The Joys of Outdoor Theatre at Shakespeare in the Park’s “The Tempest”

A favorite NYC summer activity, last week I went to see FREE Shakespeare in the Park! Now I can tell you all about it…

On one hand, the weather was extremely appropriate for Shakespeare in the Park’s first preview of The Tempest. At 7pm the sky was black and threatening as could be. As I left work and drops had yet to fall. Blow over, blow over, please blow over was my mantra the entire subway ride to 81st and Central Park West.

The weather gods ignored my silent pleas. Zeus was all, “Sacrifice a cow or shut the fuck up.” It had been sunny all morning, all day! Walking out of the subway, I was greeted by raindrops. On the east coast, we get weird, brief, cloud bursts all the time, hopefully this was one. Please be a cloud burst, please be a cloud burst, was my mantra the entire walk to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

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Earlier in the day before the rain began with the theater in the background.

The scene outside the Delacorte was madness, despite the weather. Weather apps still revealed only a 50% chance of rain that night. “My phone says 56%!” said a stranger waiting for the theater doors to open. “My phone says only 48%!” another person chimed in. We all compared notes, all hedged our bets, all crammed under any sheltered space and waited. A united front of dedicated theatre patrons all keenly knowledgable of the fickle nature of gods.

“Bring me a virgin,” says Zeus, “Then I’ll totes call off the clouds.” Ugh, weather gods are the worst.

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This photo was taken earlier in the day, but imagine hundreds of theatre goers crammed under that overhang, trying to stay dry.

Wine and beer flowed from the bars stationed around the semicircle of the theater’s perimeter, as steadily as the water from the sky. Better yet, gin and tonic flowed from a thermos I had brought. The Delacorte allows you to bring in outside food and beverage- even alcohol. This made the chore of waiting perfectly palatable. Better still, I was on a date where conversation flowed as easily as all aforementioned liquids. Time flies when you’re talking to an attractive, charming fella. Suddenly it was 8:45PM and they still hadn’t called off the show. But Zeus had called off the precipitation. At least so it seemed…

The Public Theater truly does its best to honor the stage mantra, “The show must go on.” They only ever cancel a show if the weather poses safety hazards. At 9PM, an hour behind schedule, they opened the doors and ushers welcomed us to our seats. New York’s most dedicated Shakespeare fans piled in. All in one theater, all a little soggy, but happy our perseverance had paid off!

The Delacorte Theater (the set of Comedy of Errors a few years back- not the set of The Tempest!) credit

The Tempest opens with well, a SPOILER ALERT tempest: a storm at sea. I almost wished it was still raining as the actors thrashed about the stage, clutching ropes and ship rigging. The energy was high, the theatrical storm much more dramatic than anything we’d yet experienced that night. It takes a certain amount of time to adjust your ear to Shakespearian dialect, but as we moved from sea to sand, it was easy to sink into words of the world’s most celebrated playwright.

I don't think photography is allowed in the theater...so shame on me...but the quality is so poor maybe that makes it ok? Also you can see the new 432 Park building in back of Belvadere Castle which is very strange!
I don’t think photography is allowed in the theater…so shame on me…but the quality is so poor maybe that makes it ok? Also you can see the new 432 Park building in back of Belvadere Castle which is very strange!

When we’d really settled in to the iambic pentameter, just losing ourselves int the play, the clouds opened up again. Zeus couldn’t resist. This was a true cloud burst, brief but just long enough to get us thoroughly wet. Still, the show went on. My date and I stayed, huddled under a picnic blanket, forced to cuddle for warmth. Neither of us was complaining.

After a rapid mopping of the stage, the actors returned, jumping back in without missing a beat. These folks are truepros. Every single person I saw gave a commendable performance.My wording of that sentence is specific for a reason. There were actors I didn’t get to see! Alas, alack! We only ended up seeing half the show!  When the break for intermission arrived, the sound of the stage manager’s voice boomed over the PA. The show would not go on due to time constraints! It was 11PM and we were only half way through! Central Park closes at 1AM! Noooooooooooo!

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A production still of The Tempest (that I certainly did not take: credit)

Thus never was there a tale of more woe, than the time I tried to see the first preview of The Tempest! Just kidding! It was still pretty great and an enjoyable evening and I can’t wait to go back to see the second half! Opening night of the show is June 6th, so I’m going to try to make it back before then. I’d recommend you try to if you want the easiest line! Especially with the weird cold, wet weather we’ve been having. I can confirm Shakespeare in the Park makes a great date.

Want my tips for how to get ticket? Find them here: A Former Usher’s Tips for Getting Shakespeare in the Park Tickets

Want my specific thoughts on what I saw? Here you go:

The costumes are simple and sharp. Miranda played by Francesca Carpanini is lovely. Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Danny Mastrogiorio are hilarious. Caliban (Louis Cancelmi) is played in a different way than you’re likely to have seen before.Chris Perfetti is the first male Ariel I’ve ever seen and plays the “airy spirit” beautifully, with the subtle weight of his enslavement ever present. Sam Waterston as Prospero is masterful, I reserve further comment for when I’ve seen his full performance! The set: illuminated blue images of waves serve as the backdrop and set the scene of the island (and were not my favorite Shakespeare in the Park set). For the first preview, the run time was announced to be 2 hrs 45 mins. This production has made fewer cuttings to the script than most other Tempests your likely to see!

Now go see it for yourself and be sure to tell me what you think!

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.