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Shakespeare in the Park
Photograph: Courtesy Tammy Shell

The complete guide to Shakespeare in the Park in NYC

All the world’s a stage this summer at the time-honored tradition of Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman
David Cote

Every summer, the Public Theater produces a beloved NYC democratic tradition and one of the best free things to do in NYC: Shakespeare in the Park, presented at the open-air Delacorte Theater in Central Park. There’s nothing quite like hearing the Bard’s immortal words performed outside in New York, with a backdrop of natural splendor and the Belvedere Castle looming in the background like the world’s most impressive set decoration. Shakespeare in the Park’s popularity means that tickets aren’t easy to come by—but if you persevere, you can get seats. Here’s our guide to navigating the system in 2023.

What is Shakespeare in the Park?

Created by the late Joseph Papp in 1962, the Public Theater's series offers free, large-scale productions of works by William Shakespeare (as well as the occasional musical or non-Shakespearean drama). The productions often feature some of the most talented actors of our day. Past casts have included including Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Al Pacino, Philip Seymour Hoffman, George C. Scott and Denzel Washington.

What is being performed this season?

In lieu of its usual two productions, Shakespeare in the Park's is staging only one this year, and it's a biggie: Hamlet (June 8–August 6). In this version, directed by Kenny Leon (A Soldier's Play), the title role is played by Ato Blankson-Wood (Slave Play). You can read all about the new production here in an interview with Blankson-Wood.

Through it is not officially a Shakespeare in the Park offering, the large-scale Public Works musical adaptation of The Tempest, starring Renée Elise Goldsberry as Prospero, will play at the Delacorte for one week (August 27–September 3). 

When is Shakespeare in the Park?

This year's season of Shakespeare in the Park runs from June 6 through August 6, 2023. With few exceptions, performances are Monday through Saturday at 8pm. You can find more information here

How can I get tickets?

Free tickets are distributed on the day of the show, both in person and via digital lottery. This year, there are six different ways to get tickets. Check out our complete instructions on how to get free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park for a full guide to the rules that apply to this year's SITP production. 

How do I get there?

The easiest way to get to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park is to enter at 81st Street and Central Park West. Take the B or C train to 81st St–Museum of Natural History.

When should I go?

If possible, shoot for the first week of performances—seats are always in greater supply early in the run of a show, before reviews and word of mouth have pushed up demand for tickets. Another good way to increase your odds, paradoxically, is to attend on days when bad weather is predicted. (The standby line may be your best bet for tickets that day.) The Public hates canceling Shakespeare in the Park, so the show will go on even if it is drizzling; often, performances will take breaks if it gets too rainy, then resume when the downpour subsides. Open umbrellas are not allowed during performances, so be sure to bring a poncho. Tickets for rained-out shows are not exchangeable.

What COVID-19 safety measures will be in place at Shakespeare in the Park?

Masks are encouraged but not required. 

Are there other productions of Shakespeare in New York parks?

Indeed there are, all over the city. For details, check out our guide to free outdoor theater in the summer.

How to get tickets to Shakespeare in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park 2023