Sarah Newhouse and Marianna Bassham 
in Love's Labour's Lost
(© Carolle Photography)
Sarah Newhouse and Marianna Bassham
in Love's Labour's Lost
(© Carolle Photography)
August gets off to a festive, populist start with a free Shakespeare in the Square celebration in the heart of Harvard Square (August 1-3). Three top-tier local institutions plan to participate: the Actors Shakespeare Project with a revival of their well-received Love's Labour's Lost; the American Repertory Theatre with Shakespeare Slams, a "mash-up" directed by longtime company member Thomas Derrah; and Revels with assorted music and Morris and sword dances.

The new Central Square Theater presents a local legend, self-described "hip harpist" Deborah Henson-Conant, in What the Hell are you Doing in the Waiting Room for Heaven?? (August 13-23). Billed as a "transformational music-theatre experience," the solo show posits an afterlife in which those aspiring to Heaven must first audition, American Idol-style; Conant plays the coach for an especially challenged remedial group (the audience).

Reagle Players in Waltham has snagged no less a luminary than Donna McKechnie to headline its part-pro, part-community production of No, No, Nanette (August 7-16).

Nancy E. Carroll -- deservedly the queen of Boston-area drama -- plays Sister Aloysius in the Gloucester Stage rendition of Doubt (August 7-24). Company founder Israel Horovitz's The Hotel Plays -- a sextet of "postage-stamp" works -- gets a reading (August 17), and the summer-theatre staple ghost story The Woman in Black (August 28- September 14) earns a full production starring Steven Barkhimer and Shelley Bolman.

The revived and recast The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has picked up stakes from Barrington Stage Company in the Berkshires (where it made its auspicious debut four years ago) and relocated to the circular stage of the North Shore Music Theater (August 12-31).

The Berkshires are busy generating fresh contenders, old and new. Barrington Stage brings back Noel Coward's Private Lives (August 7-24), with artistic director and musical whiz, Julianne Boyd, directing Gretch Egolf, Rebecca Brooksher, and Tandy Cronyn. It's also launching See Rock City & Other Destinations (August 21-September 1), a new musical -- book and lyrics by Adam Mathias, music by Brad Alexander -- about tourists looking to discover themselves while on the road. Concluding this summer's Musical Theatre Lab season will be the revue Songs by Ridiculously Talented Composers and Lyricists You Probably Don't Know, But Should... (August 29-30).

The Williamstown Theatre Festival introduces Ellen Melaver's Not Waving (August 6-17), about six strangers interacting on a tumultuous public beach: Harriet Harris is likely to be a standout in this ensemble endeavor. Next up at WTF is a revival of David Storey's Home (August 13-24). This time it's old friends -- played by Richard Easton, Dana Ivey and Paxton Whitehead -- meeting in a park to discuss the odd detours their lives have taken.

Berkshire Theatre Festival has come up with the brilliant idea of adapting Around the World in 80 Days for children (August 6-23); on August 15, a morning matinee can be seen for free, as part of a Community Festival Day. Vivian Matalon directed the 1966 London premiere of Noel Coward in Two Keys and does so again for BTF (August 12-30), with a cast that includes Broadway vets Maureen Anderman and Susan Kellerman. BTF will also premiere Rhoda Lerman's Eleanor: Her Secret Journey (August 26-November 9), a solo show about Eleanor Roosevelt starring Elizabeth Norment.

And if you should happen to be in the neighborhood, don't miss Brian Stokes Mitchell in concert with the Boston Pops at Tanglewood (August 17), in a program honoring Leonard Bernstein. Baby-boomers are the target audience for Ellie Greenwich's jukebox musical Leader of the Pack at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis (August 4-16); contributing to the doo-wah-diddies is Boston fave Bridget Beirne. The next show reverts a few decades: Born Yesterday (August 18-30) stars the fabulous Leslie Kritzer as the not-so-dumb Billie Dawn and Michael McGrath as her brutish paramour Harry Brock.

The Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre presents the eagerly awaited world premiere of Fabuloso by John Kolvenbach (August 14-September 6), about a "soggy, lifeless marriage" stirred up by the arrival of a fractious friend and his fiancee. On WHAT's smaller harbor stage, this summer's resident company revives David Mamet's 1974 hit Sexual Perversity in Chicago (August 14-September 6), the appeal -- and perversity -- of which age apparently cannot wither.