The One With the Bard

I am trying to win the lottery. This is folly. I do not usually have a right-place-right-time kind of aura. Okay, there was the time I played tennis with NPH, but other than that, no. Luckily this is not like Portia’s lottery. If I don’t win, I won’t be cast out of NYC. But if I win? I’ll be spending the evening with a guy named William in a horrible storm. One might even call it a Tempest.

Every summer The Public Theater stages one of Shakespeare’s plays in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. They call it (wait for it) Shakespeare in the Park.


What’s past is prologue. ~William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Shakespeare in the Park started in 1962 as a way to make Shakespeare, and theater in general, accessible to all. It’s f-r-e-e. Hence the lottery.

There are several ways to get tickets.

Option A: The Lazy Method. You enter online for a virtual drawing. Easy = everyone does it = you have to be very fortunate. We’ve already established this is not me. I refer you to paragraph one of this post.

Option B: The I-Have-All-Day Method. Line up at the theater; distribution is at noon until they run out of tickets. People begin lining up hours before. Sorry, William, I only do that for Bono.

Option C: The Bingo Method. This involves a trip to The Public Theater’s main location in Nolita. You drop a slip of paper into a canister and wait anxiously while names are plucked one by one. There are no set number of tickets available each day. This is where I wait now with my evening’s fate hanging in the balance.


We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. ~William Shakespeare, The Tempest

The theater interns (or possibly volunteers) begin with the obligatory spinning of the canister. A few dozen of us are milling about, hoping that the odds will ever be in our favor.

“It’s good karma to be happy for the winners,” one of the interns says as he calls the first name. “Richard Mayweather.”

Richard pops out of the crowd like Drew Carey has just called his name on The Price Is Right. The rest of us clap politely to bring forth positive vibes. One woman shouts, “Yay, Richard!”  So we get into it. Each time a name is called we hoot and holler.

Then…my name is called! I’m so excited I nearly brake into a jog. I’m mentally preparing my acceptance speech, but the intern just hands me a voucher for two tickets as he moves onto the next name. (I would like to think that I broke my cycle of karmic near-misses, but as it turns out, everyone’s name was called today.)


Your tale, sir, would cure deafness. ~William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Over the years, Shakespeare in the Park has drawn big names to the stage: Meryl Streep in The Taming of the Shrew, Kevin Kline in Much Ado About Nothing (among others), Anne Hathaway in Twelfth Night, and John Lithgow as King Lear to name a few. Tonight, I’m seeing Sam Waterston as Prospero (formerly of Law & Order) and Jesse Tyler Ferguson as the jester (Modern Family).

Lovely long shot of the seating and stage. This is from a previous season's performance.

Lovely long shot of the seating and stage. This is from a previous season’s performance.

Shakespeare in the Park

All this star power is exciting, but I find the theater itself the most enchanting aspect of Shakespeare in the Park. The Delacorte is a small — maybe a few hundred people — outdoor theater in Central Park. I love that I can feel the soft breeze and hear the leaves on nearby trees rustle. The sky isn’t completely dark when the show begins. Soon, though, the mosquitoes are buzzing around the stage footlights and we wonder how the actors can keep their concentration. When Ferdinand says, “Hark, there is a noise from above,” and a helicopter flies overhead, we can’t help but laugh. Even Ferdinand breaks character and chuckles.

A shaky shot of the stage during intermission.

A shaky shot of the stage during intermission.

There’s something about experiencing a Shakespeare play live, especially in this setting. You’re miraculously transported from an urban jungle and washed up on a small island after a terrible storm.

Have you seen any plays recently? Shakespeare? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

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18 comments

    1. Oh, if you have a chance, go see The King and I at Lincoln Center. Everything about the production was fantastic from the costumes to the set design to the songs. The actress who plays Anna just won a Tony Award for this role. I think you’d love the show.

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  1. Oh, how wonderful Jackie! I have terrible lottery luck too and never ha s chance to see Shakespeare in the park when I lived in NYC, though I did have a friend who always waited in that long line 🙂 Looking back I wish I had done it at least once. I was young and had no kids, I mean really. So glad you enjoyed it! I bet it was magical.

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  2. I’m currently reading Hobson Woodward’s book about Shakespeare’s inspiration for The Tempest, William Strachey’s account of the shipwreck of the Sea Venture on Bermuda.

    Also, I went to a local version of Shakespeare in the Park once. The play was Hamlet. Just moments before the show was to begin, a thunderstorm came out of nowhere. I thought that was some pretty fantastic staging. Turned out it was a real thunderstorm and they canceled the show.

    This sounds like a great evening. Congratulations on winning the lottery!

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    1. Love that we’re both in the same boat, so to speak. I’m not sure how things turned out for the Sea Venture, but it’s nice to go to a Shakespeare play that ends on a high note.

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  3. Well, Jackie, I’m glad you got tickets, even if everyone else that day did, as well. Sounds like an awesome opportunity and FREE always helps!

    I spent the summer between my senior year and grad school in Stratford-upon-Avon—-had a fellowship to the Shakespeare institute, the academic arm of the Royal Shakespeare Company. We HAD to see every play the company performed that season. Tough assignment, but someone had to do it!

    And just so you know. This summer I’m going on two-month RV trip with my nearing-ninety Godmother and her cat Pepe le Mew. I leave for the US in a week. The RV is huge, 37-feet. My Godmother will be driving and towing an SUV the entire way. She was a Flamenco dancer during her entire professional life. I’m going to try to blog about our trip and write a book about the 64 beautiful years she and my Godfather, a Venezuelan movie star (I kid you not!), were married, until Raul died last fall one month shy of his 97th birthday.

    AND we will be in Manhattan for almost a week. Would love to see you! Hoping my Godmother and I can get together with you and Virginia for lunch or dinner or something. We are looking at the very end of July/first week of August. I will let you know more when I know more. Unfortunately Sara has to stay in Ecuador and work–hold down the fort. But it would be so fun to hang out for a while with you all again.

    Sorry to have been away so long!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

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    1. I knew you had another adventure up your sleeve, Kathy! Yes, let me know when you’re swinging through town and I’ll be there. I’m so excited to see you and meet your fabulous godmother. (Sorry that Sara can’t make it though.)

      PS – I’d love to be on hand to see you park a 37-foot RV in Manhattan. 🙂

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  4. Very cool! I love how much you take advantage of what is available to you out there.

    If I had a chance to come to NYC this summer I admit I’d probably skip the Shakespeare and try to score tickets to The King and I.

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    1. And I wouldn’t blame you one bit! The Kind and I was marvelous. I felt transported and enjoyed the pageantry of it all. One of my favorite movies come to life, and it didn’t disappoint.

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  5. Wonderful! I’m envious. Enjoy!
    We have Shakespeare in the Park here too, but there are no famous actors and on a good night maybe 30 people show up to watch. No lottery necessary. 🙂

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  6. Hope you enjoyed the show! In all the years we lived in NYC and Brooklyn, we never went! Sounds wonderful. I love your depiction of the “lottery.” We saw Shakespeare in Ontario, Canada, which was wonderful.

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    1. I hadn’t been to Shakespeare in the Park in years before this summer. I think the idea of the lottery always put me off. It just seemed daunting. But this time I had a friend who knew the ropes. That was a big help. And it was such a plus that this Shakespeare play doesn’t end with everyone dead on stage! 🙂

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