June 25th, 2019

Summer Outdoor Theater in Wine Country

World-class wines and sumptuous meals are a year-round thing in McMinnville, but the summer months enhance the experience with something else to savor: Shakespeare in the vineyards!

Outdoor theater is a tradition that goes back to the ancient Greeks, who performed before crowds numbering in the thousands. Huge audiences packed the open air Globe Theater in Elizabethan England. I think of this every time I see a show outdoors: We’ve been acting out stories like this, under those same stars, for millennia.

Vineyards are special places, but gathering on a hillside draped with rows of ripening grapes on a summer evening, listening to the greatest language ever written, is a unique brand of Yamhill County magic.

Pack your picnic and enjoy live performances in the vineyard.
Photo by Sionnie Lafollette

We have three plays this summer. Here’s a guide:

ROMEO AND JULIET — Shakespeare’s beloved tragedy about star-crossed lovers and feuding families will be performed under the stars on a farm just outside Newberg by professional actors from a new theater company in town, Penguin Productions, which last year mounted Hamlet. Only six performances: June 28-29, July 5-6 and 12-13. All shows at 7 p.m. Tickets available here.

THE GOOD DOCTOR: This mash-up of Neil Simon and Anton Chekhov promises to inject some levity into our summer’s entertainment. Also a Penguin production, shows are set for Aug. 2-3, 9-10 and 16-17. Shows at 7 p.m., tickets can be purchased here.

AS YOU LIKE IT: Vineyard theater is a 10-year-old tradition in Yamhill County. In 2009, Willamette Shakespeare produced As You Like It, one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. If you missed that, take heart: The company, which last year joined forces with Portland Actors Ensemble, circles back to their debut production this summer, once again asking audiences to believe that an idyllic vineyard in the Willamette Valley is the Forest of Arden — which isn’t a stretch, really. This delightful comedy features Rosiland, one of the playwright’s most endearing female characters.

The free show opens at Stoller Vineyards in Dayton Aug. 2 and plays three nights, then moves to Montinore Estate in nearby Forest Grove Aug. 9-11 and back to Yamhill County at Newberg’s Mad Violets Wine Company Aug. 16-18. Full details are available here.

For all shows, bring a blanket or lawn chairs. Picnic dinners are welcome, and wine will be available for purchase at all venues. Also: All shows end after dark, so bring a sweater. Even summer evenings can turn chilly!

David Bates is a McMinnville writer who has appeared in Gallery Theater productions since 1998.