Summer isn’t just about drinking outside and falling asleep at the beach, it’s also a time of culture! Free music, free movies and, of course, New York’s time-honored tradition of free, often outdoor theater. And sure, Manhattan may get the big names and the treason accusations, but Brooklyn’s got its fair share of free summer theater this year too, of both the Shakespeare and non-Shakespeare varieties. So here are our picks of the best plays to catch for free in the borough this summer.
Checks and Balances or Bottoms Up!
Theater for the New City is bringing puppets, music and civil rights to parks around the city with its new “operetta for the street,” Checks and Balances or Bottoms Up! It’s an original musical about a catholic schoolgirl and a subway conductor battling puppets in the name of New York and the planet, so it ought to be a nice, bizarre way to spend a day in the park. With book and lyrics by Crystal Field and music by Justin Vernon Banks, Checks and Balances runs from August 5 to September 17 with three stops in Brooklyn, all in August. (August 18, 6:30 pm, Coney Island Boardwalk; August 20, 2 pm, Herbert Von King Park; August 26, 2 pm, Sunset Park)
Antigone in Ferguson
Kicking off a summer of free outdoor theater is Antigone in Ferguson at the Brownsville Library this Saturday. This reimagining of Sophocles’ classic play puts the Greek tragedy against a backdrop of contemporary violence, juxtaposing readings from the play with gospel music from a choir of police officers, teachers and community members from Ferguson. The show features readings by Reg E. Cathey, Frankie Faison, Deirdre Lovejoy and Sonja Sohn, all of The Wire and is presented by Theater of War Productions and comes from New York City Public Artist in Residence Bryan Doerries. (July 15, 7 pm, Brownsville Library)
It wouldn’t be outdoor theater without a little Shakespeare, and this year South Brooklyn Shakespeare is doing Macbeth in Park Slope. This is South Brooklyn Shakespeare’s fourth season and director Dee Byrd-Molnar is going for a 70s twist on the show. Plus, Macbeth has a high body count, even for Shakespeare, and it’s a fun game to make your actor friends say the name of the show you’re going to see. The Scottish Play premieres at the end of the month on 5th Ave. and 17th St. and then moves to the Old Stone House in August. (July 29, 6:30 pm, 5th avenue and 17th street; August 2-5, 8 pm, Old Stone House)
Measure for Measure
There’s actually two outdoor productions of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure coming to Brooklyn this summer, so you’ve got options on this one. First, Hip to Hip Theatre Company brings it’s version to Fort Greene Park at the end of the month as part of a summer-long tour of parks across the five boroughs. In case you missed this one in high school, Measure for Measure is one of Shakespeare’s comedies and it takes on themes of corruption and purity, so who knows, maybe someone will find a reason to protest it. Hip to Hip is doing Measure for Measure, plus Henry IV, Part 1 at parks around the rest of the city all summer. (July 28, 7:30 pm, Fort Greene Park)
Brooklyn Shakespeare Festival
Then, in August, you’ll have a second chance to catch Measure for Measure as part of the Brooklyn Shakespeare Festival. This production comes from Brooklyn Streetcar Artists’ Group and brooklynONE productions and headlines a full weekend of free, outdoor Shakespeare. The rest of the program is still in the works, but expect Shakespeare, music and art the weekend of August 12th and 13th at Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge. (August 12 and 13, all day, Owl’s Head Park)