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SUMMER THEATER FEATURE Saving precious daylight, Summer theater in Chicago
by Mary Shen Barnidge

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The days are growing longer and the midyear solstice is only a few weeks away.

It must be time for Shakespeare-under-the-stars and pre-show picnics on the green, but as we regard all this wide-awake time we are saving, why not make a day of it? The city and environs offer plenty of opportunities for soaking up fresh air and Vitamin D in addition to iambic verse. ( In light of recent summer climate conditions, however, pack a sweater and umbrella, just in case ).

—Oak Park Festival Theatre, June 15-July 21, at Austin Gardens at 157 Forest Ave. in Oak Park: Before you seat yourself amid the giant oaks of Austin Gardens to enjoy your Trader Joe's boxed supper and BYOB adult beverages ( permitted for an hour surrounding curtain rise and call ) in anticipation of Wendy Robie's star turn as Elizabeth Rex, work up an appetite with a stroll past Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural treasures or pay homage to the protagonist of Pamplona at 339 Oak Park Avenue, the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway.

—Bristol Renaissance Faire, July 6-Sept. 2, exit off I-94 in Kenosha, Wisconsin: The 30-acre site provides ample scenery for Game of Thrones cosplay ( make sure you peace-tie those swords, though ) to enhance the Elizabethan period-fantasy experience, but when the evening draws nigh, consider a side excursion to explore Kenosha's Italian community, whose cultural influence dates from the 1800s and the migration to industries linked by the Great Lakes waterways. The clubhouse of the Italian-American Society, founded in 1923, serves dinner to the public, and you can finish off your visit with a stop at Tenuta's Grocery and Cardinali's Bakery for hard-to-find foodstuffs.

—Midsommer Flight, July 7-Aug. 24, at various locations: The city sites where this free touring company will be performing The Tempest, include the Chicago Women's Park and Gardens at 1801 S. Indiana Ave., only steps away from the landmark Prairie Avenue district, where you can gaze enviously upon the mansions of yesteryear's one percenters. If flora and fauna is more to your taste than conspicuous consumption, however, you can choose one of the performances in Lincoln Park, just a short promenade away from the lakefront's open-air zoo and gardens both sheltered and sunshiny.

—First Folio Shakespeare Festival, July 13-Aug. 18, at Mayslake Peabody Estate at 31th St. and Rte. 83 in Oak Brook: The Folio will be taking next summer off for repairs and rehab on their stage in the wooded glens of Francis Stuyvesant Peabody's 1921 Tudor-revival country home in the Mayslake forest preserve, but this year, playgoers who missed the Babes With Blades' thrilling production of Henry V in 2017 can see Diana Coates repeat her critically acclaimed performance as the hero of Agincourt.

—Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, July 18-Aug. 18, at various locations: Chicago Shakespeare Theater's free 75-minute production of The Comedy of Errors tours the urban regions from Loyola Park to the north, Columbus Park to the west, Calumet Park to the south and even ventures outside the city limits to Aurora's Riveredge Park—who said a getaway from the same-old-same-old had to involve transcontinental slogs?

—Shakespeare's Motley Crew's Midsummer Madness 7, July 19-Aug. 25, at Horner and Winnemac parks: We can be heroes just for one day when the songbook of the late David Bowie provides the agenda for this planks-and-passion company's collection of Shakespeare's Greatest Hit Singles—uh, scenes—at this annual family-focused neighborhood fair. Horner Park is situated only a few blocks from the end of the North Shore Channel Trail running from Evanston to Lincoln Square, so consider renting divvy bikes instead of fussing over parking space.

—The World of Faeries Festival, Aug. 3-4, at Vasa Park, 35W217 Route 31 in South Elgin: Whether your fairy fantasy runs to Oberon, Tinkerbell or Nuala, you will find like-minded revelers celebrating it with music, crafts, fire-eating, rope-walking, acrobatics, swordplay and sorcery along the shores of the picturesque Fox river.

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