Columbus Monthly’s 2021 Summer Entertainment Guide for June

Things to see and do around town this month

Chris Gaitten
Actors' Theatre of Columbus

The summer of 2021 doesn’t have the dread of last year’s endless cancellations, but nothing is a sure thing either. Every event comes with an asterisk, as the state moves toward a full reopening with the specter of COVID-19 still present.

Actors’ Theatre of Columbus, May 27-Sept. 5

Near the end of last year, the news about vaccines was just positive enough for Actors’ Theatre to plan a 2021 return to the stage. Artistic director Philip J. Hickman decided they could always cancel again, but preparing nothing would guarantee another missed summer season.

He and the staff thought through what productions would look like and settled on four plays with eight actors maximum, which will be performed weekly at Schiller Park’s amphitheater Thursdays through Sundays at 8 p.m. The lineup includes “Much Ado About Nothing” (May 27–June 20), “The African Company Presents Richard III” (June 24–July 18), “Eurydice” (July 22–Aug. 8) and “The Secret Garden” (Aug. 12–Sept. 5), a first-ever collaboration with Columbus Children’s Theatre on a full production.

The season, appropriately dubbed “Changes,” will be unlike past years. Actors’ Theatre will mark areas on the grass for groups of six to eight guests, with distance between the pods, and attendees will be able to reserve spots in advance. Donations will still be encouraged—there’s no admission, though the productions cost $17–$18 per audience member—but they’ll be collected digitally.

Hickman was also thoughtful about the season’s content. Each play deals with difficulty, “radically unexpected circumstances” and finding a life beyond the obstacles. For example, “The African Company” is a true story of 19th-century Black actors finding their artistic voice despite white society’s attempts to suppress them. Hickman hopes the productions spark conversations after patrons return home. “The thing I like about these plays, the thing that I think they ask of us, is to look forward from where we are—to call evil ‘evil,’ to be real about circumstances and yet to look forward.” theactorstheatre.org

Bryson DeChambeau tees off at the 2020 Memorial Tournament.

The Memorial Tournament, June 3–6 

Amid the adjusted 2020 PGA Tour season, Jon Rahm took the top prize at Jack Nicklaus’ vaunted Dublin course in mid-July in front of no fans. This year’s tourney returns to early June, and reports are that upwards of 30,000 masked spectators may be able to watch him defend his title. Other big names include Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. thememorialtournament.com

The Drive-In at Westland Mall

Big Gigantic at The Drive-In at Westland Mall, June 11 

Last fall, the void in live music was filled by Prime Social Group’s creative series of shows at the defunct Westland Mall, which combined the natural social distancing of drive-in movies with a modified music festival atmosphere. The Colorado duo Big Gigantic takes the stage for a June show that will display their hybrid electronic-instrumental sound. Imagine a dance club DJ with live drums, keys and a whole lot of sax. $99 and up, westlanddrivein.com

[Your Street Name Here] Arts Festival, June 11–13

Another reboot, this citywide Dublin arts celebration encouraged residents to bring art they created or purchased out of their homes and onto driveways and sidewalks—often propped up on patio furniture—for the enjoyment of passersby. Thirty neighborhoods participated in the new event last year, and the 2021 version will be expanded from one day to three. Free, dublinarts.org

Picnic with the Pops, June 12–July 31 

The Columbus Symphony recently announced its summer concert series will return to Columbus Commons this season. June concerts include tributes to the music of Queen (June 12) and Elton John (June 19) as well as Patriotic Pops with guest vocalist N’Kenge on June 26. Popcorn Pops will take place June 18 and July 16. columbussymphony.com

Juneteenth Community Festival, June 19 

This is the first year that Juneteenth will be a paid holiday in Ohio, and the Franklin County commissioners also swapped it in for Columbus Day on their workers’ calendars. Celebrate the anniversary of Black emancipation at the Phenix Banquet Center near Eastland with music, live performances, food trucks and local vendors. $5, phenixeventvenuecolumbusoh.com

London Strawberry Festival, June 24–26

The first of the area’s fruit-and-veggie-themed carnivals returns with this annual ode to the red summertime berry. Organizers are still planning the details, but there will be bands, parades, car shows and lots of food vendors throughout downtown London. Free entertainment, londonstrawberryfestival.com