Los Angeles’ balmy weather and plethora of actors make it a fantastic town for summer Shakespeare in the park. Even young kids love the Bard – the physical humor and broad staging plays right to a six year old sense of humor.  Plus, the shows are almost all free!  Here’s what’s playing around town this summer that will appeal to little Groundlings.

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Shakespeare by the Sea
Kid Pick: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Price: Free
Online: shakespearebythesea.org

The local launchpad for Shakespeare by the Sea is the beautiful bandshell in San Pedro’s Point Fermin Park, but they also travel throughout the summer to perform at scores of parks throughout the area, including spots in Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach and Encino. Check the locations list on their website to see if Shakespeare by the Sea will be stopping by a park near you. Performances begin in mid-June and run through mid-August.  Our pick for kids is the fairy kid-friendly A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but Hamlet is also playing, for big kids or date night.

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Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga
Kid Pick: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing
Price: Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for kids seven to 12, free for kids six and under.
Online: theatricum.com

This legendary outdoor venue under sits under gloriously spreading oak trees in the wilds of Topanga, and your LA kids should see at least one show here before they grow up. Will Geer’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren remain highly active in the operation of the Theatricum Botanicum, which is so named because it features not just the amphitheater and stage (built of wood reclaimed from the old Santa Monica Pier) but a noted Shakespeare garden that includes every plant mentioned in the poems and plays. In addition to their famous production of Midsummer, we recommend Much Ado for kids, who delight in the bickering of Benedict and Beatrice.  The company is also performing a female Lear and All’s Well That Ends Well in repertory this summer. Summer performances begin the first week of June and run through the end of August.

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The Actors’ Gang, Culver City
Kid Pick: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the kid edition
Price: Free
Online: theactorsgang.com

Tim Robbins’ players come out every summer to perform their unique take on Shakespeare at Media Park. Past shows have included a punk circus version of Taming of the Shrew, a Star Wars take on the Tempest, Romeo and Juliet were monsters in love and Superheroes populated Twelfth Night.  We can’t wait to see what they do with their kid-tastic take of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Also showing: Tim Robbins himself directed the troupe’s adult version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it looks fasntastic, but as tickets are $30-$35, it might be best left to the grownups.

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Independent Shakespeare Company, Los Feliz
Kid Pick:The Taming of the Shrew
Price: Free
Online: iscla.org

The Taming of the Shrew will be presented in a natural amphitheater in Griffith Park by the Independent Shakespeare Company. The historic Old Zoo makes for a remarkable setting. Performances begin this year on June 26, parking is plentiful, and everything is delightfully free.  Check the ISCLA website for directions, showtimes and tips about enjoying the venue – you’ll also see which performances begin with Players in the Park (pre-show family workshops) or an Invertigo Dance Company performance.  Twelfth Night is the other show in rep this summer.

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Kingsmen Shakespeare Company, Thousand Oaks
Kid Pick: Twelfth Night
Price: Free
Online: kingsmenshakespeare.org

If you’re anywhere in the vicinity of the Conejo Valley, check out Kingsmen Shakespeare Company’s free shows at Kingsmen Park within California Lutheran University’s Thousand Oaks Campus. This year’s summer shows will be Twelfth Night and Antony and Cleopatra. Admission is free, but you can reserve special lawn boxes if you’d like. Tickets for those are $20 each for adults, kids under 18 are free but still require reservations.

Do your kids like Shakespeare?  What’s your favorite of the Bard’s plays?  Let us know in the comment section.

-Jennifer Arrow

Photos courtesy Shakespeare by the Sea, Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, ISCLA, Meghan Rose and Kingsmen.