The stars are fine

’Tis the season for Shakespeare alfresco

Shakespeare by the lake: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your inexpensive buffet breakfasts …

Shakespeare by the lake: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your inexpensive buffet breakfasts …

Summer is the season when classic plays move outdoors, and this year there’s quite a lot to choose from.

Closest to home is the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival, which opens The Three Musketeers (the Ashland adaptation of the Dumas novel) on June 29 and Macbeth on July 6. The common element is swordplay—the actors have been working out with a fight choreographer from San Francisco since mid-May. Macbeth will also feature bagpipes and drums.

Sacramento Shakespeare’s performances are held in the Land Park Amphitheatre, near the Sacramento Zoo. The gates open at 6:30 p.m., with performances starting at 8:30 p.m. (around sundown). Low-slung lawn chairs and picnic baskets are popular in the bowl area at the base of the stage. It’s typically warm when the show begins, and insect repellent can be handy. But a sweater is also a good idea, since a touch of coolness can creep in after 10 p.m.

Sacramento Shakespeare is a friendly, low-key festival (no Web site) with local actors and very reasonable ticket prices ($10 general, $8 students, plus $1 for parking). Tickets are available at the gate. For information, call (916) 558-2228. Arrive early for the better picnic spots in the bowl. The two plays will alternate on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through August 5.

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival begins on July 21 and runs through August 26. This festival specializes in comedy—this year, The Comedy of Errors and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. The plays are presented outdoors in a sandy natural amphitheatre at Sand Harbor State Park on the lake’s Nevada shore, just south of Incline Village. Shows start around 7:30 p.m. A sweater and long pants are a must, since the evening air gets chilly after sundown in the mountains.

Advance ticket purchase is advised for Tahoe Shakespeare shows. Upwards of 1,000 people attend weekend performances once the series is in full swing. Tahoe Shakespeare’s shows are usually designed with accessibility in mind and feature a mix of professional and community actors. Tickets are $20 general on weeknights, $25 on Friday and Saturday, with early admission $30-$35 and preferred seating $50. Student tickets on weekdays are $12. There are no performances on Mondays. For information, try the festival Web site ( or call (800) 747-4697.

Tahoe Shakespeare’s shows are mounted under contract with the Foothill Theatre Company of Nevada City, and both productions move to the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley on August 31, where they run through September 23 as the Sierra Shakespeare Festival. For information try or call 888-730-8587.

Other Shakespeare festivals include:

Shakespeare Santa Cruz, a big favorite of the critics, marking its 20th season with Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer. The festival plays mid-July to late August,, (831) 459-2159.

California Shakespeare Festival, in Orinda, will present Thornton Wilder’s Skin of Our Teeth in July, Romeo and Juliet in August, Twelfth Night in September., (510) 548-9666.

Murphys Creek Theatre and Stevenot Winery present Othello and As You Like It. This small festival is held at the winery, off Highway 4 near Murphys, in the foothills east of Stockton., (877) 888-6282.

And, of course, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the oldest and largest West Coast festival, which now operates from February through October., (541) 482-4331.