By Joan Rykal

They say all the world’s a stage… and aren’t we lucky that some of the theaters that provide the venue for one of the oldest forms of entertainment were designed to be experienced al fresco in beautiful Outdoor Theaters.

The origins of theater date back to 6th century B.C. in Greece when Thespis of Icaria first appeared on stage portraying a character. Greeks and Romans later built massive outdoor theaters and performed during theater festivals. To solve lighting and sound problems, many theaters were  built outdoors.

After a time, traveling theater took hold and performers traveled around the countryside, performing on improvised outdoor stages with the surrounding landscape as scenery. Fast forward a couple thousand years and outdoor theaters have sprung up throughout the United States.

Whether you’re an avid Shakespearean fan, or just looking for a way to enjoy some theater under a star-filled summer sky, we’ve found some of these outdoor summer theaters near our campgrounds for you to check out. For a complete listing of theaters by state, check out outdoor-theatre.org.

The Old Globe, San Diego, CA

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax at the Old Globe. Photo courtesy of Manuel Harlan

Built in 1935 and modeled after Shakespeare’s Old Globe Theatre in London, San Diego’s version of The Old Globe produces 15 productions annually. Situated in the city’s Balboa Park, it has received the Tony Award for “Best Regional Theater.” The 2018 Summer Shakespeare Festival will feature productions of The Tempest and Much Ado About Nothing. For information visit theoldglobe.org. The Old Globe is located about a 40-minute drive from the Pio Pico RV Resort & Campground.

Shakespeare and Company, Lenox, MA

Nestled in the Berkshires, the Roman Garden Theater of Shakespeare & Company is an intimate space with bench and chair seating from which to enjoy productions of some of Shakespeare’s best. This summer’s production will be Love’s Labor Lost and will run from August 9 through September 2. Shakespeare & Company was founded in 1978 by classically trained English actress Tina Packer. For information about this production, as well as the indoor productions scheduled this summer, visit shakespeare.org. The Roman Garden Theater of Shakespeare & Company is about an hour and a half drive from the Sturbridge RV Campground in Sturbridge, MA.

Cape Rep Theatre, Brewster, MA

As part of a theater compound housing several theatrical venues, the Outdoor Theater at Cape Rep is the only outdoor theater on Cape Cod and has tackled a variety of shows from Shakespeare to children’s theater. This summer’s productions in the Outdoor Theater include daytime stagings of How I Became a Pirate and Pitter Patter Puppets. Visit caperep.org for more information. The Cape Rep Theatre is about a 20-minute drive from Old Chatham Road RV Campground.

Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Indian Village, NV

Settle back and enjoy the mountain views on the shores of Lake Tahoe at the Warren Edward Trepp Stage, a beautiful outdoor theater in Sand Harbor at Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. Shakespeare’s Kitchen and Bar offers pre-show eats and drinks, while the BardWare shop offers souvenirs. This summer’s Shakespeare production will be Macbeth and the festival will also feature Beehive: The 60s Musical billed as a “jukebox celebration of the women musicians who made the 60s truly memorable.” The season runs from July 6 until August 26. Additionally, there will be musical events on Monday evenings which will include performances by the Reno Philharmonic. Also, the Sierra Nevada Ballet will perform Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For event dates, times, and ticket information visit laketahoeshakespeare.com. Sand Harbor at Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park is under an hour’s drive from Tahoe Valley Campground or Snowflower RV Campground.

Super Summer Theater, Blue Diamond, NV

The outdoor amphitheater at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park offers something for everyone this summer with a schedule that includes the Gilbert and Sullivan classic, Pirates of Penzance, performed by the Sin City Opera; a production of the Tony award-winning romantic comedy, She Loves Me; as well as a musical adaptation of the children’s classic, Peter Pan. Adjacent to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, theater-goers can do a pre-theater hike and then spread out their blankets and enjoy a picnic during the show. Super Summer Theater productions run every May through September. Showtimes and ticket information can be found at supersummertheater.org. Super Summer Theater is about 40-minutes to an hour drive from the Las Vegas RV Campground.

