Shakespeare in the park is a summer tradition in many U.S. cities but you don’t have to travel far to see great, free Shakespeare theater in Montgomery County. Each summer The National Players present free performances of a Shakespeare production at the outdoor Root Family Stage at Olney Theatre Center. This year’s selection, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is recommended for children 8 and up.
The outdoor stage is set amid a grassy area with two sections of bleacher seats available (some seats are reserved for Olney Theater Center Members only). Tickets for the show are free and available through the OTC website or at their box office. This year, shows are nightly, Wednesday through Sunday evenings at 8 p.m. from July 15 to July 26.
The grassy area around the stage is a great place to spend a summer evening. Although the show begins at 8 p.m. many audience members arrive by 7 p.m. with dinner in hand to stake out their spot and enjoy a picnic on the lawn. Blankets and lawn chairs are allowed. There seemed to be an unwritten rule that space was left in front for those using blanket seating with lawn chairs beginning about halfway back on the grass. Picnics are encouraged and you can bring your own drinks along or purchase them at the outdoor bar set up near the indoor theater entrance. Sodas are for sale for $2 and water $3 with beer and wine also available. The theater encourages you to bring along bug spray, luckily the mosquitoes did not seem to be biting on the night of our visit.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a colorful story of magic potions, fairies and mischief, which will hold children’s attention with a little preparation before hand. Letting kids know that the actor’s will be speaking in accented English with many unfamiliar words is key to setting their expectations for the show. Familiarity with the plot of the play is also helpful for kids and adults alike to be able to follow the story. The summary we looked at before hand can be found here. Lastly, be sure to look through the program upon arrival. Puck is the only character that remains in his role the whole play. All of the other actors play two or three separate parts throughout the story and knowing that will help you to keep the cast of characters straight and the plot easier to follow.
The running time for A Midsummer Night’s Dream is 90 minutes with no intermission. After the show is over the players (actors) collect donations so kids can have a chance to greet their favorite actor. Parking is free and plentiful at the Olney Theater Center and there are restrooms and concessions available indoors throughout the show. You will need cash for concessions and any donation you wish to give. Performances will go on rain or shine. The show will be moved indoors in case of inclement weather.
The National Players will return to Olney August 12 to 16 for performances of Julius Caesar and September 9 to 20 for A Tale of Two Cities both presented indoors on the Historic Main Stage. Tickets for these shows are not free but with starting prices at $15 are still a great bargain for live theater.
Start a new summer tradition of a picnic under the stars while watching Shakespeare performed at the Olney Theatre Center!