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TBA Online: News & Features: Top News

2016 Spring/Summer Theatre Festival Roundup

Monday, April 18, 2016   (0 Comments)
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Compiled by Kristin Brownstone 

Dear TBA readers,

Welcome to the first-ever TBA spring/summer theatre festival roundup! The Bay Area is well known for all kinds of festivals, and with “festival season” upon us, we wanted to spread the word about as many professional theatre and dance fests as possible with dates falling between April 22 and September 22 of this year. What better way to expose yourself to new forms, new ideas and new favorite artists from the Bay Area and abroad? Get out there and explore!

Within each geographical area (SF, East Bay, North Bay & South Bay) festivals are listed in chronological order. Asterisks (*) denote festivals focused on new work. We have included a number of companies with summer-only seasons, but, in the interest of clarity, we have omitted school-sponsored festivals. 

Note: Do you run (or know about) a professional festival that’s not included here? Add the festival information in the comments below!

San Francisco

Young participants enjoying Bay Area Dance Week in 2015. Photo: Kegan Marling


Bay Area Dance Week

Apr. 22-May 1, 2016
San Francisco and around the Bay

Bay Area Dance Week, a project of SF nonprofit Dancers’ Group, offers more than 600 totally free events over 10 days, including workshops, performances, classes in a variety of dance styles, open rehearsals and more. This year’s festival kicks off in Union Square on Friday, April 22 at noon with One Dance, a group dance that everyone can participate in, led by the Rhythm & Motion Dance Program. 

San Francisco International Arts Festival
May 19-Jun. 5, 2016
San Francisco

Over 50 ensembles from the United States—many of them local—and from 13 other countries will give more than 100 performances in the space of just 18 days at Fort Mason. The festival, first launched in 2003, also includes artist receptions and free panel discussions on theatre criticism, dance, #BlackLivesMatter, classical music and visual arts, as well as a number of active workshops. 

*PlayGround Festival of New Works
Jun. 2-Jul. 10, 2016
San Francisco

The 20th annual PlayGround Festival of New Works features 44 performances and readings of new plays by Bay Area playwrights. This event runs for six weeks each year at San Francisco’s Thick House, 1695 18th Street. In addition to short plays from the Best of PlayGround (Jun. 2-19), the festival will present two full-length, fully staged plays by two of its up-and-coming writers: Katie May’s Abominable, or the Misappropriation of Beverly Onion by Forces Beyond Her Control (Jun. 6-Jul. 9), an O’Neill National Playwrights Conference Semifinalist, and Ruben Grijalva’s Value Over Replacement (Jun. 13-Jul. 10), an O’Neill NPC Finalist.

*Arabian Shakespeare New Works Festival
Jun. 4, 2016 (one date only!)
San Francisco; click forward to June

Four playwrights have been selected to write four new short plays inspired by the poetry of Ibn Al-Arif, an Arab poet from the same era as Shakespeare. Directors will be given a cast of actors and 10 hours of rehearsal to completely stage the play. There will only be a single performance, so reservations are recommended.  

*Fury Factory Festival of Ensemble Theater
Jun. 14-26, 2016
San Francisco

The Fury Factory fest, produced by SF-based troupe foolsFury, includes performances of new works, the Raw Materials works-in-progress series, workshops and multidisciplinary convenings and conversations. Main stage acts include Bandelion (San Francisco, CA), Deborah Slater Dance Theatre (San Francisco, CA), Green T Production (Minneapolis, MN), Hand2Mouth (Portland, OR), Independent Eye (Sebastopol, CA), Poor Dog Group (Los Angeles, CA), Sokeo Ros (Providence, RI) and UMO Ensemble (Seattle, WA). All events held at Z Below, Noh Space and Joe Goode Annex.

San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s Free Shakespeare in the Park
Jul. 2-17: Pleasanton, Amador Valley Community Park 
Jul. 23-Aug. 7: Cupertino, Memorial Park Amphitheater
Aug. 13-28: Redwood City, Sequoia High School 
Sep. 3-18: San Francisco, the Presidio’s Main Post Parade Ground Lawn
Sep. 24-Oct. 2: San Francisco, McLaren Park’s Jerry Garcia Amphitheater 

The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s Free Shakespeare in the Park program reaches thousands of people who otherwise may have never experienced live theatre. This year, SF Shakes presents the crowning achievement of Shakespeare's late career, The Winter's Tale, with music, dance and a trio of clowns. 

*Bay Area Playwrights Festival

Jul. 15-24, 2016
San Francisco

For almost 40 years, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival has served as a forum and a showcase for playwrights to experiment with new ideas, develop and nurture creative collaborative relationships and push the boundaries of the form. Produced by Playwrights Foundation, BAPF is held over two weekends, and features professional readings of outstanding new plays, as well as receptions and hot-topic discussion panels. Plays read at BAPF have gone on to Broadway and to productions at regional theatres across the country.

San Francisco Improv Festival
Sep. 8-17, 2016
San Francisco

The San Francisco Improv Festival celebrates the art of improvisational theatre by presenting work by over 30 local and out-of-town ensembles, as well as producing workshops and educating the public about all aspects of improvised performance. 

*San Francisco Fringe Festival
Sep. 9-24, 2016
San Francisco

The San Francisco Fringe Festival is the largest grassroots theatre festival in the city—and this year marks its 25th anniversary. The 2016 SF Fringe will present 150 performances by 35 indie theater companies—all selected by lottery—in the Exit Theatre complex in downtown San Francisco, which consists of three intimate venues of 36 to 80 seats each. Tickets are no more than $12.


