Last night, I took my LBD out for a well-loved NYC tradition. The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park series has been a summer staple in Central Park for 56 years, with the company performing two Shakespeare plays in repertory for the duration of the summer. And get this: the tickets are absolutely free.
That is one of the most remarkable things about summer in this city. The abundance of free cultural events is positively overwhelming, as is the response to them. New Yorkers come out in droves for Shakespeare in the Park, with the line for the 1 p.m. daily release of tickets beginning to form at around 6 a.m., when the park opens.
The Delacorte Theater is tucked into a tuft of woods right off of the Great Lawn in Central Park, rendering the southern end of the Lawn a swath of picnicking ticket holders, against the almost-too-perfect backdrop of Belvedere Castle. Naturally, I had to take a photo. Doesn’t that look like the painted backdrop of some King Arthur movie?
It sounds preposterous, but you can’t actually see the theater from the outside. That’s what I call unobtrusive architecture. Ingeniously placed, and overgrown with park foliage, it simply blends in, and the impressive size of the theater-in-the-round isn’t realized until one has actually entered the stadium.
Thanks to having interviewed Jesse L. Martin about his participation in Shakespeare in the Park, I was able to go see The Merchant of Venice. The Public is notorious for landing an all-star cast for their summer productions, and the theater world waits excitedly for the cast list to be released. Last year, the list was topped by Johnathan Groff and Anne Hathaway, and this year’s list did not disappoint, with Al Pacino, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Jesse headlining.
If you have the chance to take advantage of this enchanting spectacle, do it. There is nothing like outdoor theater, let alone free outdoor theater on a warm summer night amidst trees and dwindling light, and in the middle of New York City no less. We commend the Bright Young Things at the Public for putting this terrific thing on.