8 Actors You Didn’t Know Appeared in Outdoor Shakespeare

Summer: a season of lemonade, beach trips, and the biggest names in Hollywood throwing on their ruffs and tights to bring Shakespeare to life. You might know which of your favorite actors and actresses stepped into classic Bard roles on the big screen, but do you remember all the notable stars who performed Shakespeare al fresco?

1. Anne Hathaway in Twelfth Night

Before the Princess of Genovia won an Oscar, she took the stage in Central Park in 2009 playing the gender-bending Viola. She was joined by Tony Award-winning (though not yet record-breaking) actress Audra McDonald who played Lady Olivia, the woman who falls for Viola in disguise.

2. Meryl Streep in The Taming of the Shrew

Two decades before 10 Things I Hate About You would bring The Taming of the Shrew to the forefront of pop culture, Meryl Streep delighted in seeing the audience’s perception of the classic play change as she performed it in New York City’s 1978 Shakespeare in the Park season. Her performance (and that of  co-star Raúl Julia) became the subject of the 1981 documentary Kiss Me, Petruchio.

3. Morgan Freeman in The Taming of the Shrew

When Freeman played Petruchio in Central Park’s 1990 staging of The Taming of the Shrew, he didn’t need to get fitted for a ruff. That particular production had a Western theme so the Oscar-winning actor was delivering his Shakespeare lines in cowboy boots.

4. Jesse Tyler Ferguson in The Winter’s Tale and The Merchant of Venice

Ferguson, aka Mitchell on Modern Family, first performed Shakespeare in the Park in a 2007 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Returning to the park in 2010, Ferguson performed in two productions, appearing in The Merchant of Venice beside veteran Shakespeare in the Park performer Al Pacino as well as in The Winter’s Tale. More recently, he appeared in The Comedy of Errors in 2013, and The Tempest in 2015 with Sam Waterston.

5. Piper Perabo in Twelfth Night

After finishing a five-season run as the star of USA’s Covert Affairs, Perabo appeared in Bay Street Theater’s production of Twelfth Night in Sag Harbor, New York. Of course, Perabo already had a connection to that particular piece of Shakespeare—her character in the 2001 coming of age movie Lost and Delirious quotes a passage from Twelfth Night in the final, dramatic moments.

6. Renée Elise Goldsberry in As You Like It

In 2016, Goldsberry won a Tony for her portrayal of Angelica Schuyler in the Broadway blockbuster Hamilton. But in 2012 she was performing in a show where the tickets are a little more affordable but still not easy to come by—the Delacorte Theater’s outdoor Shakespeare in New York City. The multi-talented actress—she can rap as well as she can sing—played Celia in As You Like It alongside Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Andre Braugher and American Horror Story’s Lily Rabe.

7. Oscar Isaac in Two Gentlemen of Verona

More than a decade before Isaac would join the Star Wars galaxy, he appeared in a musical take on Shakespeare. No, not Something Rotten. The Delacorte Theater saw a revival of the ‘70s musical Two Gentlemen of Verona in 2005, starring the future Star Wars pilot as Proteus. Also appearing onstage was Renée Elise Goldsberry and Rosario Dawson, best known in the theater world for portraying Mimi in the film adaptation of Rent. 

8. John Lithgow in King Lear

John Lithgow’s TV career has been on a serious upswing; he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in  The Crown, and he landed his own sitcom on NBC. But he was already a lauded actor when he played the title character in King Lear for New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park 2014 season. Lithgow acted opposite another actor with a full awards cabinet—Annette Bening.