I first became aware of this gift to lovers of theater and Shakespeare through a former teacher’s invitation. On Saturday June 14, 2014, after almost 5 years of being unable to attend the event, I finally crossed this off my list and I loved it. However, this is not just any event–this is a legitimate ‘experience’. This is the equivalent of getting the new Air Jordans the day they are released or bursting through the doors of Best Buy on Black Friday. This. Is. Serious.
Firstly, the tickets are free which explains why this is pretty major. I mean, free high-caliber Shakespeare performance? Are you serious? I’m in! Secondly, because the tickets are free, and limited to two tickets per person, there is a limited amount of tickets available and thus the ‘first-come-first-serve’ thirst. Thirdly, the earlier you arrive to stand (or in this case sit and sleep) in line, the better chances you have of obtaining the glorious tickets when they are handed out at 12 pm. New York City’s Central Park is closed from 1 am to 6 am, yet when I arrived at approximately 6:15 am and approached the line in front of the Delacorte Theater there were plenty of people there. However, I heard from several members of the group I was with that there’d be many more people once the reviews hit the streets.
What do bring to such an event as this? Well, here are my tips for surviving the approximately six hours you will spend in line:
1. Bring a soft blanket with a pillow and a folding chair so you can alternate comfortably between sitting in an actual chair and lying down on the unforgiving asphalt ground. I actually saw several people lying down on blankets they’d brought and sleeping quite comfortably for hours. One guy literally brought a comforter, a blanket, an umbrella to shield the sun from interrupting his sleep, a pillow and he laid down on the grassy area next to the line and dozed for hours also.
2. If you do not bring a chair you might find an entrepreneur who rents folding chairs until 12 pm for only $5! Ingenious idea, right?
3. Bring a book, tablet, iPod, word search, or whatever it is that could keep you entertained for a bit because time could drag on.
4. Conserve your phone’s battery! Turn off the WiFi to help you.
5. Eat breakfast before arriving to the park and pack snacks. The best part of this is that there are nearby eateries aware of the event and they deliver to the people on the line.
6. Bring water.
7. Feel free to use the bathroom that is thankfully located right outside the Delacorte Theater- it’s well-maintained.
8. Be prepared to have your bum and/or legs fall asleep.
9. You will, at some point, want to take a short walk around the park and you should definitely do so.
10. Having friends with you makes the experience much more fun.
The general rules of Shakespeare in the Park line-waiting is that you forfeit your place in line if you leave for more than 15 minutes, the tickets are not to be re-sold, and you only get two tickets per person. Too much to remember? No worries, they state the rules as you’re standing in line.
After obtaining your tickets, you can do anything you like in New York City until the show begins at 8 pm that evening. Some people return home while others, such as I, choose to explore NYC for a while. Little did I know how much exploration I would do that day in my uncomfortable maroon Converses. In conclusion, I walked over 80 New York City blocks including walking over Avenues which are very long blocks, walked on the Highline, spent a bit of time at the West Side Piers in the West Village, tried delicious Ethiopian food, and then returned to rest for a bit on my Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows blanket at Central Park. By the time I rested in the park before the production began my body, especially my feet, ached to the point that every step was pain-filled. Lying down some trees with my best friend was relaxing and almost as fun as our impromptu karaoke medley we belted out. Then it was time.
I, along with my best friend and our former teacher slash bestie, were fortunate enough to have our seats exactly in the middle of the theater. Once everyone was settled and we were given the standard “we prohibit the recording or picture-taking” segment. I heard the guy behind say that his friend was sitting behind Nathan Lane (I later asked him where but, alas, I could not find Nathan Lane).
This particular production was Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a play I’d never read before, starring Lily Rabe (the Stevie Nicks-obsessed witch from season 3 of American Horror Story) and Hamish Linklater. The set design was charming and caught my attention right away.
As a recording played thanking the sponsors for keeping The Public Theater going, the characters interacted with one another on the set in low voices and they actually reacted to the recording in a hilarious moment. Once the production began, I fell completely and utterly in love with Hamish’s charming and bravado-filled Benedick, and the war of wits that commenced with Lily Rabe’s sharp-tongued Beatrice. The play is extremely well executed, I cannot do it justice. It was filled with dancing, music, betrayal, confusion, and lovers too scared of admitting their true emotions. Without a doubt, Hamish Linklater is the star of the show. I highly recommend you try out The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park and run to see Much Ado About Nothing before this golden nugget disappears.