The festivals first season will test "festival casting" — where actors playing roles do both shows.
"For the audience, if they come see both plays, they can kind of track how the actors transform from one role to another," Simon said.
The cast will hold open rehearsals during the month of July — "The Comedy of Errors" in the afternoon and "The Merchant of Venice" in the evening.
"We have a completely open door policy with this festival, so anybody that wants to watch rehearsals can contact the drama department or just drop by," Simon said. "We really want to make this a festival that encourages interest in theater, Shakespeare, and the arts. And, the best way to do that is to just open the doors."
The park environment offers opportunities for pre-show entertainment and picnics. Theatre goers are encouraged to bring their own food, or buy dinner from one of the on-site vendors.
On select nights, there will be talk backs with directors and actors and the university's Shakespearean scholars will serve as dramaturges for the festival, leading pre show and post show discussions.
"They're informative, or course. But generally, the pre show discussions will allow people to focus on what to listen for, what the theme might be, how certain scenes might interconnect, and what the directorial approach was," Simon said. "And the post show discussions will be an opportunity for the audience to ask questions, chat about what they saw, or for people to share their impressions."
To support the festival, members of the community can purchase $125 special event show seats, become honorary producers for $1,000 or name a seat in the theater for $300, or two for $500.
"If all goes well and there are clear indications of support, we will produce "King Lear" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in season two and continue year after year," Simon said.
If You Go
What: "Shakespeare Under the Stars"
When: "The Comedy of Errors" will play at 8 p.m. Aug. 9 (sold out)*, 10*, 11, 23, 25, 26; "The Merchant of Venice" will play at 8 p.m. Aug. 16*, 17, 18, 19, 22, 24
Where: Gateway Commons near Aldrich Park, Irvine
Cost: $15 for adults, $9 for seniors, students, children, and groups of 10 or more
*$125 per seat
Tickets: Call (949) 824-2787.