Thursday, August 9, 2012

Safari #65: Shakespeare on the Common

For the last 17 years, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC) has been offering free performances of Shakespeare's plays on the Boston Common.  At this point, it's practically a tradition to head to the Common every summer to picnic and watch the show.

And there are a number of ways to do it.  Pay $30 (a donation to the CSC) and secure a lawn chair near the front of the stage.  There's also the option to stake out your own spot on the lawn and have a picnic - which is exactly what friends and I decided to do.  We brought our own blankets, delicious nibbles, and beverages to enjoy the show.

This year's performance of Coriolanus (one of Shakespeare's most political plays and possibly apropos for an election year) was excellent. Shows run Tuesday through Saturday, and start at 8pm.  The Sunday show begins at 7pm.  There are no shows on Mondays.  The performances run through Sunday, August 12th - so make your way to the Common ASAP!

Last but not least, the play runs 2 hours and 45 minutes with the intermission occurring after Coriolanus is expelled from Rome (Act 3, Scene 3).  Hit the restrooms just before!

My Tips:
  • Send a Scout.  Given the number of people who attend the performances, a spot on the lawn offering premium views of the stage is a valuable commodity.  Try to arrive early to stake your claim.
  • Make a Donation.  Why not?  Give back a little and help others enjoy the show too.
  • Read Along.  Depending on where you're sitting, you might want to have a copy of the play in print or on your smartphone.  I read along on my iPhone so as not to miss any of the dialogue.
  • Don't Forget - Flashlight, Bug Spray, and a Trash Bag.  It's easy setting up at the beginning of the evening, but at the end, the Common is dark.  A flash light and your own trash bag will make cleaning up your picnic a snap.  The bug spray will keep you comfortable.
  • [Update as of July 2016] - There are food trucks available onsite, so if you only have enough time to grab a blanket, you'll be ok ;)
 Have you attended a performance?  What tips would you share?  Add them to the comments below!

*Image kindly borrowed from DigBoston at


  1. Great post, Cristy! A few quick questions:
    1) How's the sound? Can you hear it even from far away? Or do you need to be close for better hearing, especially the complex dialogue of Shakespeare
    2) Any decent (i.e. not junk) food/drink vendors around at the time?

    1. Hi Eric! I'd sit as close as possible. The sound degrades the further back you go. I'd also have the play open on your iPhone just to make surf you're not missing anything. I didn't note as many food vendors as compared to previous years. There are some quick options nearby though - Uburger and the Clover food truck. Hope this helps and that you can make it!