upper waypoint

Rattle Your Soul: A Guide to Summer Theater Focused on Radical Disruption

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

Enter the dream of summer with RAWdance and other wild productions.


Summer is the season where you dream of nothing happening, and yet, strangely, it is also the season for radical transformations. So in honor of both the calm and the disruption that blue skies and heat bring, here are some theatrical productions that will give your soul a good rattling and give definition to the dreamiest time of the year.

The Imaginists: Life is a dream
Life is anything but a dream for the captive Prince in The Imaginists’ production of Pedro Calderon’s ‘Life is a Dream.’ (Photo: Courtesy of the company)

The Imaginists’ Life is a Dream

June 24 – July 24
Various Parks in Santa Rosa
Tickets and More Information

Santa Rosa’s The Imaginists is the type of theater company you wish every city had: deeply committed to the community where they reside, yet full of a cosmopolitan dash and daring. This summer they’re touring the parks of their home city with Pedro Calderon’s classic shocker of a nightmare, Life is a Dream. It will be a pleasure to see how the Imaginists’ sly aesthetic shapes Calderon’s odd tale of a Prince raised in captivity and suddenly freed to rule his country.

Ubuntu Theater Project examines the greatest sting in theatrical history, Iago's take down of Othello in 'Othello.'
Ubuntu Theater Project examines the greatest sting in theatrical history, Iago’s take down of Othello in ‘Othello.’ (Photo: Courtesy of the company)

Ubuntu Theater Project’s Othello and Hurt Village

Othello at Emmet Eiland’s Oriental Rug Company, Berkeley, June 10 – 26
Hurt Village at TBA, Oakland, July 15 – 31
Tickets and information

Ubuntu Theater Project is in the middle of a vibrant and daring first season. This summer, they’re going for the theatrical jugular and then some. First up is Shakespeare’s Othello to be performed at Emmet Eiland’s Oriental Rug Company in Berkeley and then Katori Hall’s Hurt Village, a play that starts with a housing crisis (a theme of the Ubuntu season) and then slips into full-blown disaster for its 13-year old rapper-heroine. Sometimes melodrama makes searing drama and a burning hot summer day is a good time to find out.

Playwright Sarah Shroud shines the light on the torture of confinement in 'The Box.'
Playwright Sarah Shroud shines the light on the torture of confinement in ‘The Box.’ (Photo: Liam Passmore)

The Box

July 8 – 30
Z Space, San Francisco
Tickets and Information

We don’t think about what it’s like to be in prison enough, and especially during the carefree days of summer. Journalist Sarah Shourd spent 410 days in solitary confinement in Iran. Since being released, she has travelled the country interviewing prisoners that experienced some of the most brutal forms of confinement. Those experiences have become the spark for her play, The Box, opening at the Z Space in July.

The beautiful setting of the Bruns Amphitheater.
The beautiful setting of the Bruns Amphitheater. (Photo: Courtesy of the company)

Cal Shakes’ You Never Can Tell

Aug. 10 – Sept. 4
Bruns Amphitheater, Orinda
Tickets and information

Cal Shakes is, of course, known for producing summer Shakespeare. And George Bernard Shaw is known for taking polemical stands in his plays. But what’s known is not often what’s true. In recent years the Bay Area’s preeminent Shakespeare Company has been expanding its repertory beyond the greatest playwright ever, and Shaw the polemicist often wrote beautifully of love, its failures and sometimes successes. So, for a bit of counter-intuitive theater going, amble over to Cal Shakes’ production of George Bernard Shaw’s You Never Can Tell. As delightful as Love’s Labour’s Lost and As You Like It, this romantic round-de-lay won’t leave you at a loss for Shavian intellect and Shakespearian scope.

Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith of RAWdance
Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith of RAWdance. (Photo: Courtesy of the company)

RAWdance’s Double Exposure

July 28 – 30
ODC Theater, San Francisco
Tickets and information

RAWdance’s stunning dances are like drifting through a waking dream — everything is clear but maddeningly elusive. So the world premiere of Double Exposure at ODC will be a perfect way to end the long light of a summer day. RAWdance’s artistic directors, Ryan T. Smith and Wendy Rein will perform 12 duets by 16 choreographers (even the math is bafflingly clear) as they upend traditional notions of creative control. Let go and follow them into the dark of a summer night.

A wild party is coming to the San Jose Stage Company.
A wild party is coming to the San Jose Stage Company.

The Wild Party

June 2 – July 24
The San Jose Stage, San Jose
Tickets and information

Who doesn’t want to be invited to a Wild Party? And one in the summer is simply irresistible. San Jose Stage’s production of Andrew Lippa’s musical The Wild Party—based on the Joseph Moncure Marsh poem might make you think twice about taking that second, third, or fifth drink, or bringing that loaded gun to a wild party. When a clown and a showgirl love each other, hate and despair can’t be far away.


lower waypoint
next waypoint
Kehlani, E-40, P-Lo to Celebrate Golden State Valkyries at SF Block PartyAmid Upheaval, a New CEO Steps in at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts10 Free Concerts Not to Miss in the Bay Area This SummerBay Area Music Festivals and Outdoor Concerts for Summer 2024Original Joe’s Westlake Is a Time Warp to Red Sauce HeavenA Battle Between Science and Religion, With Galileo Caught in the MiddleSeals, Foraging and Buffalo Soft Serve: 5 NorCal Summer Day Trips‘Spacey Unmasked’ Demonstrates How Sexual Harassers Get Away With It8 Bay Area Sports Teams to See This Summer (Without Giving John Fisher a Dime)8 Refreshing Bay Area Boba Shops to Help Beat the Summer Heat