Shakespeare in the Park is one of the things I look forward to most about NYC summers. The Public Theater, one of the most reputable companies in NY, offers FREE world class theater every year in Central Park. Yes, I did say FREE. You just have to wait in line for tickets. They are distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis at 1PM for the evening performance.
This ticket distribution is notorious. Many New Yorkers who might attend a play otherwise, are deterred by the reputation of the line. Many believe you must camp out in line in order to get tickets, arriving to Central Park at dawn. This myth is based on truth. The Public’s productions often headline stars- most recently Al Pachino in Merchant of Venice and Anne Hathaway in Twelfth Night. With an A-list star and killer reviews, camping out will become the reality. But don’t despair! It is easy to get tickets if you know how to do it. My first job in New York was working as an usher at the Delacorte Theater, the performance space of Shakespeare in the Park. Here are my tips for getting tickets:
- See a preview. After a show opens (and usually gets good reviews) it’s on many more to-do lists. If you can go to the show before it gets reviewed (that’s what a “preview” is) you may not have to wait in line at all. Often for the first week-day performances you can literally walk up at 1PM or even 8PM and get tickets. No waiting at all. If you can only go on weekends, previews are your easiest bet.
- Go on a weeknight! If your work schedule allows it, see a Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday night show. Weekends are much harder to get tickets for.
- Try the virtual line! Now in it’s 3rd year (I believe) there is now have a virtual line! The solution for 9-5ers and any one who can’t be in Central Park at 1PM on a weekday. To enter this way, visit the website in the morning, sign up, enter for that day’s show, cross your fingers, and the check back after 1PM. Get your friends to enter for you. I’ve had good luck with this!
- Don’t be afraid of the stand-by line! Another great way to score tickets if the 1PM time is impossible for you is the stand-by line. Pack a picnic, bring a thermos of your after-work beverage of choice, and multi-task. You’re enjoying a fabulous picnic in the park AND waiting for tickets at the same time! Unless the show is Al-Pachino-popular, you should be fine getting in this line after work- around 5:30/6.
- Questionable weather can be your ticket in. They do everything possible to avoid a rained out show. There may be a rain shower moments before the show, but unless there is thunder and lightning, the show is likely to still go on. If it’s a popular show, this can really help you out because loads of people with tickets will not show up. Even if you show up at 8PM, it’s likely you’ll get in! Just bring a poncho because they don’t allow umbrellas up in the theater. I once had to tell Mary Louise Parker to put her’s down!
2013 features two comedies. The Comedy of Errors runs May 28- June 30. I’m seeing the May 29th preview and I can’t wait! Director Daniel Sullivan has delivered the Public’s most recent knock-out performances including the aforementioned Twelfth Night and Merchant of Venice. I have no doubt it’s going to be a great show. Both Sullivan and The Public are known for making Shakespeare accessible and with a run-time of only 90 mins, there is all the more reason everyone should see this show.
Love’s Labour’s Lost: A New Musical is the second show of the season running July 23-August 18. A new musical adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s first plays, my expectations are high for this production as well. I don’t know exactly what to expect, but coming from the creators of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson I have no doubt it’ll be awesome. Again with a run-time of 90 mins, I’m calling this now as one of the must-see shows of the summer. Heed my advice and see it during previews!
So mark your calendars now, previews start in 10 days! Remember you can bring refreshments into the Delacorte seats- even alcohol as long as it’s not in a glass bottle. Get ready for a summer of fantastic FREE theater! If you don’t live in NYC, plan a visit! Okay, of course that’s not always possible. Please look into what summer theatre your town has to offer- I’m willing to bet you’ll find something.