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Outdoor Theater and Plays in Sonoma County

Each summer the Avalon Players present a rollicking rendition of one of Shakepeare's comedies at the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma.

All's the world's a stage — especially when Sonoma County theater groups perform outside, surrounded by the Sonoma Wine Country's natural beauty. Whether it's Broadway show tunes or Shakespeare's immortal words, there's something magical about performers creating a dramatic or comedic spell in the great outdoors.

Venues vary from an amphitheater with cement benches, to a historic fountain courtyard, to the open-air space within the remaining walls of ruined buildings. You might spread a blanket on the grass, set up lawn chairs, or sit in rows of folding chairs. It all depends on the show you choose.

Here's a quick round-up of theater companies performing in outdoor venues in Sonoma County.

Transcendence Theatre Company
Broadway Under the Stars
June 17 to Sept. 11, 2016
Jack London State Historic Park, Glen Ellen
The stone winery ruins at this state historic park ring with touching, inspiring, and just-plain-fun tunes as this award-winning company stages four different shows over the summer months.

The dynamic performers bring their experience on Broadway, national tours, international tours, film, and television to this rural setting. Although these evenings are billed as concerts, each follows a theme, and the end result an outstanding slice of Broadway musical theater.

This Magic Moment: June 17-July 3 — Standards and showstoppers playfully updated for the best of Broadway on a single stage.

Fantastical Family Night: July 15-16 — Enjoy an extraordinary summer tradition featuring Broadway, Disney, and everything In between.

Dance the Night Away: Aug. 5-21—Weave your way through those show-stopping numbers from tap to Fosse and everything in between.

Gala Celebration: Sept. 9-11—An end-of-season celebration and fundraiser guaranteed to close the summer in an extraordinary way.

Pre-show picnicking (outside the winery ruins) begins at 5 p.m., with performances inside the ruins starting at 7:30 p.m. Seating is on folding chairs (VIP and premiums seats have cushions) inside the winery ruins.

Admission is $45 general, $82 premium, and $137 VIP. Youth under 18 for family night only will be $32 general, $65 premium, and $115 VIP.
Transcendence Theatre Company, 877-424-1414.
Jack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442.
(pPhoto shows a past performance from Broadway Under the Stars at Jack London SHP).

Shakespeare in the Cannery
July 1-23, 2016
“The Plot Against Shakespeare”
Aug. 12-28, 2016
Former California Packing Company building, Santa Rosa
The site of the former California Packing Company Plant No. 5 on Third Street in Santa Rosa's historic Railroad Square transforms into an outdoor theater during the summer. The remaining cannery walls become part of the setting as Vacant Lot Productions and the Arlene Francis Center present Shakespeare's "Macbeth" in July, followed by the world premiere of "The Plot Against Shakespeare" in August. 

Performaces are on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Bring your own chair or blanket to sit on, and dress in layers because it tends to get cold after sunset. Patrons are invited to bring a picnic dinner to enjoy before the show.

The grounds open at 5 p.m., with performances at 7 p.m. Parking is available in the City of Santa Rosa Public Parking lots in Railroad Square; the walking entrance to Shakespeare in the Cannery performances is through the 6th Street Playhouse parking lot (do not park in the 6th Street Playhouse parking lot). General admission is $25; $20 seniors; $15 students; and $5 children under 14; with a $5 discount on admission for cycling to the show.
Shakespeare in the Cannery, 3 W. 3rd St., Santa Rosa, 707-528-3009.

Pegasus Theater Company
"The Three Musketeers"
June 2-26, 2016
Riverkeeper Stewardship Park, Guerneville
Adaped from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, Ken Ludwig's "The Three Musketeers" offers an evening of swashbukling romance and danger. To Dumas' original swordplay and chivalry, Ludwig has added his own special brand of humor, distilling the story's energy and refreshing its timelessness.

Perforamances are in the amphitheater stage at the new Riverkeeper Stewardship Park along the Russian River in the town of Guerneville. This five-acre property was once choked with trash and non-native plans. Thanks to dedicated and enthusiastic community volunteers, it's been restored into a beautiful, natural space.

Performances are on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The box office opens at 5:15 p.m. and the show starts at 6 p.m. (and ends before dark). Reserved tickets are $20 through Brown Paper Tickets; otherwise, donations are accepted at the door. Parking is available in the county lot next to the pedestrian bridge at the east entrance to Guerneville.
Pegasus Theater Company
, P.O. Box 2814, Guerneville, 707-583-2343.
Riverkeeper Stewardship Park, 16153 Main St., Guerneville, between Highway 116 and the pedestrian bridge at the east entrance to Guerneville.

Sonoma Shakespeare, Avalon Players
"Much Ado About Nothing"
Aug. 10-14 and 17-21, 2016
Buena Visa Winery, Sonoma
The Avalon Players celebrate 36 years of presenting "Shakespeare under the Stars" with a performance Shakespeare’s masterful comedic tale of shipwrecked twins, love triangles, and gender confusion. The courtyard fountain at Buena Vista, California's first commercial winery, provides the perfect setting for a typically rollicking rendition by artistic director Kate Kennedy.

Enjoy the performance in patio table seating around the courtyard fountaion. Seating starts at 6 p.m., with performances at 7 p.m. Admission is $35. Exclusive patron's tables include the best seating, a lovely picnic supper on a linen tablecloth set with roses and candles, free-flowing Buena Vista wines, signature glasses, and a group photo with the cast for $1,200 for six people.
Avalon Players, 707-996-3264.
Buena Vista Winery, 1800 Old Winery Road, Sonoma.

For all evening performances, it's a good idea to dress in warm layers, as temperatures can drop dramatically after the sun goes down. Be sure to check in advance about whether picnics, alcoholic beverages, or lawn chairs are allowed at a specific venue.

Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.