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Twelfth Night (Shakespeare in the Park)
Photograph: Courtesy Joan MarcusTwelfth Night (Shakespeare in the Park)

Free outdoor theater this summer in New York

Can’t get into Shakespeare in the Park? Here’s a guide to other free outdoor theater you can find in New York.

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman
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Public spaces come alive with free outdoor theater in New York City in the summer, and especially with the plays of William Shakespeare. The top destination, of course, is the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, where the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park presents excellent productions that among New York's best things to do in the summer. But you can also enjoy plays by Shakespeare and other classical masters elsewhere in the city: in Harlem,  Brooklyn, at Riverside Park, even in a Lower East Side parking lot. You might be surprised by the magic that can come from wonderful words, inventive actors and a mild summer breeze.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do outside in NYC

Free outdoor theater in NYC

  • Theater
  • Shakespeare

Hip to Hip offers a rare look at one of Shakespeare's weirdest plays (often coattributed to ne'er-do-well George Wilkins): a kind of Ancient Mediterranean Flash Gordon adventure that includes shipwrecks, contests to win a princess’s hand, a pirate abduction, a virgin in a brothel and a guest shot by the goddess Diana. Jason Marr directs. The show is performed in alternation with Much Ado About Nothing at locations throughout the boroughs and Jersey City, so check out the Hip to Hip website for details.

  • Theater
  • Puppet shows

Octopus Theatricals reaches out to family audiences throughout New York with a mobile puppet show, bringing its solar-powered stage to Manhattan West, Zuccotti Park and Brooklyn Commons for free lunchtime and afternoon performances in late July and August. The show includes brief marionette plays by Dipika Guha and Jen Silverman and an original musical; theharacters are voiced by theater Andy Groteleuschen, L Morgan Lee, Teresa Avia Lim and Adrianna Mitchell.

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  • Theater
  • Shakespeare

Hudson Classical Theater Company concludes its 2022 summer season of free alfresco classics with a new look at the not-so-great Scots of Shakespeare's tragedy, in which a nobleman and his wife descend into a nightmare of disquiet after planning their monarch's murder. (The company took a previous stab at the play back in 2007.) Reservations are not required.

  • Theater
  • Shakespeare

Hip to Hip Theatre Company moves from park to park with this staging of Shakespeare's tart-tongued romcom about two too-witty longtime foes whose friends plot to get them together. Joy Marr directs. Presented in rep with the company's take on Pericles, the production roams through multiple boroughs but never plays the same spot twice in a row, so consult Hip to Hip's website for details.

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  • Theater
  • Musicals

Theater for the New City takes its 46th annual Street Theater Company show on the road, bringing agitprop to outdoor locations throughout the five boroughs. Crystal Field and Peter Dizoza's family-friendly (but corporation-hostile!) satirical musical, directed by Field, celebrates beleaguered educators trying to make a difference at a time when no one seems especially keen to learn anything at all. The cast of 22 is buttressed by giant puppets and moving scenery. Visit TNC's website to find out where the show will be playing when.

  • Theater
  • Shakespeare

The summer's second Shakespeare in the Park offering is director Laurie Woolery and songwriter Shaina Taub's enormous musical adaptation of As You Like It, choreographed by Moulin Rouge!'s Tony-winning Sonya Tayeh. The production was originally planned for Summer 2020, and we interviewed Woolery and Taub about it back in 2017, when it was part of the Public's expansive Public Works wing. The principal cast—which includes Rebecca Naomi Jones, Darius de Haas, Ato Blankson-Wood and Taub herself—is joined by huge ensemble casts drawn from community organizations in all five boroughs. 

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