Does summer theater mean Shakespeare? Yes and no. The number of festivals devoted to The Bard is in the hundreds, but — as you will see below — there is a wide variety of thespian joys out there. In this, the first of a two-part report (to conclude next Monday), we begin a chronological listing of notable theater events in the “greater Bay Area,” which includes the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a decades-long destination for San Franciscans, and a mere six-hour drive away.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
The 72-year-old festival is a heavy-duty producer of theater, presenting some 770 performances annually, with more than one-third of a million visitors to Ashland, a picturesque town of 20,000. OSF is a prime example of mixing The Bard with plays old and new. In fact, of 11 plays this season, only four are by Shakespeare: “As You Like It,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Taming of the Shrew” and “The Tempest.” The others run the gamut from Chekhov (“The Cherry Orchard”), to Molière (“Tartuffe”), to David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole,” winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. (Incidentally, “Rabbit Hole” is also running, through June 10, at the San Jose Repertory Theatre; www.sjrep.com.)
Now through Oct. 28; Ashland, Ore.; $30-$75; (800) 219-8161; www.orshakes.org/
California Shakespeare Theater
Variety is also the keyword — if on a smaller scale — in Orinda, where “Richard III” and “King Lear” alternate with Pierre Marivaux’s 1732 “The Triumph of Love” and, in a brave act by festival director Jonathan Moscone, George Bernard Shaw’s 1903 “Man and Superman,” one of the most talkative among intelligent and intriguing plays. It’s not an “easy sell,” but noteworthy in its local availability. Performances are outdoors.
Wednesday through Oct. 14; Bruns Amphitheater, Orinda; $15-$60; (510) 548-9666; www.calshakes.org.
A.C.T. Young Conservatory
“Fields of Gold: The Music of Sting” is presented by Young Conservatory, following recent explorations of other contemporary composers, such as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. “Fields of Gold” features more than a dozen classic Sting hits, performed by a company of teens backed by musicians from The Bird School of Rock.
Friday through June 17, Zeum Theater, Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco; $15-$20; (415) 749-2227; www.act-sfbay.org
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
“Great Men of Genius” is an unusual one-man show, Mike Daisey in four monologues presented separately, exploring the lives of P.T. Barnum, Bertolt Brecht, L. Ron Hubbard and Nikola Tesla. On Sundays, Daisey delivers all four soliloquies in a marathon performance. Ticket prices are on a scale: Buy one genius for $30, two for $50 or three for $75, and get the fourth one free.
June 6 through July 1, Thrust Stage, Berkeley Rep, Berkeley; $39-$75; (888) 427-8849; www.berkeleyrep.org
Pacific Repertory Theatre
The company presents a long and varied season, including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the musical version of “Peter Pan” at The Forest; Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” and Schiller’s classic “Mary Stuart” at the Golden Bough; “Macbeth” and Christopher Durang’s “Miss Witherspoon at Circle Theatre.
June 14 through Oct. 14, various Carmel locations; $7-$38; (831) 622-0100; www.pacrep.org.