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

Shakespeare in the Park
Photograph: Courtesy Tammy Shell

UPDATE: Due to the current health crisis, the 2020 season of Shakespeare in the Park has been canceled in its entirety. The announcement was made on April 17, 2020.

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 2021.

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?

Merry Wives, a Jocelyn Bioh adaptation of Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor, will play beginning July 6 through September 18. 

When is Shakespeare in the Park?

Shakespeare in the Park runs from July 6 through August 20, 2021. With few exceptions, performances are Monday through Saturday at 8pm. The shows will run three weeks longer than originally scheduled given capacity limits that were recently set in place in order to abide by social distancing measures.

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.) Full disclosure: this year, given COVID-19-lated capacity restrictions, the 1,800-seat theater will only allow 428 guests in at once during each performance. Even more of a reason to get your tickets early.

How can I get tickets?

Check out our handy instructions on how to get free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park for a full guide to the rules that apply to both SITP productions. 

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 2021

How to get free Shakespeare in the Park tickets
Theater

How to get free Shakespeare in the Park tickets

This year, securing free tickets to the beloved production looks slightly different than usual. Let us give you some details.

Shakespeare in the Park 2019

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing

Kenny Leon directs an African-American cast in this modern-dress account of the tart-tongued rom-com

Buy
Coriolanus

Coriolanus

Jonathan Cake is a glorious hunk of mess in Shakespeare in the Park's astute and timely production

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Buy
Hercules

Hercules

Disney's 1997 animated musical about the mythic Greek strongman finally makes it to the stage

Buy

Archive Shakespeare in the Park coverage

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

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

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Shakespeare in the Park announces 2015 shows

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Steve Guttenberg will do Shakespeare in Riverside Park this June

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