The two universal aspects of every culture on Earth are food and stories, and at a theater festival, you can get a little of both. Combining the civilization of stage production with the gaiety of gathering, theater festivals tend to be some of the most boisterous, educational, and rewarding events, and they present the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the best the stage has to offer. During your world travels, you must plan a stop at one or more of the following renowned theater festivals for one of the best experiences of your life.
1. Edinburgh Festival Fringe ― Edinburgh, U.K.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe is far and away the largest gathering of performance art–minded folks the world has ever seen. During the month of August, Scotland’s capital is absolutely overrun with thousands upon thousands of entertainers, from those who have long had their names in bright lights to those looking for their first big break on stage. You can see nearly any story you want, from crazy comedies to devastating dramas, and because Edinburgh is so ancient, nearly all of the Fringe’s venues are within walking distance of one another. If you can book a room in Old Town, you will have direct access to the entire festival any time of day or night.
2. The Shaw Festival ― Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
Celebrating the intellect and humor of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, the Shaw Festival in picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake shows about a dozen productions in four different theaters. The festival spans the entire summer season, beginning in April and ending in October, which is the perfect time to explore the region, sample the wines, and enjoy fine theater. You should stay in nearby Niagara Falls, the tourist hub of the area which offers excellent public transportation and hundreds of attractions to keep you busy while you wait for your evening play at the festival.
3. Chekov International Theatre Festival ― Moscow, Russia
Unlike theater elsewhere in the world, Russian plays focus heavily on conveying deep, challenging emotions on stage while characters grapple with significant universal themes, like family, tradition, and purpose. The annual Chekov International Theatre Festival, named after the beloved master of Russian stage, Anton Chekov, celebrates the Russian style of stage production ― as well as the many other varieties of theater the world has to offer. From May to July, you can enjoy the best of every country’s stage without leaving Moscow’s celebrated Tverskoy District.
4. OzAsia Festival
The farthest-east country of the Western world, Australia has close ties with Asian cultures, and unsurprisingly, the country often celebrates the shared histories of the two continents. At the two-week-long OzAsia Festival in Adelaide, you will see a fantastical melding of East and West as writers, directors, producers, and actors come together to share in the wonder of stage performance. One of the most unique theater festivals on the planet, OzAsia also boasts lectures on the importance of diversity in stage production, so you can learn about the science and art of the stage while you enjoy your travels.
5. Tollwood Summer Festival ― Munich, Germany
Equal parts theater festival, ecological awareness convention, and food and crafts market, Tollwood is an essential stop for any traveler looking for a true cultural extravaganza. While the summer festival takes the form of a giant party, the winter celebration focuses on the power and beauty of art. Every year during the month of December, about 10 performances are scheduled in theaters and venues around the city. Germany is absolutely stunning during this time of year, and you shouldn’t miss this opportunity to explore other wintertime attractions in Munich, including the Christkindlmarkt in Marienplatz.
6. Bushfire ― Mbabane, Swaziland
By no means the most popular or highly rated ― but culturally important nonetheless ― the Bushfire festival in the small south African country of Swaziland showcases the immense creative potential of humanity. Celebrating all art forms, including poetry, dance, and circus performance, Bushfire is saturated with vivacity, and it is nearly impossible to hold off a smile while observing and interacting with any of the festival’s attractions. In visiting Bushfire, you contribute to the development of Swaziland ― 100 percent of the festival’s proceeds to go charity ― and get the opportunity to explore an uncommon travel destination that is filled with adventure.