There’s a little secret about the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s summer Free for All plays. The directors and actors say that the free productions, which are remounts with relatively minuscule rehearsal time, are decidedly better the second or third time around. In other words -- a lot of bang for no bucks.

“When we repeat a play a couple of years later, it’s always better for some reason,” says STC artistic director Michael Kahn. “It’s sort of enriched itself, and the actors have somehow left behind the nervousness of the original production. They’re quite settled and are easy with it, and yet it’s infused with new energy by new actors coming in.”

It has been 23 years since Kahn and STC founding chairman R. Robert Linowes staged the first Free for All play at Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Rock Creek Park. Things have changed over the years (the shows moved indoors to Sidney Harman Hall in 2009), but the quality of the productions, not to mention the popularity, has remained constant.

With this year’s play just around the corner -- “Much Ado About Nothing” opens Tuesday --  we take a look back at some of the past Free for All shows, sharing facts, figures and anecdotes from cast members and other participants.