‘All the world’s a stage’: Shakespeare plays well outdoors

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If You Go

What: “As You Like It,” presented by the Raven Performing Arts Theater

When: 7:30 p.m. July 24-27, Aug. 2-3 and 8-10

Where: West Plaza Park, next to the Bear Republic Brewing Co. in downtown Healdsburg

Admission: Free

Information: 707-433-6335, raventheater.org

_____

What: “As You Like It,” presented by Sonoma Shakespeare — Avalon Players

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 14-18 and 21-25

Where: Buena Vista Winery, 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma,

Admission: $20-$35

Information: sonomashakespeare.com

What: “Merry Wives of Windsor,” presented by Curtain Theatre Mill Valley

When: 2 p.m. Aug. 17-Sept. 8

Where: Old Mill Park, Mill Valley

Admission: Free

Information: 510-655-0810, curtaintheatre.org

What: “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” presented by Shakespeare in the Park

When and where: Indoors — 7 p.m. Sept. 13-14 and 20-21; 2 p.m. Sept. 15 and 22, Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center.

Outdoors — public performances at 7 p.m. Sept. 27 and 29, student performances at 10 a.m. Sept. 24 and 26, CIA at Copia.

Admission: Free for outdoor shows; tickets required for indoor performances, priced from $5 to $20

Information: shakespearenapavalley.org

It’s one of William Shakespeare’s most quoted lines: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” And it packs a special punch when delivered in an outdoor production, proving that all the world, indeed, can be a stage.

Quickly, which play does that quote come from?

You’ll have two chances to find out this summer, with two outdoor productions of “As You Like It,” by the Raven Players in Healdsburg and the Avalon Players in Sonoma.

“The play’s got heart and soul, and one of the most famous speeches: ‘All the world’s a stage,’ ” said Steven David Martin, artistic director for the Raven Players. “And the fun thing we’re doing this year is we’re setting the play in 1967, with music from that time.”

While the play has all the classic ingredients of Shakespearean comedy, including mistaken identities and gender-bending disguises, Martin believes that “As You Like It” is particularly accessible to contemporary audiences, primarily because of its heroine, Rosalind.

“For my money, this is Shakespeare’s most complete female character,” Martin said. “Rosalind is a sharp-witted woman with an independent mind.”

This is the Raven’s fourth summer of outdoor Shakespeare productions, which draw 80 to 100 spectators for each performance. This year’s show will be presented at Healdsburg’s West Plaza Park, next to the Bear Republic Brewing Co.

“That’s how Shakespeare was done in the beginning. It was done outdoors, and there was a grandness to it,” Martin said. “There’s a romance to it, too. It’s very different to see a show outside. There’s a bit more of a festive atmosphere.”

This year, thanks to sponsorship from the city of Healdsburg and the Healdsburg Improvement District, the Raven Players performances will be free.

For their 39th annual Shakespeare Under the Stars summer production, the Avalon Players will stage “As You Like It” outdoors at the Buena Vista Winery.

The troupe’s founder and director, Kate Kennedy, is working with a cast of 20, including a core of a dozen actors who have been with her for years. The company is cherished for its playful, irreverent and unpredictable style.

“I think the audience likes the unexpected, and we’re known for that,” Kennedy said. “We play with the script. We’re not totally improvisational, but we’re definitely known to go off the script. It’s fun.”

With a $35 admission fee for adults, the Sonoma Shakespeare shows draw an average audience of 160, Kennedy estimated.

“We have a lot of loyal fans who wouldn’t miss it, especially on closing night, when there are a lot hijinks and then somebody always goes into the pond.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

If You Go

What: “As You Like It,” presented by the Raven Performing Arts Theater

When: 7:30 p.m. July 24-27, Aug. 2-3 and 8-10

Where: West Plaza Park, next to the Bear Republic Brewing Co. in downtown Healdsburg

Admission: Free

Information: 707-433-6335, raventheater.org

_____

What: “As You Like It,” presented by Sonoma Shakespeare — Avalon Players

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 14-18 and 21-25

Where: Buena Vista Winery, 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma,

Admission: $20-$35

Information: sonomashakespeare.com

What: “Merry Wives of Windsor,” presented by Curtain Theatre Mill Valley

When: 2 p.m. Aug. 17-Sept. 8

Where: Old Mill Park, Mill Valley

Admission: Free

Information: 510-655-0810, curtaintheatre.org

What: “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” presented by Shakespeare in the Park

When and where: Indoors — 7 p.m. Sept. 13-14 and 20-21; 2 p.m. Sept. 15 and 22, Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center.

Outdoors — public performances at 7 p.m. Sept. 27 and 29, student performances at 10 a.m. Sept. 24 and 26, CIA at Copia.

Admission: Free for outdoor shows; tickets required for indoor performances, priced from $5 to $20

Information: shakespearenapavalley.org

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