Enjoying Shakespeare in the Park

In the summer, the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park productions enliven New York City’s Central Park Delacorte Theatre with their Bard-inspired magic. The plays are wildly popular, and tickets can be difficult to secure.

These productions have featured the likes of Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Philip Seymour Hoffman and George C. Scott, among others. There are several methods for obtaining tickets, including lining up or entering the various lotteries.

As You Like It

The pastoral comedy of As You Like It offers lighthearted fun in a serene countryside setting. The characters, including the cynical Duke and his followers, the wise fool Touchstone, and the courtesan Rosalind, delight with their brilliance in conversation. The themes of usurpation and exile, which Shakespeare would take up more seriously in later plays, are also present.

Historically, critics have ranked this play fairly high among Shakespeare’s comedies. While George Bernard Shaw criticized it as “a mere crowd-pleaser,” many scholars have praised Rosalind and the wit of the play. It is perhaps the first of Shakespeare’s plays to treat men and women equally. The film version, starring Laurence Olivier, was released in 1936. It is still a favorite for its use of dazzling language and its emphasis on the joys of sex and friendship.

While a play’s words and music may transport an audience to far-flung places, scenery and costumes are essential elements of theatrical magic. Adding the enchantment of outdoor theatre adds a special dimension to the experience. Costumes can transform actors into beautiful sprites or ugly demons, and scenic elements can create enchanting forests or other fantasy worlds. In addition, actors can utilize their full range of physical skills in outdoor theater. Actions that might not be feasible indoors running, cartwheeling, juggling or performing acrobatics are much easier to execute outdoors.

The Tempest

Streamlined to just an hour and 45 minutes, this version of Shakespeare’s classic tale of shipwrecked lovers is a wonderful introduction for the younger ones. And even adults will enjoy a bit of the Bard’s poetry and the love story that follows when banished outsiders find camaraderie and romance.

As part of the Public Theater’s Public Works initiative, this production of The Tempest is Shakespeare for and by the people. The Public’s professional actors will perform alongside hundreds of everyday New Yorkers from the five boroughs. The Public also holds an in-person lottery and a digital lottery through Today Tix for free tickets to each performance.

In 1957, Joseph Papp envisioned a kind of people’s theatre that brought performances of Shakespeare to parks around the City. And though the productions have evolved from those initial efforts, Papp’s vision of affordable Shakespeare for everyone remains as one of the most enduring and beloved cultural traditions in NYC. There are few things better than listening to a performance of the Bard’s immortal words in the open air, under the stars, with a majestic backdrop like Central Park’s Belvedere Castle looming above. Whether you’re in Sydney with the Opera House as your backdrop or Maynardville in Cape Town with Table Mountain, Shakespeare in the Park will capture your heart. Just be sure to get your tickets early, as they’re not easy to come by!

Richard III

A tragic tale of murder and ambition set at the end of the bloody Wars of the Roses between the rival Houses of Lancaster and York, this play features Richard III, the Duke of Gloucester, who wants to claim the throne for himself. His lust for power leads him to manipulate, kidnap and kill anyone who stands in his way. This gripping drama has been filmed many times, including the classic Laurence Olivier version and the recent film with Al Pacino.

Each summer, this Queens-based troupe tours a professional, family-friendly production of one of Shakespeare’s plays to parks and arts centers throughout Prince George’s County. The theater company also offers a 30-minute Kids & the Classics interactive workshop before each performance.

Seating is free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Bring blankets and/or chairs, a picnic dinner, and enjoy this classic outdoor experience under the stars.

The Public Theater’s beloved NYC democratic tradition, which takes place at the open-air Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, is one of the best things to do with your family during the summer in New York City. While there are no guarantees that you’ll get tickets to every performance, becoming a Supporter Plus member of The Public Theater will help ensure that you and your family have seats for all performances and contributes to their 61-year legacy of making this program possible.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

There’s nothing quite like watching Shakespeare under the big summer stars at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. It’s a rite of summer in NYC and even the raccoons seem to get in on the action. This year there’s just one play: Hamlet, centered on the brooding Prince of Denmark as he deals with a family feud and his father’s ghost who demands he avenge his death.

Whether you’re a newcomer or a longtime fan of the Bard, you’ll want to check out the Public’s production. This show has it all: love, magic, faeries and even some physical comedy. It’s a must-see for all the family and for kids of all ages.

Shakespeare in the Park is free to the public. Tickets are distributed on the day of each performance, both in-person at the Public Theater’s downtown lottery and through a digital app called TodayTix. There are also specific performances for patrons with hearing and vision loss including Sign Language interpreted performances, audio-described performances and open-captioned performances. Families are encouraged to bring picnic dinners, chairs and blankets to enjoy the show. For the best experience, arrive early and take advantage of all that the park has to offer, from a picnic dinner in the beautiful green spaces to grills and picnic supplies at the concession stand. For more information, visit The Public’s website.