Few theater events, if any, are as dear to New Yorkers' hearts as the Public Theater's annual Shakespeare in the Park, which has offered free productions of Shakespeare plays at Central Park's open-air Delacorte Theater since 1962. Today, the Public announced the two works that will be featured in the 2017 season, and it's not too early to start getting excited.
Given the political turmoil gripping America this year, it seems fitting that the first will be Julius Caesar (May 23-June 18), a tragedy on themes of populism, loyalty and power. The play holds a special place in Shakespeare in the Park history: In 1956, it was the first play mounted in an outdoor production by the series, which was then called the New York Shakespeare Festival and had not yet moved to Central Park. The political tragedy's only staging at the Delacorte was in 2000, with Jeffrey Wright as Marc Antony. The Public's brilliantly civic-minded artistic director, Oskar Eustis, one of the city's leading culture warriors, will direct the production himself. (He has only helmed four shows at the Public since beginning his tenure there in 2005; the last was in 2011.)
Shakespeare in the Park will then move from ancient Rome to ancient Greece—and more escapist fare—with a production of the ever-popular A Midsummer Night's Dream (July 11–August 13), in which four crazy kids and a bossy Bottom get caught up in a world of drugs and fairy sex. The insightful Lear deBessonet, the founder the Public's expansive and inclusive Public Works wing and the director of such memorable productions as The Good Person of Szechwan, will stage the forest comedy's fourth outing at the Delacorte since 1982.
Casting has not been announced yet for either production. To find out more about this cherished annual theater tradition—including how to get tickets—consult our complete guide to Shakespeare in the Park.