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Chess, West Side Story, Little Shop of Horrors, Rent, and Sister Act. The program is always fun for the whole family. Stay at: Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis
11. Chester Theatre Company
Chester Theatre Company, June 22nd – August 20th, 2023. Snuggled between the Berkshires and Pioneer Valley, you’ll find the Chester Theatre Company. With a reputation some of the summer’s best work, they’re back this season with four shows in succession: The Making of a Great Moment written by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb; Guards at the Taj by Rajiv Joseph; The Light by Loy A Webb; and Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker. Stay at: Wheatleigh
12. Bard Summerscape
Bard Summerscape, June 23rd – August 13th, 2023. Held every summer at Bard College, about 90 miles north of New York City, Bard SummerScape features eight weeks of world-class opera, theater, and dance. This year’s highlights include an operatic rendition of Henry VIII by Camille Saint-Saëns, and the world premiere of Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois, with direction and choreography by Justin Peck and story by Peck and Jackie Sibblies Drury. Stay at: The Ritz Carlton Westchester.
13. Dorset Theater Festival
Dorset Theater Festival, June 23rd – September 10th, 2023. Just north of the Berkshires, Vermont’s Dorset Theater Festival is a known destination for both actors and playwrights. They frequently premiere works from well-known writers, and they are always a go-to venue for writing that feels exciting and new. This season will include four shows: William Goldman’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery, directed by Jackson Gay; Still, a world premiere by Lia Romeo, directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt; Ms. Holmes & Ms. Watson Apt. 2B by Kate Hamill; and Thanksgiving Play by Larissa Fasthorse, which is currently playing on Broadway. Stay at: The Dorset Inn
14. Festival D’avignon
Festival D’avignon, Avignon, France, July 7th – July 26th, 2022. One of the most prominent arts festivals in the world, the Avignon Festival was founded in 1947 by French actor Jean Vilar. In addition to theater, attendees can enjoy dance, storytelling, readings, music, visual art, and readings. This year’s theater productions include Iphigenia by Tiago Rodrigues, Jogging by Hanane Hajj Ali, and The Seventh Day by Yu Hua and Meng Jinghui. There will also be multiple renditions of Shakespeare, and many performances for a young audience. Stay at: The Hotel Crillon le Brave or Hotel La Mirande.
15. Williamstown Theatre Festival
Williamstown Theatre Festival, July 13th – September 9th, 2023. Beginning in 1955, the Williamstown Theatre Festival has Broadway’s home away from home – the place to go each summer to see the world’s best actors, writers, and directors doing their finest work. Yet more proof that the Berkshires are the place to be for summer theater, as the festival returns with A New Brain by William Finn and James Lapine, The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh. and Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov. There will also be comedy performances from Hasan Minhaj, a concert from Laura Benanti, and a Friday reading series for new work. Stay at: Rose and Goat Retreat
16. Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Edinburgh Festival Fringe, August 4th – August 28th, 2023. This festival is the world’s largest performing arts festival, with thousands of performances hitting its stages every summer. Because of its gargantuan scale, it has something for everyone, and is perhaps the world’s best destination for theater lovers, with performances all across the city. For the full list of comedies, dramas, spoken word, dance, cabaret, musicals, and children’s performances, look through the detailed schedule on the festival’s website. Stay at: The Witchery by the Castle
16 places around the world this summer to enjoy live Theater
That’s our take on the 16 summer theater, performing arts and Shakespeare festivals best to plan to see in 2023 for lovers of dramas, musicals, classics and more. What’s at the top of your list, dear reader?