Missing Theater Under the Stars (Even the Bugs and the Rain)

Posted July 20, 2020

Carrie Coon Nyt

By Nancy ColemanLaura Collins-HughesScott Heller and , The New York Times.

In any year but this one, outdoor theater is part of the rhythm of summertime. We base our migrations on it, making pilgrimages to favorite seasonal spots.

As ancient as Western drama itself, open-air theater is for the most part not happening right now — no queuing for hours to snag a coveted free ticket to Shakespeare in the Park, no spreading of blankets and picnics to watch shows that start in the gloaming and end well after dark.

It's a different absence than the loss of indoor theater, partly because of how fondly we cherish summer traditions. But as the director Anne Bogart said in a phone interview, outdoor performance by its nature involves a fuller embrace of life, and of accidents.

"Whatever is happening is part of the drama of the show," said Bogart, who has staged three productions in the amphitheater at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, Calif. "If a plane goes over, or the sea breeze comes in, or the smell of lavender floats in from the canyon, it has to all feed into the experience of the play. You can't say those things don't belong."

As fans of outdoor theater know, such serendipity is often what we treasure most.
Time to savor some memories, then. We asked theater artists to think back on their experiences of working on outdoor stages across the country, and three critics offered thoughts of their own. These are edited excerpts.

Carrie Coon

Actor, American Players Theater, Spring Green, Wis. (2006-2009)

It was idyllic. I would stop at the river, pick some blackberries, go for a swim and then go to rehearsal with my hair wet, in a sundress. I remember even when I had small parts, just waiting backstage under the stars. I was always getting in trouble for laying down in my costume, because I would lay down and look up at the sky. I'd come out, like, leaves all over my back.

Read the full article here.