Free outdoor Shakespeare play coming to area this summer

A fairy sprite from William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” to be performed this summer by the nonprofit Connecticut Free Shakespeare.
A fairy sprite from William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” to be performed this summer by the nonprofit Connecticut Free Shakespeare.

Connecticut Free Shakespeare (CFS) will celebrate its 14th season under the stars this summer with William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Performances will take place at 8 p.m. on July 31 to Aug. 4 at the American Shakespeare Festival Theater in Stratford as part of Festival! Stratford, and from Aug. 7 to 11 in downtown Bridgeport at the McLevy Green.

This is the same troupe that has performed outdoor plays at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo in past years. Actors are courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association.

‘Magical and romantic comedy’

Ellen Lieberman, CFS artistic director, said the play to be performed is “Shakespeare’s most magical and romantic comedy. It’s also the play in which he tells us ‘the course of true love never did run smooth’ — and there are many lovers in this play.”

The story takes place as festivities are planned for the marriage of Duke Theseus to the Queen of the Amazons.

Two lovers elope during the night, followed secretly by two lovesick admirers. They cross paths in a nearby forest, with town craftsmen rehearsing a celebratory play for the duke and his bride.

All are caught up in the disquiet of the fairy world resulting from a fierce falling out between the fairy King Oberon and his queen, Titania. Identities are mistaken, options go awry, and mayhem and hilarity ensue.

“Ultimately, true love prevails, and all live happily ever after,” Lieberman said.

Fund-raising impacts shows at zoo

Lieberman announced that although the company has produced outdoor theater at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo every summer since 2000, “Sadly, due to extraordinary difficulty in fund-raising this year, it is not possible to perform there this season.

“Our board, our staff, and our company of actors are all saddened by this leave-taking, but we are hopeful that CFS will be back performing at the [zoo’s] Peacock Pavilion next year,” she said.

Blankets, chairs and picnics

Performances begin at 8 p.m., but those planning on attending should arrive early and bring blankets or chairs for seating. Picnicking is encouraged before the play. Admission and parking are free for all performances.

Performances are canceled when weather conditions are severe. Learn more at

Last year, the CFS season began in early July with capacity crowds at the zoo and ended on a Saturday night in Stratford in early August with a standing ovation by an audience of 1,300, according to CFS publicity material.

About the theater troupe

Connecticut Free Shakespeare was founded in 2000 by Bertram Garskof and Ellen Lieberman of Dandelion Productions.

The nonprofit theater company seeks to produce free-to-the-public professional works of classical theater in an imaginative American style and with 21st century sensibility.