See Free Shakespeare in Applegate Park!


Merced Shakespearefest provides all members of our community with the opportunity to enjoy polished live theatrical productions of the greatest playwright of all times in a relaxed park setting free of charge.



“The Play’s the Thing …”

In 2002 we had a dream about performing free Shakespeare in the Park, to stage our favorite plays in the relaxed atmosphere of a green city park without a concern about a ticket price – a sort of democratic Shakespeare for all!

Now Merced Shakes is truly a community theater by the community and for the community, foremost for Merced and more and more for the Central Valley. Our performers, ranging between the ages of 5 and 80, hail from Merced, Atwater, Mariposa, Modesto, Fresno, and elsewhere, as does our audience.

Our summer plays are usually 90 minutes long and popular with people of all ages, but especially families. In 2010 we expanded our season to include a second play indoors in downtown Merced. These more challenging, less abridged dramas are staged in winter or early spring with an inexpensive ticket price. They have been very successful and attract both talent and audience from near and far.

At the same time we have taken our shows to smaller towns, like Firebaugh and Mariposa, to provide more audiences with a Shakespeare experience. His works are among the greatest and most delightful of humanity’s cultural expressions, yet have the reputation to be difficult to understand. We are proud that our productions bridge the gap, and often have I heard from an audience member after a performance, “I understand Shakespeare now!”


"We are the stuff that dreams are made on ..."

Heike Hambley

Founder and Artistic Director

Merced Shakespearefest