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Shakespeare on the Boston Common Is Back—and It’s Free

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company presents Richard III

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For those who’ve never experienced a summer night of live theater under the stars, now’s your chance. Those who have will be returning to the Boston Common tonight, when the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC) resumes its annual Free Shakespeare on the Common series.

This year’s production may seem particularly timely: Richard III is the story of the rise to power of this 15th-century English king, a ruthless manipulator who uses political cunning and power to ascend to the throne, leaving a trail of chaos and devastation in his wake. Dating to around 1593, it’s one of Shakespeare’s earliest works.

The play begins with one of the most famous opening lines in the Shakespeare canon: “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious by this sun of York.”

Starring in the title role is Faran Tahir, who played Oberon in the CSC’s first Free Shakespeare on the Common production 22 years ago: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the cast are two BU alums: veteran actress Bobbie Steinbach (CAS’66) as Queen Margaret and Bailie de Lacy (CFA’16) as Sir Richard Ratcliffe. Sociology major Steinbach says her major has been invaluable in her acting career, helping her better understand the characters she plays. The production is directed by CSC longtime artistic director Steven Maler.

Free Shakespeare on the Common is one of Boston’s  most popular cultural events, annually drawing a crowd of about 75,000 from all over the area. Given the crowds, it’s best to arrive a couple of hours before curtain to get a good view of the stage, which is next to the Common’s Parkman Bandstand. You can bring your own lawn chair or blanket or rent a chair for $5 (plus a $5 deposit returned at the end of the show). For $75, you can reserve a seat in the Friends section here or by calling 617-426-0863. All proceeds are used to cover the costs of the production. And while admission is free, a donation of $10 is recommended.

Looking for a bite to eat before the show? Stop by Eataly in the Prudential Center and purchase food for a picnic, or try the Earl of Sandwich on the Common. There’s also a Ben & Jerry’s food truck near the stage, and additional food trucks on site on weekends.

The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard III runs through August 5 near the Boston Common Parkman Bandstand, across from the AMC Loews Boston Common on Tremont Street. Find performance dates and times, directions, and chair rental, cancellation, and food info here. Admission is free, although a $10 donation is encouraged. Running time, including intermission, is 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Sarah Wells can be reached at swells21@bu.edu.

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