Every summer, people flock to Central Park in New York to score Shakespeare in the Park tickets. This beloved annual traditional is produced by the Public Theater at the Delacorte Theater in the park. While you could stay at home and stream one of the best Shakespeare movies of all time, the live outdoor theater experience is so unique. This year’s productions are Othello, playing May 29 through June 24 in a production directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and Twelfth Night, playing July 17 through August 19, directed by Oskar Eustis and Kwame Kwei-Armah. As has been the case since Shakespeare in the Park began in 1962, the Public distributes free tickets, but only the most dedicated will be able to secure seats.
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1. From the Delacorte
Tickets are distributed in front of the Delacorte Theater on a first-come, first-served basis at 12pm on the day of the show, so you’ll have to wait in line—likely for a long time—if you want to get in. But it's worth it.
Central Park doesn’t open until 6am, and although the Public Theater doesn’t condone it, it is legal to camp out before then by the park entrance at Central Park West and 81st Street. A line monitor from the Public will escort any early birds in when the park opens. We recommend this option only for the extremely desperate; otherwise, arrive no later than 10am (though we recommend much earlier) to give yourself a chance at tickets.
In order to endure the hours-long wait, you’ll need a chair or a blanket, something to occupy yourself and breakfast. Also make sure to bring an umbrella in case it rains—but don’t worry, shows are very rarely rained out. Also, there will probably be less of a turnout if it's drizzling, which will increase your chances of nabbing a ticket.
Tickets are limited to two per person, and the number of available tickets varies from day to day. There’s no cutting, saving spots or leaving the line for any extended length of time. Patrolling Public Theater staff will ask you to give up your spot in line if you breach any of these rules.
2. In the outer boroughs
Vouchers are made available in each of the five boroughs on specific days between 12pm and 2pm (while supplies last). These vouchers can then be exchanged for tickets at the Delacorte between 4:30 and 7:30pm.
3. Via the online lottery
The Public continues its partnership with TodayTix, which now offers the exclusive Mobile Ticket Lottery for Free Shakespeare in the Park, replacing the virtual lottery from previous years. Tickets are distributed by random mobile lottery on the TodayTix app each date that there is a public performance at the Delacorte Theater.
4. Downtown at the Public Theater
Visit the place where it all began, the Public Theater, to enter the in-person lottery. Held every show day, sign-up starts at 11am and the drawing is at noon. Or turn your back on fickle Lady Luck and purchase a Summer Supporter Ticket. A tax-deductable donation of $500 or more to the Public will net you one reserved seat for either play (although only a limited number of these tickets are available).
Othello plays May 29–June 24. A Midsummer Night's Dream plays July 17–August 19.