Six Ways to Enjoy Four Free Family Friendly Shakespeare Performances

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. Starting this weekend are 3 great opportunities for Bay Area families to catch quality Shakespeare for free that is engaging, accessible, and appealing equally to adults and children. Plus I have some tips below to help you plan.

The Taming of the Shrew with The Curtain Theatre. Enjoy this battle of the sexes comedy as Petruchio tries to win the hand of Katherina, a headstrong and sharp-tongued woman hellbent on staying single.

Old Mill Park Amphitheatre , Mill Valley
Four Weekends including Labor Day Monday
August 22 - September 13
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 occasional modern references, in a beautiful setting. It can get cool in the redwoods. 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 Shakespeare in the Park presents Romeo and Juliet. Don't miss this classic Shakespearean romantic tragedy between the Montague and Capulet families about revenge, love, and a secret marriage force the young star-crossed lovers to grow up quickly — and fate causes them to commit suicide in despair. 

San Francisco: The Presidio’s Main Post Parade Ground Lawn (between Graham St & Keyes Ave) 
August 29 - September 13, Sunday at 2:00 pm

San Francisco: McLaren Park’s Jerry Garcia Amphitheater (40 John F. Shelley Dr) 
September 19 - September 27, Sunday at 2:00 pm

All show starts at 2:00 pm

What I love about this production is that these plays are always welcoming to families but this is a powerful subject and may not be suited to all young theatergoers. 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. 

King Lear condenses and intensifies this seminal family tragedy with striking visuals, physicality and live music.

Aug. 22nd - September 7th, 4pm
John Hinkel Park Amphitheatre, Berkeley

Marin Shakespeare presents Richard III. Tickets are on sale for adults but youth under 18 free. After a long civil war between the royal family of York and the royal family of Lancaster, England enjoys a period of peace under King Edward IV and the victorious Yorks. But Edward’s younger brother, Richard, resents Edward’s power and the happiness of those around him. Malicious, power-hungry, and bitter about his physical deformity, Richard begins to aspire secretly to the throne—and decides to kill anyone he has to in order to become king.

Family Day Matinee is Sunday, September 13th, 2015 4:00 pm.

Emotionally powerful subject and may not be suited to all. But  Family Day Matinees have fun activities at 3:00 pm prior to the start of the show. 

Six 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 11 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 what the story line is.

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.