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

Photograph: Courtesy Tammy Shell

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. But Shakespeare in the Park’s popularity means that tickets aren’t easy to come by. Only the most perseverant will be able to secure seats. Here’s our guide to navigating the system.

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, Blythe Danner, Philip Seymour Hoffman, George C. Scott and Denzel Washington.

What is being performed this season?

Othello is playing May 29 through June 24, 2018, in a production directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Twelfth Night is playing July 17 through August 19, 2018, directed by Oskar Eustis and Kwame Kwei-Armah.

When is Shakespeare in the Park?

Shakespeare in the Park runs from May 29 through August 19, 2018. With few exceptions, performances are Tuesday through Sunday at 8pm.

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 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.)

How can I get tickets?

Check out our handy instructions on how to get free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park.

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.

Shakespeare in the Park 2018 coverage

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night

Shakespeare in the Park’s crowded, colorful, free-wheeling musical adaptation of Shakespeare's comedy, conceived by Kwame Kwei-Armah and songwriter Shaina Taub, fills the stage with 70 actors—most of them amateurs from around the city—in a pageant of inclusivity. This Twelfth Night is as fast as it is loose: It has been trimmed to a fleet 90 minutes, including the many musical numbers. It's block-party Shakespeare, and everyone's invited.

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Othello
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Othello

Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Jitney) directs the first offering of the Public Theater's 2018 season of Shakespeare in the Park: an account of the Bard's fast-paced tragedy of jealousy and misplaced trust, in which a villain preys on the insecurities of a Moorish war hero. The cast is headed by Chukwudi Iwuji as Othello, Corey Stoll as Iago and Heather Lind as Desdemona. 

Announcing the new Shakespeare in the Park productions for this summer
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Announcing the new Shakespeare in the Park productions for this summer

The Public Theater just announced its two Shakespeare in the Park productions for summer 2018, and we’re ready to line up right now.  First up will be Othello (May 29–June 24), the Bard's classic tragedy of jealousy and misplaced trust. It will be directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who helmed last season's acclaimed Broadway revival of Jitney; casting has not yet been announced. Lighter fare follows in the form of Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub's exuberant musical adaptation of Twelfth Night (July 17–August 19), directed by Kwei-Armah and Public Theater honcho Oskar Eustis. First presented for one week in 2016 as part of the Public Works program, the production will return with original cast members Taub (Feste) Nikki M. James (Viola), Andrew Kober (Malvolio), Jacob Ming-Trent (Sir Toby Belch), joined by rotating ensembles of community members from all five boroughs. RECOMMENDED: Complete guide to Shakespeare in the Park The free outdoor series is an unmissable New York City experience, from waiting in line at Central Park at the crack of dawn to watching the show begin as the sun sets behind the Delacorte Theater. The Public has been offering free performances of Shakespeare since 1962, starring celebrities, theater icons and up-and-comers alike. The series typically features two consecutive productions running from May through August. Last summer’s were a politically relevant rendition of Julius Caesar and the more mellow and magical A Midsummer Night's Dream.  As you

Archive Shakespeare in the Park coverage

Shakespeare in the Park drops new details about its 2017 summer productions
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Shakespeare in the Park drops new details about its 2017 summer productions

Friends, readers, city folk, lend us your ears! In February, as we reported, the Public Theater whetted our appetites for Shakespeare in the Park by announcing the two plays that it will stage at Central Park's open-air Delacorte Theater this summer: Julius Caesar (May 23–June 18) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (July 11–August 13). Now the company has fleshed out some of the central casting of those productions. RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Shakespeare in the Park The two principal conspirators in Julius Caesar will be played by two very fine classical actors: Brutus will be Ant-Man villain Corey Stoll, who was a superb Ulysses in last year's Troilus and Cressida; Cassius will be John Douglas Thompson, who recently starred in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's Jitney. In director Oskar Eustis's boldest stroke of casting, the pivotal role of Mark Antony, who delivers perhaps the most famous political speech in all of drama, will be played by the fearless Elizabeth Marvel. The title role—which is somewhat smaller than it sounds, since (spoiler alert!) he gets knocked off at the start of Act III—will fall to veteran character actor Gregg Henry. Casting for A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Lear deBessonet, is also promising. Beloved six-time Tony nominee Danny Burstein (Fiddler on the Roof) will be the ass-backward Bottom; Annaleigh Ashford, fresh from her delightful star turn in Sunday in the Park with George, will be the love-starved and then love-stuffed Hel

The Public Theater has announced the 2017 Shakespeare in the Park productions
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The Public Theater has announced the 2017 Shakespeare in the Park productions

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 i

Theater review: Troilus and Cressida at Shakespeare in the Park
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Theater review: Troilus and Cressida at Shakespeare in the Park

First night for Shakespeare in the Park and your odds are good
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First night for Shakespeare in the Park and your odds are good

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Comments

1 comments
Robert S

Some people hire linesitters to wait for their tickets and deliver. New Yorkers are too busy with work and life to sit in the dirt from 6am to noon! #linedudes #wewaitforyourwants