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Best Outdoor Theaters In And Around Minnesota

Summer is a time to make the most of the outdoors. It is also a time when summer theater groups ramp up the entertainment options, more than making up for the lighter summer schedule of mainstream theater. There is no better way of bringing one back to the way theater was meant to be than to cast it in the informality of the outdoors. You can find great outdoor theater entertainment locally and regionally.

Outdoor Theatre Complex
(credit: Outdoor Theatre Complex)

Shakespeare & Company
Outdoor Theatre Complex
Century College, West Campus
3300 Century Ave. N.
White Bear Lake, MN 55110
(651) 779-5818

Elizabethan theater was meant to be outdoors and informal. Shakespeare & Company recreates vitality and excitement of original theater unlike any other. Members of the community play to families in an informal picnic venue. The serene campus, pond and nature preserve invites all to stroll and stretch. Kids are encouraged to run and play on the campus' grassy expanse. The company offers two plays by Shakespeare this summer, "Taming of the Shrew" and "Macbeth." The third offering is a wild and rollicking comedy, "The Beaux' Stratagem," written much after English Renaissance theater.

Related: Best Local Standup Comics & Comedians From Around MN

Minnesota Centennial Showboat
Harriet Island
St Paul, MN
(651) 227-1100

Showboat is not fully outdoors but it is floating on the Mississippi and docked across from downtown at Harriet Island. The University of Minnesota theater students love playing in the summer. They get to ham it up and even goad the audience for reaction. Patrons love to cheer for the hero and hiss the villain. There is no other theater in town where you can interact with the actors, such was the way of theater in years gone by. Expect music interludes from tin-pan alley and vaudeville. This year's melodrama, "Sweet Revenge (or No Mother to Guide Her)," will not displease. Our heroine is a farmer's daughter (no kidding) who is taken in by con artists and killers. Our hero is down on his luck, but they battle back in ever-increasing intensity against the forces against them. Watch out for the tornado that strikes the stage. Catch the performances this summer from June 13 through Aug. 24.

Big Top Chautauqua
(credit: Big Top Chautauqua)

Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua
101 W. Bayfield St.
Washburn, WI 54891
(715) 373-5552

A trip to Bayfield Street is like entering another world. Follow the interesting little shops down the hill to a marina where sailboats glisten in the sun. Some are out hopping around the Apostle Islands, but most are moored in their place, each with a name of their origin. Stroll up and down the pier reading the unique names on each boat, taking in the smell of barbecue and enjoying the sound of a guitar strumming. Catch the ferry to Madeline Island and really get away from it all. The ambiance is serene and laid-back. When you are ready for excitement, go up the hill across the main road to the Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua (sha-ta-qwa). The big top is an intimate 900-seat, all-canvas, state-of-the-art tent theater. The professional local troupe will be performing original multi-media musical revues, including "Play Ball!,'' "American Stories,'' "The Mountains Call My Name'' and "Riding the Wind." Other 2013 events include nationally known performers Trampled by Turtles, Gordon Lightfoot, the Bodeans, Gaelic Storm, Merle Haggard and The Beachboys. See also revues of Bob Dylan, ABBA and the Blues Brothers.

Related: Best Directors In The Local Theater Scene In Minnesota

Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at

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