Backyard Bard actors perform an abbreviated Shakespeare play at Seattle's Volunteer Park. Credit: Tiffany Doerr Guerzon
Backyard Bard is back! A program of Seattle arts organization GreenStage, Backyard Bard presents abbreviated versions of Shakespeare plays — free and outdoors — in various Seattle parks. Family-oriented shows are performed by just four actors, each one portraying multiple roles. The actors are accompanied by a guitar-playing minstrel.
This summer’s Backyard Bard season runs July 8–Aug. 6, 2022.
The lineup of plays includes “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Macbeth,” both directed by GreenStage Education Director Sarah Stillion. The shows last about an hour each and are appropriate for all ages.
Because the “theater” is a grassy field, the “stage” is right in front of the crowd. Sitting so close to the action obviously delights the kids in the audience and makes it easier to see the actors’ facial expressions.
The actors change roles quickly by running behind a screen to switch costumes and they often interact with the audience. The same four performers act in both shows. In typical Shakespeare style, actors portray both male and female parts.
Tips for families
Arrive early. There was a big crowd at the opening Sunday, and parking can be harder at smaller parks.
Pay attention to the announcements right before the play to find out where the restrooms are located.
Bring a blanket to spread out or low-backed chairs to sit in. If you bring higher chairs, plan to set them up at the very back so you don’t block others’ views.
Kids may not understand all of the poetic Shakespearean dialogue, but they will understand the physical comedy. We received a program that contained a short synopsis of both plays, and it helped to read them beforehand.
We found the atmosphere very casual. Kids got up and moved around and we saw lots of folks enjoying their picnic dinners. Bring your own picnic or snacks; there are no official concessions offered.
Backyard Bard is a fun, kid-friendly introduction to Shakespeare and a great way to see a play — free, outdoors and with your whole crew.
If you go ...
Dates and times: Backyard Bard shows play select Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, July 8–Aug. 6, 2022. Check the full schedule online.
Locations: The shows rotate through a number of Seattle Parks, including small neighborhood parks such as Salmon Bay Park and larger city parks such as Volunteer Park. The schedule link clearly displays dates, times and locations.
Cost: Performances are free but bring some cash if you’d like to make a donation. GreenStage is a nonprofit arts organization, so consider dropping in a gift when they pass the hat after the show.
More Shakespeare in the Park: GreenStage also offers Shakespeare in the Park, two full-length Shakespeare plays performed free at a few area parks. This summer’s features are “Henry V” directed by Vince Brady and “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” directed by Ken Holmes. Shows run July 8–Aug. 6, with multiple performances at Seattle’s Volunteer Park, Lincoln Park, Magnuson Park and Seward Park, plus other performances in West Seattle (Camp Long), the Eastside (Fall City Park), Lynnwood (Lynndale Park) and Burien (Dottie Harper Park).
The GreenStage performance calendar displays dates, times and locations of both Backyard Bard and Shakespeare in the Park shows.
Even more Shakespeare in the parks:
Seattle Shakespeare is partnering with city parks in the region to present their free Wooden O productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Cymbeline” this summer. Afternoon and evening shows will run July 7–Aug. 7, with performances in Mercer Island (Luther Burbank Park), Tacoma (Point Defiance Park), Sammamish (Klahanie Park), Everett (Wiggums Hollow Park), Federal Way (Steel Lake Park), Shoreline (Richmond Beach Community Park), Seattle (Volunteer Park, Columbia Park, Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion) and many more throughout the region.
Free family-friendly summer performances: