Back in the Borough: Shakespeare in the Park

Hi friends,

I was telling Chris yesterday that I feel like this has been the summer of Central Park. First we saw the NY Philharmonic in the park, then we took a bike ride through it, on Sunday we took my 4-month-old nephew there, and last night we partook in a long-time New York City bucket list item of both of ours … seeing Shakespeare in the Park.

Allow me to explain. You see, every summer The Public Theater provides free tickets to eager New Yorkers willing to do insane things (like get up at 4:30 a.m. to camp out in line for said free tickets) for performances at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The tickets are, as you can imagine, very popular, and therefore very hard to get. There’s a public lottery online—but I’m convinced no one ever wins tickets that way (at least I never have!)—you can purchase a $175 summer supporter membership and get one free ticket to one show, OR (and this is a popular one) … you can camp out in Central Park, starting at around 6 a.m., until they open their doors at noon and start passing out tickets.

Yesterday my friend Carla and I bit the bullet and just did it — we camped out in Central Park for six hours, starting at 6 a.m., to get free tickets.

And I have to say, my friends, it was TOTALLY. WORTH. IT. Honestly, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. (Of course weather is key, here, people. If you’re going to be laying in the grass for six hours, you must have nice weather, which we did. Couldn’t have asked for better.)

Anyway, here’s a bit from the morning:

^^I took this hazy Central Park path photo around 5:50 a.m. as I was entering the park. It reflects my mood nicely. Hazy.

^^I took this hazy Central Park path photo around 5:50 a.m. as I was entering the park. It reflects my mood nicely. Hazy.

^^The line pass beyond the point where we could see it. Turns out there's something called "The Rock of No Hope." Rumor has it if you try to get in line past that rock for tickets, you're probably out of luck.

^^The line passed beyond the point where we could see it. Turns out there’s something called “The Rock of No Hope.” Rumor has it if you try to get in line past that rock for tickets, you’re probably out of luck.

^^Along with the free play tickets, the New York Times was passing out this lovely book to people in the line, for free.

^^Along with the free play tickets, the New York Times was passing out this lovely book to people in the line, for free.

^^This lovely gentleman serenaded us with his flute while we waited in line. Then asked for money, which of course we were happy to give him. When we returned 8 hours later for the actual play, he was playing a saxophone. So talented.

^^This lovely gentleman serenaded us with his flute while we waited in line. Then asked for money, which of course we were happy to give him. When we returned 8 hours later for the actual performance, he was playing a saxophone. So talented.

^^At one point I took a short nap. When I woke up, this was my view. Not too shabby.

^^At one point I took a short nap. When I woke up, this was my view. Not too shabby.

Now just because this could be considered a crazy thing to do, don’t be fooled. There’s a method to the madness, people. Theater workers walk the lines every so often, keeping count and making sure no one cuts in line. (There’s no holding spots for other people, and no one was meant to join you later on, is what we were told. Going to the bathroom. That was the only time you were allowed to vacate your spot (thank God!)).

There was also a cute little delivery man on a bike who smartly handed out take-out menus from a restaurant located right outside of the park. Carla and I were all too happy to ask our neighbors to add two cappuccinos for us to the delivery they ordered for themselves at around 9 a.m.

Tickets are handed out randomly–so as long as you’re in the line before they run out, it actually doesn’t matter if you’re the first person or the last person–both are just as likely to get good seats. Unfortunately, despite our pretty amazing location in line (I’d say about 25-35 people deep), our seats were pretty high up. The theater is on the smaller side, though, so no seat is really a bad seat, per se.

So you wait in line for six hours (or at least we did), you get your tickets, then you leave and come back around 8, when the doors open. Performances start at 8:30, and there are no intermissions. That’s okay, though, because the performances are so amazing, you don’t even want a break.

The performance we saw was called ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’. The gist of it is that the King and three of his friends decide at their five-year college reunion to swear off women. When four cute girls–including the princess–show up from their past, though, things get ca-razy. (And ca-razy funny, too!)

You aren’t meant to take photos from inside the theater, but Chris went rogue and shot this one quickly:

Delacorte_Theater

Is that not the cutest ever? With Turtle Pond in the background, the skyscrapers in view from the Upper West Side and the vague noises from people enjoying the park all around the outside of the theater … it’s honestly a moment where you think: “Am I really watching a Shakespeare play, for free, in the middle of Central Park?”

It’s pretty incredible.

You’re also allowed to bring food and drink into the theater, as long as you don’t take in any glass bottles. So we loaded up on sandwiches and snacks and little bottles of boxed wine–and had ourselves a merry Shakespearean Central Park night … just the four of us!

I would highly recommend this to any tourists, too. It gives you an excuse to get up early enough to start your day, and if the weather’s nice, there’s nothing better than camping out in CP in the early morning, watching everyone with their dogs running around, ecstatic, off their leashes.  Then you have your tickets by 12:30 at the latest, and you have until 8 p.m. to spend the rest of the day however you like. And you can end the evening with a magnificent (free of charge!) play.

What can be better than that?

Bis bald, friends! I purchased my ticket for D.C. for next week yesterday–I cannot wait!

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5 thoughts on “Back in the Borough: Shakespeare in the Park

  1. Wasn’t that an amazing show? I scored my ticket in the standby line. The first people in line sat several rows behind us, yet waited a few more hours than we did. It’s totally the luck of the draw.

    And to clarify, the Delacorte Theater seats 1,800. Pretty impressive for an open air venue in glorious Central Park. It’s truly amazing. I’m so glad that you had this fantastic and unique NYC experience. Enjoy the rest of your journey!

  2. Hi Trina! Thanks so much for commenting, and especially for letting me know about the number of seats in the theater — I amended the post with the correction ;)
    The play was FANTASTIC — I can’t wait to camp out again for another next summer!

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