Shakespeare Festival St. Louis provides a great way to experience Shakespeare in the city. Each summer, the festival organizes free performances of a popular Shakespeare play in Forest Park. It also offers other performances, educational classes and programs throughout the year.
Forest Park Performances
The big event for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis is Shakespeare in the Park, an annual production of a popular play performed outside in beautiful Forest Park. In 2018, the play is Romeo and Juliet, performed from June 1-24. Preview nights are scheduled for May 30 and 31.
The show goes on nightly, except for Tuesdays when the festival is closed. The play begins at 8 p.m. The performances are held at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. The glen is located in a large grassy area near the intersection of Government Drive and Fine Arts Drive, not far from the Zoo and Art Museum.
The Green Show
Before each night's main performance, there is a Green Show starting at 6:30 p.m. The Green Show is a prelude to help prepare the audience for the main event. The 90-minute Green Show includes musicians, clowns, jugglers and kid's activities. It also includes a Bard’s Buzz presentation which gives a summary and character outline of the main play.
You can also take a free backstage tour beginning at 6:30 p.m. These 20 minute tours offer a behind-the-scenes view of the stage, a look at sound and lighting equipment and chats with the crew. Tours are available on a first-come, firs-served basis, but private tours can be set up for school and community groups.
When you attend Shakespeare in the Park, you don't have to worry about admission or tickets. Just bring a blanket or lawn chair and find a nice spot on the grass to spread out. Many people also bring a bottle of wine or a picnic dinner. You can also buy sandwiches, snacks, beer, wine and desserts from vendors at the festival.
Parking is available along Government Drive near the Zoo, along Fine Arts Drive in front of the Art Museum and along Lagoon Drive by the Grand Basin. Another option is to park in the lot near the Visitor Center and make the short walk to the performance site.
Other Shakespeare Festival Events
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis also organizes other community events throughout the year. In September, the festival is hosting its annual Shakespeare in the Streets. The event is designed to get everyone from the chosen neighborhood involved in creating the production. Neighbors work together on story selection and performance details. The event includes a block party and three live performances. Shakespeare in the Streets is September 15-17, 2017, at the Central Library in downtown St. Louis.
Just for Kids
As part of its outreach efforts, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis teams up with other community organizations to host summer camps for kids. The camps are held at several different locations including COCA, the Craft Alliance and Crossroads School. There are half-day camps for younger children, and multi-week sessions for more serious teenage actors. The camps teach young performers about everything from voice training and movement to stage fighting and physical comedy. You can find more information on camps at the Shakespeare Festival website.
More Free Summer Theater
Shakespeare in the Park is one of the more popular free summer events in St. Louis, but it certainly isn't the only one. The Muny has free seating for all of its musicals and there are other free movie series in local parks across the region. For much more on free things to do, check out my guide to Free Summer Events in St. Louis.