Theater in the Park, Bend, OR

Theater in the Park. Photo courtesy of Lay It Out Events

Bend’s Theater in the Park presents the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, this summer on Friday, August 25 and Saturday, August 25 at 7pm. The productions are held at Drake Park in Bend, Oregon. Jesus Christ Superstar was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s first musical and is considered a “timeless rock opera.” For information visit theaterbend.com. Bend’s Theater in the Park in Drake Park is about 25 to 30-minutes from the Bend-Sunriver RV Campground.

The Point Theater, Ingram, TX

On the banks of the Guadalupe River, in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas, sits the Smith-Ritch Point Theater, a 722-seat outdoor theater that is home to the longest-running outdoor theater in the state. Founded in 1959, the summer season features a musical and two comedy/drama productions. This year’s productions will include Back to the 80’s, billed as an “awesome musical,” and a female version of Neil Simon’s classic, The Odd Couple.

While you’re waiting for the performance to begin, take a look at Stonehenge II, which is located on the theater grounds as well. In addition to this replica of Stonehenge, there are also two replica Easter Island statues. For information visit hcaf.com. The Point Theater is about an hour and a half drive from the Medina Lake RV Campground in Lakehills, TX.

Mabel K. Whiteside Greek Theater, Lynchburg, VA

Named for Randolph College Professor Mabel K. Whiteside, who began a tradition in 1909 of producing a Greek play annually until her retirement in 1954, this outdoor theater will stage As You Like It this summer from July 5-8 and from July 11-15. Visit endstationtheatre.org for times and ticket information. The Mabel K. Whiteside Greek Theater at Randolph College is less than a 40-minute drive from the Lynchburg RV Campground.

Leavenworth Summer Theater, Leavenworth, WA

The hills of Leavenworth will be “alive with the sound of music” this summer as the story of the Von Trapp family comes to life in the Leavenworth Summer Theater performances of this classic.

The Leavenworth Summer Theater began in 1994 and, despite a series of setbacks, has become the largest theater between Seattle and Spokane. The Sound of Music is the theater’s mainstay event and has been produced every summer since 1995. Summer 2018 will also feature productions of Little Women and My Fair Lady.

The Leavenworth Summer Theater is located at the Leavenworth Ski Hill Amphitheater and performances run from July 6 through September 2 on select evenings beginning at 8pm. For information visit leavenworthsummertheater.org. The Leavenworth Ski Hill Amphitheater is about a 30-minute drive from Leavenworth RV Campground.

American Players Theater, Spring Green, WI

The Touchstone Theater. Photo Courtesy of Mike McDermott

Hilly woods and meadows serve as the backdrop for two theaters in the great Wisconsin prairie. Founded in 1977, the American Players Theater draws over 100,000 visitors each year to see productions that include classics by Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Noel Coward. The Hill Theater serves as the 1,089-seat outdoor theater while indoor productions are housed at the Touchstone Theater, newly opened in 2009. Nine productions are scheduled for the 2018 season, including Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, and Garson Kanin’s Born Yesterday.

Picnicking is strongly encouraged before the theater and you can bring in your own or purchase from your choice of three concession stands on site. For more information, visit americanplayers.org. The American Players Theater is about an hour drive from the Yukon Trails RV Campground in Lyndon Station.

Peninsula Players Theater, Fish Creek, WI

What was once the Wildwood Boys Camp is now home to one of Door County’s most famous summer attraction, the Peninsula Players Theater. Situated in a cedar forest near the waters of Green Bay (an arm of Lake Michigan), theater-goers enjoy an unparalleled experience of “theater in the woods.”

Peninsula Players Theatre in a Garden. Photo courtesy of Audra Baakari Boyle

The Peninsula Players Theatre has the distinction of being America’s oldest resident summer theater.

This year’s productions include Now and Then, billed as a magical comedy-drama; Miss Holmes, a murder mystery a la Sherlock Holmes; a jazz age musical, The Drowsy Chaperone; and three plays with romance and comedy, Almost, Maine; Living on Love; and Salvage

The 83rd season begins with Now and Then on June 12 and ends with Salvage, which runs from September 5 to October 14. In addition to their productions, they host several, free-of-charge, pre-show seminars on a variety of topics before select shows.  For information visit peninsulaplayers.com. The Peninsula Players Theater is located about a 45-minute drive from Tranquil Timbers in Sturgeon Bay.

To plan your next great adventure and explore the amazing world of Outdoor Theater, visit our website, thousandtrails.com.