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Theater in its Most Natural State

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 7, 2006 9:20PM

A few Chicago theaters are on vacation but this summer’s slowdown is much subtler than past years. The Reader lists over a dozen shows opening this weekend and, between now and autumn, more than a dozen local outdoor productions may indulge our insatiable need to slather on the SPF65, don our big floppy hat, and watch actors sweat in the great outdoors.

Performing Shakespeare in the park remains a rite of passage for thousands of up-and-coming actors and three Chicagoland companies are obliging us. Julius Caesar, the classic tale of political betrayal that makes today’s headlines look rather tame, is at the Oak Park Festival Theatre. And a pair of Tempests will be performed by the First Folio Shakespeare Festival in Maywood and the GroundUp Theatre in city parks through early August (they’re at the West Loop’s Skinner Park this weekend).

tantalus.jpgDefying easy categorization is Tantalus Theatre’s The Strange Dreams of Nobody in Particular, a three night series of stories about a Child Emperor and his paper palace related by three characters peripheral to the action. They promise an event that’s part theater, part celebration, Fridays through Sundays at the Waters School Community Garden in Lincoln Square.

But if you’re looking for something a bit more interactive, drive, bike or hitch a ride out to the Morton Arboretum for Theatre-Hikes, a series of productions rambling through their lush grounds. This weekend, Orson Welles’ paranoia over a big whale comes to life. If you’d rather stay in town, Redmoon Theater opens a new show in two weeks in the great outdoors known as Millennium Park. The Balloon Man promises to venture beyond their trademark spectacle and puppet show to incorporate a rock concert and science demonstrations. We can’t wait to learn about the “picnobs.”

Further details about these productions after the jump.

Julius Caesar, presented by the Oak Park Festival Theatre, is at Austin Gardens, Forest & Lake Sts, Oak Park, through August 15. Tickets are $17-25.

First Folio's Tempest is at Peabody Estate at Mayslake, 1717 W. 31st St, Oakbrook, Wed-Sun at 8:15pm throgh July 31. Tickets are $20-25. GroundUp Theatre's Tempest is at Skinner Park, 1331 W. Adams, Saturday & Sunday at 5pm. Check their website for a calendar of future performances, all of which are free.

Tantalus Theatre's The Strange Dreams... is at Waters School Community Garden, 4540 N. Campbell, Fridays - Sundays at 7:30pm through July 23. Tickets are $10.

The Morton Arboretum is at 9800 S. Willow Springs Rd., Willow Springs. Tickets are $12-15, Theatre-Hikes schedule at their website.

Redmoon Theater's Balloon Man runs July 22-30 at Millennium Park, Michigan Ave. and Washington St. Admission is free.

Photo by Fernando Herranz, Tantalus Theatre