East Bay

Catherine Castellanos as Toby Belch, Domenique Lozano as Maria and Margo Hall as Andrew Aguecheek in
Twelfth Night at California Shakespeare Theater. Photo: Kevin Berne


California Shakespeare Theater
May 25-Oct. 9, 2016

California Shakespeare Theater celebrates its 25th season at the Bruns Amphitheater with a newly-minted adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (May 25-Jun. 19), August Wilson’s powerful drama, Fences (Jul. 6-31), Shaw’s off-beat comedy You Never Can Tell (Aug. 10-Sep. 4) and Shakespeare’s timely tragedy, Othello, helmed by Cal Shakes’ new artistic director Eric Ting (Sep. 14-Oct. 9). The grounds open two hours before curtain for picnicking; patrons may bring their own meals or take advantage of the on-site café. Cal Shakes offers free shuttle service from the Orinda BART station and plentiful free parking on site.

Livermore Shakespeare Festival
Jul. 7-Aug. 7, 2016

This year, Livermore Shakespeare Festival presents The Tempest, featuring Larry Hecht as Prospero, and Jane Austen’s Persuasion, adapted for the stage by Bay Area actor and playwright Jennifer Le Blanc. The festival is held on the grounds of the Wente Vineyards Estate Winery and Tasting Room.

Vallejo Shakespeare in the Park
Jul. 30-31, Vallejo: Hanns Park
Aug. 6-7, Martinez: Martinez Waterfront Amphitheater
Aug. 13-14, Oakland: Peralta Hacienda Historical Park
Aug. 19-20, Location TBD 

Established in 2010, Vallejo Shakespeare in the Park is an annual theatre festival where audiences of all ages and economic backgrounds can enjoy free professional outdoor theatre in Vallejo, Martinez and Oakland. This year, VSP will produce Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. VSP also provides professional performance opportunities to Bay Area actors through nontraditional casting; casts are made up of multiethnic actors of various backgrounds and experience levels from around the Bay Area.

North Bay

Marin Shakespeare Company  
Jun. 24-Sep. 25, 2016
San Rafael

Marin Shakespeare Company’s 27th outdoor season features Lauren Gunderson’s comedy, The Taming; Shakespeare’s gender-bending Twelfth Night and the darkly disturbing tragedy, Othello. Enjoy performances under the summer stars (plus picnicking and free parking) at Dominican University’s Forest Meadows Amphitheater in San Rafael. Marin Shakespeare offers low-cost previews; Family Days (youth 18 and under admitted free); Senior Matinees (seniors admitted at half price) and Saturday night preshow dinners. Marin Shakespeare welcomes patrons ages 25 and under to all performance with $10 admission.

Vallejo Shakespeare in the Park - see East Bay


South Bay

Stephanie Crowley and Ray Renati in the Pear Theatre’s Pear Slices 2016 festival. Photo: Ray Renati 

*Pear Theatre’s Pear Slices 2016 Festival

May 12-29, 2016
Mountain View

Pear Slices is a celebration of short plays by local playwrights, presented each spring by the Pear Theatre. This year, to celebrate the Pear’s new and larger space, Pear Slices will be almost twice its usual size: two independent, alternating evenings of seven plays each, including works by Barbara Anderson, Paul Braverman, Diane Gribschaw, Max Gutmann, Leah Halper, Elyce Melmon, Ross Peter Nelson, Bridgette Portman, Douglas Rees, Earl T. Roske, David Schreiber and Evan Schumacher. And this year the Pear will offer a Saturday matinee for patrons who wish to see all 14 plays within 24 hours.

Silicon Valley Shakespeare’s Free Shakespeare in the Park
Jun. 10-26: San Jose, Willow Street Park (Love’s Labour’s Lost)
Jul. 29-Sep. 12: Sanborn Park, Saratoga (Julius Caesar)
Aug. 5-Sep. 4: Sanborn Park, Saratoga (Three Musketeers)
Sep. 8-17: San Mateo, Central Park (Love’s Labour’s Lost)

This year, Silicon Valley Shakespeare offers free performances of its “90’s pop” production of Shakespearean comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost at public parks in San Jose and San Mateo, as well as ticketed performances of Julius Caesar and The Three Musketeers. By providing high-quality and affordable theatrical experiences and educational programs, SVS aims to reach a diverse audience and build a new generation of theatregoers.

Santa Cruz Shakespeare
Jul. 12-Aug. 28, 2016
Santa Cruz

2016 marks the beginning of Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s third year as an independent nonprofit festival, and the 35th year of Shakespeare performed in the evocative outdoor environment of Santa Cruz. The company has embraced gender equity in the acting company, finding a better way of telling stories that are inclusive and designed for a 21st century audience. Students 18 and under qualify for a free ticket when attending with a paying adult. Shows this summer include A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Hamlet and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, adapted by Sarah Ruhl. 

*TheatreWorks’ New Works Festival
Aug. 8-21, 2016
Palo Alto

TheatreWorks’ New Works Festival provides an opportunity for audiences to experience new plays and musicals in their early stages of development. The festival has launched many new works onto TheatreWorks’ main stage, as well as to productions across the nation, including acclaimed plays Fly By Night and Emma, Broadway’s Memphis, off-Broadway’s Striking 12 and Equivocation (winner of the 2009 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award), as well as The North Pool, winner of the Will Glickman Award for the best new play to premiere in the Bay Area in 2011. Show titles for the 2016 New Works Festival will be announced in May.