Family Friendly Shakespeare Performances + Tips

To see, or not to see, that is the question: Whether 'tis comedy or tragedy; your budding Bard will be delighted to experience Shakespeare performances in an outdoor setting. Break out the picnic blanket for all these great opportunities to catch quality, engaging and accessible Shakespeare performances for the entire family to enjoy. 

Marin Shakespeare Company

Family Day Matinee allow anyone 18 and under in FREE and have fun activities at 3:00 pm prior to the start of the show. Tickets: General $38, Senior $35, Under 25 $12, Previews $16, Youth $10.

Hamlet

Murder, madness, and ghostly visitations stalk Denmark as the young prince wrestles with his philosophy and filial obligation, and we share some of the greatest writing in the English language.

May 25 – July 8
June 10, Sunday 4:00 pm – Family Day

Shakespeare’s Will

Behind every great man is a strong, fascinating and mysterious woman. From one of Canada’s most produced playwrights, this is a spirited and sensual imagining of the inner life of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife.

June 14 – July 8
July 8, Sunday 4:00 pm – Family Day

Pericles

This exciting adventure story encompasses comedy, romance and great passion as the Prince of Tyre tries to find love, comfort and wisdom through a series of sometimes hilarious trials and tribulations.

July 14 – August 5
July 29, Sunday 4:00 pm – Family Day

 


Silicon Valley Shakespeare

As You Like It

Step into a pop-up book of fairytale romance as you journey into the forest of Arden. Staying true to period, our FREE Shakespeare in the park will celebrate the classical side of SVS.

Willow Street Park , San Jose
June 8 – 24
Thursdays – Sundays at 7:00pm


FREE

A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows the misadventures of four young lovers, a group of aspiring actors, and a team of mischievous fairies as they all enter the woods outside Athens on a summer night. The ensuing hilarity and chaos create an evening filled with love and laughter. Bring your family and friends, a blanket, and a picnic to enjoy professional theater at no charge in a beautiful park setting near you!

  • Pleasanton: Amador Valley Community Park, June 30 - July 15 on Saturdays and Sundays at 7:00 pm
  • Cupertino: Memorial Park Amphitheater, July 21-Aug 5 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 7:00 pm, Thursday, July 26 & August 2 at 7:00 pm
  • Redwood City: Grounds of Sequoia High School, Aug 11-26 on Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 4:00 pm
  • San Francisco: The Presidio’s Main Post Parade Ground Lawn, Sept 1-9 on Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day Monday at 2:00 pm
  • San Francisco: McLaren Park’s Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, Sept 15-23

What I love about this production is that these plays are always welcoming to families. Bring a blanket to sit on. If you choose to bring your own chair, make sure it is a low-backed chair so the people behind you can see. 

They also have the SF Shakes’ Green Show which harkens back to the first Shakespearean productions. Green Shows were a prelude to the main performance. They could be any number of entertaining activities: songs, short skits, a variety act, a parody of a famous scene in the play, or a scene to honor a particular date or audience member. It’s a great summary and a good way to point out a few things to watch for.


Measure for Measure

FREE

When Duke Vincentio decides to take a break from ruling the licentious Vienna he appoints the sanctimonious Judge Angelo to rule in his absence. Angelo pronounces strict enforcement of immorality laws to stamp out ‘loose’ living and uses a citizen, Claudio, to serve as an example. Claudio is tried and sentenced to death for impregnating his fiancée, Juliet. When his sister, Isabella, a novice nun, goes to Angelo to plead for her brother’s life, Angelo offers to free her brother if she will have sex with him. Will Isabella sacrifice herself to save her brother? Will Claudio sacrifice himself to save his sister? And where the heck did the Duke go? Discover the answers to these questions at the show!

July 28-29, Hanns Park Amphitheater, Vallejo
August 5 only, Susana Park, Martinez
August 11-12, Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, Oakland


The Curtain Theatre, Mill Valley

FREE

The Curtain Theatre will present one of William Shakespeare’s most enduringly popular plays: Henry IV part one. Full of comedy, action and wonderful characters, the show tells the story of Prince Hal as he develops from wastrel to politically astute warrior.

Old Mill Park Amphitheatre , Mill Valley
Four Weekends including Labor Day Monday
August 18 - September 9
Pre-show starts at 1:40pm, show starts at 2:00 pm 

What I love about this production is the live music, fun set, engaging performance punctuated with the modern references, in a beautiful setting. It can get cool in the redwoods. The singing is terrific and laugh out loud funny. Chairs are provided. If your kid is getting fidgety, there is a playground and lovely creek to play in. This is a perfect first time Shakespeare experience. It's free, but plan on giving a donation, they do a fabulous job. 


FREE

Audience members are encouraged to come early to enjoy the live music, juggling, and other pre-show fun!  Bring your family, friends, a picnic, blankets and low chairs to sit on the Foundry Wharf Green while enjoying Free Shakespeare by the River!.  There is a concession stand at all performances offering a variety of wine, beer, soft drinks, and snacks.

August 23rd- September 2nd at Foundry Wharf, 625 2nd Street in Petaluma.


Tips When Taking Kids To See Shakespeare

1. Age recommendations depends on your child. I started taking my daughter when she was 4. She's now 14 and looks forward to seeing these performances every year. She did not always follow the language but was able to follow the plot. Consider how long they can sit and be engaged.

2. Discuss the story in advance. Even though kids won't understand all the language, they can still follow the action. Preparing them will help them understand who the main characters are and the story line.

3. Eat, Drink and Be Merry. Bring a picnic or purchase it at the performance. However crunchy foods like chips and crackers can be very distracting to your neighbors. Try to refrain from eating this during the performance.

4. Mother Nature is watching. Keep your food covered whenever possible, and be sure to dispose of your trash and recyclables.

5. Dress appropriately. Don't forget water and sunscreen. 

6. Be courteous. We are so lucky to experience these plays along with our neighbors. Infants and toddlers are always welcome but at least one parent or guardian should be prepared to take a break with them outside the theatre space if needed.