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A midsummer night's Shakespeare under the stars

Long Island is the perfect setting for outdoor performances of the Bard's comedies and tragedies.

  On Monday, July 23, 2018, members of the The Northeast Stage held a dress rehearsal for William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" at Polonaise Park Pavilion in Riverhead.  (Credit: Randee Daddona)

If you don’t feel like trekking into Manhattan and waiting for hours to nab tickets for “Twelfth Night” in Central Park, there are several places on Long Island where you can revel in authentic Shakespeare performances under the stars this summer.

Bring a blanket, have a picnic and savor the performances of classic tragedies (“Hamlet,” “King Lear”) and raucous comedies (“Much Ado About Nothing,” “All’s Well That Ends Well”) at these Long Island Shakespeare in the park productions.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Greenport-based Northeast Stage’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s comic tale of love and deception will include a special feature — American Sign Language interpreters will be on hand for two performances, says Amie Sponza, producer and co-founder of the troupe. The themes of “Much Ado About Nothing,” which features an 18-member cast (some in dual roles), remain timeless, Sponza says. When a piece of gossip gets spread around, it can ruin a relationship and lead to all sorts of comedic misunderstandings that finally get resolved through communication. “This hasn't changed and although it is a comedy, it does have a message that's relevant,” Sponza says.

WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Aug. 2-Aug. 4, Mitchell Park, Front St., Greenport; 7 p.m. Aug. 5, Shorefront Park, Smith Street, Patchogue; and 7 p.m. Aug. 6, Good Ground Park, Hampton Bays

INFO Free; 631-765-1409, northeaststage.org

‘Hamlet’

The Carriage House Players, which recently wrapped its production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” continues its annual summer Shakespeare Festival, with “Hamlet,” starring Evan Donnellan as the melancholy Dane. “I’m very excited about it, but a little nervous,” says Donnellan, 33, who has been involved with the group since he was 11. “Hamlet’s a big role and one of Shakespeare’s most well-known and highly regarded shows.”

If you’re new to Shakespeare, following along with the old English text won’t be an issue, Donnellan adds. “This play isn’t as difficult to interpret because the actors have such a clear understanding of it,” he says.

The Vanderbilt Mansion Courtyard is also an ideal midsummer setting to be absorbed by this tale of betrayal and lost spirits. “If people have never seen Shakespeare, then the courtyard is the most gorgeous and ideal place for a production,” Donnellan says.

WHEN | WHERE Aug. 5-Sept. 2, 7 p.m. Sundays and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, courtyard of the Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport

INFO $15; 516-557-1207, carriagehouseplayers.org

‘King Lear’ and ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’

Hip to Hip Theatre Company’s two Shakespeare offerings, which are also being presented at parks in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan in August, are being performed with almost the exact same cast in Southampton. Jason Marr, founding artistic director, started the company 12 years ago with his wife, Joy, who will perform in both productions.

Marr adds that although one show is a tragedy and the other is a comedy, they both have similar themes that blend well. While doing two plays is a challenge, “it’s also a lot of fun for actors to show off their versatility,” he says.

A bigger challenge, however, is dealing with the rain. The company not only rehearses and performs outdoors, but they tour with lights, wireless microphones and more.

To get kids excited about the arts, each performance will be preceded by "Kids and the Classics," a 30-minute family-friendly program to introduce children to classic literature. In this workshop, kids can interact with the text by previewing the characters and story through theater games. Marr said that the production will be traditional to “try and create the world of Shakespeare that he intended.”

WHEN | WHERE Aug. 24 (“Lear”) and 25 (“All’s Well”), Agawam Park, Main Street, Southampton

INFO Free; 718-729-8567, hiptohip.org

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