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Theaters ready the Bard for this summer

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Along with bugs and barbeques (or this summer, raincoats and winter jackets) comes the Bard as multiple companies present works of Shakespeare either outdoors or in a festival setting.

It's a good way to take in the plays. After all, many of them were written to be performed in the open air, though I imagine the general aroma of a Minnesota park to be better than Elizabethan London.

To start off, here's a company that doesn't perform outdoors, and does require a bit of a hike down from the Twin Cities to Winona. However, it's a beautiful trip along the Mississippi River valley and there are plenty of rewards on the other end.

Now in its eighth year, the Great River Shakespeare Festival offers a trio of pieces, with two by Shakespeare (King Henry IV, Part 1 and A Midsummer Night's Dream) along with The Fantasticks. The company focuses on clear, understandable interpretations of the plays, making it easier to follow along (even with everyone speaking in iambic pentameter).

It's opening weekend, so there are plenty of special events planned for the next few days. The events continue throughout the festival, from special "skeptics" performances (a money-back offer for those who don't think they'll like a Shakespeare play) to porch-side musical performances.

Moving back to the Twin Cities, the Strange Capers return for performances through July (starting on the 9th) at Powderhorn Park. The company presents Twelfth Night, a bit of Shakespeare perfect for a night outdoors. The piece, directed by Randy Reyes and Eric Powell Holm, features a company of eight actors and performs each weekend afternoon at 2 p.m.

Out in White Bear Lake, Shakespeare & Company have their own festival running through July outside at Century College. There are three shows running in rep (King Lear, Comedy of Errors, and the lesser-known Two Noble Kinsmen) through July and the company wants there to be picnics, enjoyment of sunny summer nights, and kids running amok.

There are still a few performances left of Cromulent Shakespeare Company's summer park tour of Julius Caeser in the next week. Mark Palmer directs.

If you don't have time, but want to say you saw "all" of the works of Shakespeare, Brit's Pub is hosting performances of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) in July by the Actors Theatre of Minneosta. The play features a trio of actors presenting the 37 plays in an easy-to-digest, less-than-90-minutes setting. Oh, and if the weather is bad (and why would that happen this summer?) you can move into the pub. So basically, there's no drawbacks at all.