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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 16 to Sept. 10, 2017
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.

Another Openin’ Another Show: June 16-July 2 — Celebrating music and dance from Broadway and beyond, paying tribute to some of the most powerful songs ever writeen.

Fantastical Family Night: July 14-15 — Enjoy an extraordinary summer tradition featuring Broadway, Disney, and everything In between.

Facinating Rhythm: Aug. 4-20 — This rousing and rhythmic journey of music and dance will have you tapping your toes all night long.

Gala Celebration: Sept. 8-10—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 premium seats have cushions) inside the winery ruins.

Tickets are $45-$145; youth under 18 for family night only is $30-$125.
Transcendence Theatre Company, 877-424-1414.
Jack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442.
(Photo shows a past performance from Broadway Under the Stars at Jack London SHP).

Shakespeare in the Cannery

“In The Mood
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, July 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29, and Aug. 3, 4, 5

“Fairy Worlds”
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Aug. 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, and 31, and Sept. 1 and 2
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 for productions of "In The Mood," a musical adaptation of "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Fairy Worlds," a new adaptation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

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 in the City of Santa Rosa public parking lots in Railroad Square. The walking entrance to Shakespeare in the Cannery is through the 6th Street Playhouse parking lot; do not park in the 6th Street Playhouse lot (except for ADA accessible parking).

Tickets are available online: adults are $30 for one show or $50 for both; seniors or bike rider $25 for one or $40 for both; students are $15 for one or $25 for both; children (6-14) are $10 for one show or $20 for both.
Shakespeare in the Cannery, 3 W. 3rd St., Santa Rosa, 707-523-4185 x101.

Raven Players

“Lovers, Liars, and Clowns”
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, July 13 - Aug. 15, 2017
Bear Republic Courtyard, Healdsburg

The Raven Players bring Shakespeare outside for comedy under the stars. See Hamlet and Ophelia, Benedick and Beatrice, Romeo and Juliet, and more – all on one stage, all in one evening. It’s an exciting collection of the best of the Bard: wordplay, swordplay and your favorite Shakespeare characters brought to thrilling life before your eyes.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings from July 13 through August 15 (except for Friday, July 28). The Bear Republic Courtyard is a nice outdoor performance area behind the Bear Republic Brewing Company off Healdsburg’s downtown plaza.

Tickets are $10-$25, available online or at Copperfield’s Books in Healdsburg at 106 Matheson Street, 707-433-9270.
Raven Performing Arts Theater, 115 North Street, Healdsburg, 707-433-6335
Bear Republic Courtyard, 345 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg

Pegasus Theater Company

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 2-25, 2017
Riverkeeper Stewardship Park, Guerneville
Local beloved playwright and Sonoma State University graduate Merlyn Q. Sell crafts a riotous, magic-filled retelling of Shakespeare’s classic “The Tempest.” Directed by Beulah Vega.

Performances start at 6 p.m. in the amphitheater stage at the 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. 

Parking is available in the county lot next to the pedestrian bridge at the east entrance to Guerneville. Tickets are $18-$25, available through BrownPaperTickets.com or by calling 1-800-838-3006.
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

"Comedy of Errors"
Aug. 9-13, and 16-20, 2017
Buena Visa Winery, Sonoma
This year the Avalon Players celebrate 37 years of presenting "Shakespeare under the Stars" with a rollicking production of Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors."

The courtyard fountain at Buena Vista, California's first commercial winery, provides the perfect setting for a typically lively rendition of one of the Bard's works, as presented by artistic director Kate Kennedy.

Enjoy the performance in patio table seating around the courtyard fountain. Seating starts at 6 p.m., with performances at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online: $35 or $20 for students (under 18). A Patron's Table for six includes hors d'oeuvres, a light supper, decandent dessert, and Buena Vista wines, is $1,200. 
Avalon Players, 707-996-3264.
Buena Vista Winery, 1800 Old Winery Road, Sonoma.

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

Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.

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