Free outdoor theater this summer in New York

Can’t get into Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater? Here’s a complete guide to the free theater you can find outdoors in New York City.

Each summer the city’s parks and other public spaces come alive with outdoor theater, and especially with the works of William Shakespeare: sparkling comedies, devastating tragedies, sweeping history plays and enchanting romances. Of course, the biggest producer of free outdoor theater is the Public Theater at the Delacorte, where Shakespeare in the Park presents top-notch productions.

RECOMMENDED: All Shakespeare in the Park stories

But maybe you don’t have all day to wait on line for a ticket to Shakespeare in the Park. No worries! With less of a time commitment, you can enjoy free theater outdoors—mostly works by the Bard, but also a few others—elsewhere in the city: in Washington Square Park, on Roosevelt Island, even at a municipal parking lot in the Lower East Side. So find a play you want to see, pack snacks and juice (or something stronger) and give it a shot. The productions aren’t as polished as those at the Public, but you may be surprised by the magic that can come of wonderful words, an enthusiastic troupe of actors and a mild summer breeze.

Current and upcoming outdoor theater in NYC

The Taming of the Shrew

New York Classical Theatre visits three NYC parks with its free production of Shakespeare's raucous comedy, a battle of the sexes to which the Geneva Conventions don't apply. Sean Hagerty directs. (For the Central Park performances, enter from Central Park West at 103rd St.)

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Central Park Wednesday July 8 2015 - Sunday July 12 2015 Free

The Tempest

Shakespeare in the Park has been so solidly enjoyable in recent summers that it’s sad to find one’s mind wandering in boredom, or eyes glazing over at a banal set. Such is the case at Michael Greif’s glossy, static, weakly interpreted Tempest.

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Delacorte Theater Sunday July 5 2015 Free

Henry IV

Every Shakespeare play has its season, and for some reason the Henry IV plays are especially popular this summer. In this free alfresco production directed by Joby Earle, roles are assigned without regard to gender. (The two parts of Henry IV are presented in rep; check Smith Street Stage's website for details.)

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Carroll Park Wednesday July 8 2015 - Sunday July 19 2015 Free

She Stoops to Conquer

In the middle production of Hudson Warehouse's summer trilogy of outdoor classical theater, the company takes a break from Shakespeare to mount Oliver Goldsmith's 1773 comedy, in which a well-born woman poses as a maid to win the affection of a wealthy young man. Ian Harkins directs.

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Riverside Park, Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument Until Sunday July 26 2015 Free

The Tempest

Classical Theatre of Harlem stages Shakespeare's sweeping final play, set on a magical isle, with an eye toward Hispaniola, home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Carl Cofield directs the outdoor production, at Marcus Garvey Park, for CTH's Under the Stars series.

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Richard Rodgers Amphitheater Until Sunday July 26 2015 Free

As You Like It

After two decades of summer performances at the same Lower East Side spot, Shakespeare in the Parking Lot relocates to a new outdoor spot a few blocks away, behind the CSV Cultural Center. The new season begins with a production of Shakespeare’s oft-produced comedy, about love-struck nobles romping around the Forest of Arden. Hamilton Clancy directs.

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parking lot behind the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center Thursday July 9 2015 - Saturday July 25 2015 Free

Measure for Measure

New York Classical Theatre travels to two Brooklyn parks with Shakespeare's problematic romance about a sexually repressive regent, a voyeuristic duke and a prim nun-to-be. Stephen Burdman directs.

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Battery Park, Castle Clinton Tuesday July 14 2015 - Sunday August 16 2015 Free

Henry IV

The 2015 summer season of Moose Hall Theatre Company's Inwood Shakespeare Festival concludes with a production that combines both parts of Shakespeare's Henry IV plays, in which the feckless heir to the English throne falls in with an obese, mendacious tosspot.

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Inwood Hill Park Wednesday July 15 2015 - Saturday August 1 2015 Free

Cymbeline

Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater are the Lunt-Fontanne of Shakespeare in the Park. Having already played opposite each other in The Merchant of Venice and Much Ado About Nothing, the actors now reteam for Shakespeare's convoluted romance (and possible self-parody) that takes the Bard’s favorite plot twist—fake death—to a new degree of absurdity. Daniel Sullivan once again directs them. RECOMMENDED:Our full guide to getting tickets to Shakespeare in the Park.

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Delacorte Theater Thursday July 23 2015 - Sunday August 23 2015 Free

Romeo and Juliet

The Drilling Company continues the sophomore season of its Bryant Park Shakespeare series with the Bard's time-tested weepie about oversexed kids who score drugs from a local priest. Dave Marantz directs.

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Bryant Park Friday July 17 2015 - Sunday August 2 2015 Free

Macbeth

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot wraps up its summer season—the company's first since relocating to new outdoor stomping grounds behind the CSV Cultural Center—with the Bard's violent tragedy about a regicidal thane and the wicked women who goad him on.

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parking lot behind the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center Thursday July 30 2015 - Saturday August 15 2015 Free

Titus Andronicus

Hudson Warehouse wraps up its 12th season of alfresco Shakespeare with the Bard's goriest horror show, in which cycles of violence and revenge leave no body part unhacked. Nicholas Martin-Smith directs.

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Riverside Park, Soldiers & Sailors Monument Thursday July 30 2015 - Sunday August 23 2015 Free

The Taming of the Shrew

The Drilling Company concludes its second season of Bryant Park Shakespeare with a free production of this battle-of-the-sexes comedy, in which an unwilling bride comes around after her husband humilates her, starves her and deprives her of sleep. Alessandro Colla directs.

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Bryant Park Friday September 4 2015 - Sunday September 20 2015 Free

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