Shakespeare under the stars is a long-standing tradition in America, but much of the inspiration can be traced to British actor and producer William Poel. Poel called for a return to the way he believed Shakespeare’s plays were first performed, with minimal sets and rapid scene transitions. British actor-director Ben Greet popularized these ideas in the United States in the early 1900s with outdoor performances that emulated the open-air setting of Shakespeare’s own Globe.
A similar approach shaped Shakespeare productions at the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair, which featured a replica of the Globe. Interest in recreating Shakespeare’s stage and in outdoor performance soon led to some of the earliest American Shakespeare festivals. Today, the festival idea is so popular that there are more than a hundred US Shakespeare festivals, many of which are still held outdoors.