It used to be that local theater stages were dark and quiet during the long, hot summer.
Now? Well, thank goodness for air-conditioning.
Both Rochester Civic Theatre and Rochester Repertory Theatre have made summer productions a regular part of their seasons. The Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, of course, has always run two shows during the height of the summer tourist season. And for the past 13 years, the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona has presented two Shakespeare plays for the entire month of July.
Mix in smaller productions by area community theaters, and anyone who loves a good drama, musical or comedy will likely find something of interest on southeastern Minnesota stages this summer.
— A personal favorite this summer is “Souvenir,” the unmusical (illmusical?) musical at the Commonweal in Lanesboro. Stela Burdt and Stephen Houtz are featured in this story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the socialite who made a singing career out of not being able to sing a note. It’s funny, sad and moving and continues through Sept. 3. For tickets, go to commonwealtheatre.org.
— There’s always more than Shakespeare at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona. This year, a new musical, “Georama,” about an artist who painted a 3,000-foot long canvas of the Mississippi River, runs alongside Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” and “As You Like It.” Don’t forget the free concerts every Friday and Saturday evening. The festival runs through July 31 on the campus of Winona State University. Get all the details and make reservations at grsf.org.
— The second-ever production of “Come Back,” a new comedy, opened last weekend at the Rochester Repertory Theatre. The play is directed by Philip Muehe, who is making his Rep directorial debut with the play. Muehe happened to see the first production of “Come Back” when the play made its debut a couple of years ago in Milwaukee. The show runs through July 30. Tickets at rochesterrep.org.
— Jerry Casper and Greg Miller are a couple of cutups whose improv shows over the years have sent audiences home in stitches. Now they’re playing upwards of 100 characters in the comedy/thriller “The 39 Steps,” which opened last Friday at Rochester Civic Theatre. The show runs through July 31, and you can check for tickets at rochestercivictheatre.org.