These days, there are Shakespeare productions in parks and parking lots all over the city. Some of them are in more obscure but interesting areas of Central Park. This post, is about the Public Theater productions at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
How do you find the Delacorte? On the uptown route of the double deckers (or on the M10) get off by the Museum of Natural History and head uptown. The place at left no longer exists. It is now the Rose Space Center. Stay on the Park side of the street, cross the transverse road and enter Central Park at 81st Street.
This is what the castle looked like over 100 years ago. It looks a bit different today. The theatre is below the castle just south of the Great Lawn. You can't miss it.
(You can also get here by entering the Park from 5th Avenue on the South side of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and walking across the south side of the Great Lawn.)
So, you've arrived and this year's productions are amazing! You have Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino and Winter's Tale with Jesse Martin from Law and Order to choose from.
Getting tickets to these free plays has always been a challenge. Over the years, how have I gotten tickets? Let me (re)count the ways. In the bad old days, before the Great Lawn was restored, you used to have to picnic in line all day. You received a bakery number and the tickets were given out around 6PM. I did this at least once. After that, I was fond of coming into the park around 6 on days when there were big thunderstorms at that hour and some how I managed to get a ticket or two without the all day picnic.
For a very brief while, I actually earned enough money to buy subscription seats with friends. Then I became a poverty stricken late life graduate student. Now strategy is to go as early in the season as possible on iffy weather days. (The performance decision is based on the weather at 8:00 and not on any forecast).
Occasionally, other friends got tickets and called me to join them. Usually, it was me joining the line or trying on bad days and calling friends. One year, people were camping for tickets the night before, even from the first preview because the cast was so great. I said to an elderly friend of mine that I'd never get a ticket. Several days later, she called out of the blue. She had gotten a new motorized wheelchair and managed to get two accessible tickets and wanted me to come along to help her get home late at night.
Enough about the past, I still haven't managed to get tickets for "Merchant" but early in the season, I was in the Park with my 7.5 year old Great niece/nephew twins from Arizona and their father on a very iffy day. There was no "sold out" sign for Winter's Tale so we managed to get 5 tickets (the lady in the box office said, "worst case you don't show and we seat from the standby line - the kids don't have to stay for the whole thing but it will be an experience").
My niece didn't get back to the hotel from work until 7. She mostly wanted to have a nice sit down meal somewhere. We did that and the kids wanted to return to the castle so we went. The show had started, so they let us in at a scene break. The kids were fascinated. We left when it started to drizzle after about 40 minutes. Ny nephew (in-law) asked his son what it was about and my great nephew said something like, there were 2 kings and one didn't like the other one because he thought he was doing something with his wife and everyone else didn't think that was true. So, in essence they got it.
I wanted to see the whole show so the following week,I put in for the virtual ticket lottery AND I went to the Park around 1. I joined the end of the line and missed getting a ticket but got voucher #37. At 6:30 they distribute tickets to voucher holders in numerical order before they go to the standby line. When I got home, I discovered I had actually gotten virtual tickets so I told the friend who agreed to come along to meet me earlier. I picked up my virtual tickets and gave my voucher to the first couple in the standby line. The show was wonderful and the moon was almost full when I walked home through the Park afterwards (yes, late at night but I had plenty of company).
Am still trying to see Merchant. If anyone gets an extra ticket, let me know! By the way, you might want to read The Power Broker by Robert Caro to learn one version of the story about how the Delacorte got to be built in Central Park.