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.
The stone winery ruins at this state historic park come alive with energizing, inspiring, and clever tunes as the award-winning Transcendence Theatre Company presents Broadway Under the Stars, with four new outdoor shows on select nights from June 14 to Sept. 8. The season kicks off with a full production of the Tony Award winning musical "A Chorus Line," followed by three musical revues with timely themes:
- A Chorus Line: June 14-30, an imaginative re-staging of this iconic show, with a storyline that remains relevant and invigorating today.
- Fantastical Family Night: July 19-20, a fun-filled, inspirational evening of music and dance for the whole family.
- Those Dancing' Feet: Aug. 9-25, whirl through the decades of dance with a joyous explosion of movement, music, and rhythm.
- Gala Celebration: Sept. 6-8, An end-of-season celebration and fundraiser guaranteed to close the summer in an extraordinary way.
Pre-show picnicking with musical entertainment starts at 5 p.m. in the park’s sprawling vineyard and meadow. Bring your own picnics or purchase delicious goodies from local gourmet food trucks and vendors that will be at the venue for each performance, along with fine wine representing several Sonoma County wineries. Performances inside the ruins start at 7:30 p.m. (seating is on folding chairs, with cushions for VIP and premium seats). General admission is $45 to $79; premium tickets are $85 to $99; and VIP admission is $139 to $150. Season tickets and group tickets (of 10 or more) are available. Five dollars from every ticket sold is contributed to the support and maintenance of the park. Reserve tickets by telephone at 877-424-1414 or online at BestNightEver.org.
Transcendence Theatre Company, 877-424-1414.
Jack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442.
"As You Like It"
Aug. 14-18 and 21-25, 2019
Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma
This year the Avalon Players celebrate 39 years of presenting "Shakespeare under the Stars" with a rollicking production of Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona."
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.
Avalon Players, 707-996-3264.
Buena Vista Winery, 1800 Old Winery Road, Sonoma.
Shakespeare by the River Festival
Foundry Wharf (corner of H and First streets)
Dedicated to making Shakespeare accessible to everyone regardless of age or income, the Petaluma Shakespeare Company hosts its fifth annual free Shakespeare by the River Festival outdoors at the Foundry Wharf in Petaluma. For all performances, bring a lawn chair, blanket, and picnic. Snacks, soft drinks, beer, and wine are available for purchase.
For any evening performances outdoors, 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.