Shawn Law and Stephen Grenley Hamlet it up during GreenStage’s 2009 Outdoor Theater Festival. Photo by Ken Holmes.

Every summer, from Seattle to NYC, a silent pact is made between theatergoers and thespians: You, dear actors, are allowed to thrust plastic swords and shout your monologues as long as we, the consumers, can sit on a blanket and drink wine. It’s a good deal. The time-honored tradition of free outdoor theater returns to our city this weekend with a whole lot of Shakespeare in many, many parks. How to choose?

EDITOR’S PICK
The sickeningly talented Seattle Shakespeare Company launches its summer Wooden O season with love triangles and a wildly jealous king. Twelfth Night and The Winter’s Tale travel to a new neighborhood each weekend, with a double header planned for Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion on July 29. Here’s the schedule for opening weekend:

Twelfth Night
July 12 at 7, Issaquah Community Center Open Space
July 13 at 7, Des Moines Beach Park
July 14 at 2, Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre, Mercer Island
July 15 at 7, Volunteer Park

The Winter’s Tale
July 12 at 7, Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre, Mercer Island
July 13 at 7, Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre, Mercer Island
July 14 at 2, Volunteer Park
July 15 at 7, Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre, Mercer Island

Wooden O runs July 12–Aug 12.

THE SAMPLER
Seven theater companies. Fourteen plays. The annual Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival returns to Volunteer Park for two full days of outdoor antics, ranging from GreenStage’s Henry VIII and The Taming of the Shrew to Theater Schmeater’s Hansel and Gretel pantomime to Balagan Theatre’s family-friendly Sally and Thor Save the World (at Summer Camp). Shows listed first are staged at the amphitheater; shows listed second are on the Seattle Asian Art Museum lawn.

July 14
Noon Macbeth (Last Leaf Productions)
2pm The Winter’s Tale (Wooden O) and Sally and Thor Save the World (Balagan)
5pm Hansel and Gretel (Theater Schmeater) and Julius Caesar (Last Leaf)
7pm The Taming of the Shrew (GreenStage) and The Lost Folio (Jet City Improv)

July 15
11am Othello (Young Shakespeare Workshop)
2pm Henry VIII (GreenStage) and Sally and Thor Save the World (Balagan)
5pm Hansel and Gretel (Theater Schmeater) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare Northwest)
7pm Twelfth Night (Wooden O) and The Lost Folio (Jet City Improv)

GreenStage will continue to perform Henry VIII and The Taming of the Shrew in parks across the city, July 13–Aug 18.