Listening to the 400-year-old words of William Shakespeare—performed by a troupe of super-talented actors—while enjoying a warm summer evening under the stars is one of the most magical experiences of every summer. Lucky for us, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is back for its 66th year at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Founded in 1958, the festival is a professional theatre company associated with CU Boulder. Each year, the festival puts on several plays by Shakespeare and other playwrights, with performances scheduled throughout June, July and August.
Whether you’ve never been to the festival before or you’re a long-time attendee who makes it to all the shows, you definitely want to get tickets this year. That’s because, after this summer, the historic and beautiful Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre will be undergoing renovations. It will be closed for at least the 2024 season—and possibly more—while crews do a total overhaul of the Hellems Arts and Sciences Building complex.
When the 84-year-old open-air theatre eventually does reopen, it should be more accessible and easier for patrons to access; it will have better drainage and improved bathrooms, too. Hellems, meanwhile, will also have better learning spaces for CU students.
“This renovation will improve the way that students and Shakespeare Festival patrons interact with the Rippon space,” says Tim Orr, the festival’s producing artistic director. “The improvements to access for our patrons and for the students using that space during the school year will be extraordinary and wonderful.”
But that’s not until next year. In the meantime, here’s what to look forward to this season as you start making your Colorado Shakespeare Festival plans.
Diverse Line-Up of Plays
This year, the festival is putting on a diverse line-up of plays that Orr described as some of Shakespeare’s “most towering works.” They are:
Much Ado About Nothing
This beloved Shakespeare play, which opens June 13 outdoors at the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre, is a romantic comedy that tells the story of enemies who become lovers in 1920s Paris. The last time CSF performed this one was in 2015.
The Winter’s Tale
Opening June 25 outdoors at the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre, “The Winter’s Tale” was one of the last plays Shakespeare wrote. It’s technically a romance, but also explores darker themes like jealousy, mythology, psychology, tragedy and comedy.
Mark your calendar for “King Lear,” which opens July 9 outdoors at the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre. This dark, political tragedy follows King Lear as he divides his kingdom between his daughters.
One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean
“One Man, Two Guvnors” is the only non-Shakespeare show in this year’s festival. Written by Richard Bean in 2011, the show is a musical comedy based on an 18th-century play. Set in 1960s London, the show opens July 23 indoors in the newly renovated Roe Green Theater on CU’s campus.
Comedy of Errors
Actors will perform “Comedy of Errors” one night only on Aug. 6, outdoors—and, unfortunately, this “original practice” show is already sold out.
Beer Is Back
Also noteworthy for the upcoming festival is that craft beer is returning for the first time in three years. The festival stopped offering alcoholic beverages to patrons because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as labor shortages, but is now bringing it back. Bartenders will be slinging two canned beers from Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing: the Good and Gone Vienna lager and the Dry Irish Stout Nitro.
“I read every single one of the audience surveys and the biggest request we got was to bring back beer,” says Wendy Franz, the festival’s managing director.