Sun Sonnets

For the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, there’s plenty of opportunity to sample some iambic alfresco within driving distance.

Illustrations by James Boyle.
Illustrations by James Boyle.

Optimist Theatre
Not all Milwaukee actors hit the road come June. Optimist Theatre gathers some of the best local talent, including Laura Gray, on a stage overlooking the Milwaukee River. With election season in the air, Optimist offers a tale of politics and power: Julius Caesar (Aug. 4-21).

Illustration by James Boyle.
Illustration by James Boyle.

American Players Theatre ➸ Spring Green
“The best classical theater company in America” features familiar-to-MKE artists like Tracy Michelle Arnold and Laura Gordon. APT will offer classics like King Lear (Aug. 5-Sept. 30) and The Comedy of Errors (through Oct. 2), as well as modern takes like Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice (through Oct. 8) and Carlyle Brown’s The African Company Presents Richard III (through Sept. 14).

Great River Shakespeare Festival ➸ Winona, Minn.
Just up the river from La Crosse, this festival at Winona State University has been a popular summer home for Milwaukee actors in recent years. This season, they’ve turned primarily to talent from the Twin Cities, but if you’re in the neighborhood, you can expect first-rate productions of As You Like It and Julius Caesar (both through July 31).

Illinois Shakespeare Festival ➸ Bloomington, Ill.
ISF Artistic Director Kevin Rich formed his MKE ties when he worked
with Milwaukee Shakespeare and taught at UW-Parkside. So it’s no surprise that he’s tapped local talent for this season. Deborah Staples plays the title role in Hamlet (July 9-Aug. 13), directed by Rep Director of Community Engagement Leda Hoffmann. And Jonathan Gillard Daly draws on his deadpan chops to play the sad sack Malvolio in Twelfth Night (July 8-Aug. 12).

Door Shakespeare ➸ Baileys Harbor
For over 20 years Door Shakespeare has performed in the exotic sounding Garden at Björklunden near Baileys Harbor. James Pickering will direct Julius Caesar; former Milwaukee Rep Artistic Director Joe Hanreddy will direct A Midsummer Night’s Dream (both through Aug. 20). And the company includes MKE artists such as Marti Gobel, Norman Moses and Marques Causey.

‘Sun Sonnets’ appears in the July issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the July issue on newsstands beginning June 27, or buy a copy at

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Paul Kosidowski is a freelance writer and critic who contributes regularly to Milwaukee Magazine, WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio and national arts magazines. He writes weekly reviews and previews for the Culture Club column. He was literary director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater from 1999-2006. In 2007, he was a fellow with the NEA Theater and Musical Theater Criticism Institute at the University of Southern California. His writing has also appeared in American Theatre magazine, Backstage, The Boston Globe, Theatre Topics, and Isthmus (Madison, Wis.). He has taught theater history, arts criticism and magazine writing at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.