Art in the Fresh Air: Discover Wisconsin’s Outdoor Theater Scene

Laugh, gasp and maybe even shed a tear at one of these Wisconsin theaters under the sun and stars. The state has several top-notch venues that mix in a little Mother Nature and a breath of fresh air with your cultural experience. Whether you and your group are searching for extra fun on your vacation or looking for an excuse to travel, these outdoor theaters are sure to make your trip even more memorable. 

American Player's Theatre - Spring Green

actors perform on an outdoor stage

Spring Green’s internationally known Shakespearean company, the American Players Theatre, is one of the most popular outdoor classical theaters in the country. Follow the scenic forested path with your group or take a free shuttle to The Hill Theatre that seats 1,075 attendees. The troupe produces five outdoor plays a season (early June through the first week in October) with a mission to “perform timeless, challenging, poetic texts, with Shakespeare at the center, to the broadest audience possible.”

Before each show, families and friends arrive early to share a meal in the picturesque countryside. Grills are fired up, picnic baskets are opened and wine corks are popped. For those who prefer to leave the cooking to someone else, everything from picnic dinners to barbecues can be ordered and picked up on arrival. When the trumpets sound it’s time to head up the hill for the magic!

To extend the fun into the rest of the year, enjoy a performance in APT’s indoor Touchstone Theatre. Both theaters are wheelchair accessible and offer assisted listening devices.

Peninsula Players - Fish Creek

Photo credit: Boyd Fellows

Nestled in a cedar forest overlooking the waters of Green Bay, Peninsula Players in Door County's Fish Creek is America's oldest professional resident summer theater. Beginning simply with "two planks and a passion," the theater opened its first show in 1935 and has been captivating audiences since. They now perform five shows each season (mid-June through mid-October), offering Broadway-quality comedies, dramas and musicals.

Theater goers stroll along the shore and enjoy a cocktail or picnic while they watch one of Door County’s spectacular sunsets. Then it’s time to head to the pavilion to enjoy an evening of memorable theater shared with your favorite people. Visit on Saturday nights to end your evening around a magical bonfire! Assisted listening devices are available for performances and the theater is wheelchair accessible.

Northern Sky Theater - Fish Creek

Photo credit: Leo Villano

If you’re looking to add some extra laughs to your vacation, the hysterical original productions at the Northern Sky Theater in Door County will do just the trick. The theater is a critically acclaimed venue that presents family-friendly original musicals under a canopy of stars in the gorgeous Peninsula State Park.

Bring the kids to enjoy Wisconsin originals, including Cheeseheads: The Musical, The Fish Whisperer and Guys and Does, a deer hunting musical. The outdoor season runs mid-June through mid-October and visitors can also enjoy shows in the indoor Gould Theater year-round.

Door Shakespeare - Baileys Harbor

At Door Shakespeare, visitors will discover an exceptionally memorable evening of theatre featuring, of course, Shakespeare! Entertaining and fun for families and theater enthusiasts, the shows feature gorgeous costumes and live music in a one-of-a-kind outdoor setting - the beautiful Bjorklunden Garden in Door County's Baileys Harbor. The season runs late June through August and performances make for a spectacular cherry on top of your Door County getaway.

Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua - Bayfield

In Northern Wisconsin, Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua presents a summer season of concerts, plays, and cultural presentations in its intimate 900-seat, state-of-the-art tent/theater. Original musical theater based on local history and culture is scheduled along with national and regional touring musicians.

The big blue striped tent welcomes folks who make the drive up the hill between Bayfield and Washburn County. Families, friends and couples get together at the picnic tables for barbeque and burgers, locally grown produce and Wisconsin brews before heading into the tent. On balmy summer nights the tent sidewalls can be lifted and people can choose to sit outside on the surrounding hillside and gaze at the clear night sky as they listen to performances.

Be sure to check out the Native American Community Connections Series that features some of the rich cultural heritage of Native Tribes in Wisconsin and beyond.

Peck Pavilion - Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s Peck Pavilion provides the perfect venue for a wide variety of art performances. Part of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and with a gorgeous location on the Milwaukee River, the open-air Peck Pavilion is the city's first space-frame structure and provides comfortable sheltered theater seating for 400 people. Many of the events are free, making it a great place for date night or a whole family adventure. Enjoy dinner with loved ones at one of dozens of downtown restaurants nearby before settling in for a lively performance.

Keep the fresh air fun going at these Wisconsin sculpture gardens

This entry was posted in Performing Arts Arts and Culture