Which Oscar Winners Have Acted Under the Stars? Shakespeare in the Park, By the Numbers

News   Which Oscar Winners Have Acted Under the Stars? Shakespeare in the Park, By the Numbers The current season of Shakespeare in the Park, at the Delacorte Theatre, easily evokes the long and rich history of the annual summer tradition. Many a critic remarked on how Sam Waterston, star of The Tempest, has Delacorte credits stretching back to the ‘60s. His castmate Jesse Tyler Ferguson, meanwhile, in on his way to becoming the Waterston of the 21st century, so regular are his appearances in the park (The Tempest is his sixth Delacorte job). And Daniel Sullivan, the director of the upcoming Cymbeline, has staged a Shakespeare in every one of the past seven seasons.

Sam Waterston in <i>Hamlet</i>, 1975
Sam Waterston in Hamlet, 1975 Photo by George E. Joseph/©The New York Public Library

With that in mind, Playbill.com decided to take on look at the artists who have helped to provide a sense of artistic continuity over the long trek of Shakespeare in the Park.

ACTORS Sam Waterston is certainly up there in terms of play count, though he has some stiff competition. His best-known roles are his leading turns from the ‘70s, in Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing. He also has the weird distinction of having playing in three Delacorte Hamlets, once as Laertes, once as Hamlet and once as Polonius. His first appearance was in 1963 in As You Like It.

Many actors go through hot streaks where the Delacorte is concerned, appearing in many productions over a short period of time. Such was the case with Raul Julia, who was ubiquitous for a decade beginning in 1971. He appeared in Othello, The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, King Lear, As You Like It, Hamlet and the musical version of Two Gentlemen of Verona. He played Othello in 1979. Apparently not satisfied with his work that time, he played it again in 1991.

Christopher Walken and Raul Julia in <i>Othello</i>, 1991
Christopher Walken and Raul Julia in Othello, 1991 Photo by Martha Swope/©The New York Public Library

Kevin Kline’s best known Delacorte work was in a non-Shakespeare effort, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance in 1980. But he also acting in Henry VI, Part II, two productions of Richard III (one as the king), Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure. More recently he has appeared in Chekhov’s The Seagull and Brecht’s Mother Courage.

In both of the latter two plays, Kline appeared opposite Meryl Streep. Streep’s first Delacorte showing was back in 1976 in Henry V. Measure for Measure and The Taming of the Shrew quickly followed. Then 23 years would pass before she returned in The Seagull in 2001.

Sam Waterston and Meryl Streep in <i>Measure for Measure</i>, 1976
Sam Waterston and Meryl Streep in Measure for Measure, 1976 Photo by George E. Joseph/©The New York Public Library

Perhaps because Shakespeare provided women with fewer leading roles, actresses with numerous Delacorte credits are less common than actors. (If Lily Rabe keeps up her current pace, however, she’ll soon be in the running.) One of the most frequent Central Park players was not a marquee name. Bette Henritze, a respected stage veteran throughout her long career, first acted at the Delacorte in 1962, and her final performance there was in 1997 — perhaps the longest span between plays of any Delacorte regular. Her credits included Henry VII, All’s Well That Ends Well, The Golem, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III, Henry VI, Parts I and II, Othello, A Winter’s Tale, Antony and Cleopatra, King Lear and The Merchant of Venice.

Charles During may have been Henritze’s male equivalent — appearing in many plays, but rarely in a starring role. From 1962 to 1972, he played various clowns and supporting parts in Hamlet, Henry VI, Parts 1 and 2, Twelfth Night, Titus Andronicus, King John, The Comedy of Errors, A Winter’s Tale, Antony and Cleopatra and King Lear.

Another supporting player of significance in recent times was Herb Foster. From 1992 to 2009, he could be found in many a park production, though often in parts so small you had to squint to see them. His productions included Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, As You Like It, Measure For Measure, Cymbeline, The Skin of Our Teeth, Henry VIII, Timon of Athens, Troilus and Cressida, Two Gentlemen of Verona and All’s Well That Ends Well. With 12 plays to his credit, that ties him with Henritze.

The Herb Foster of the ‘60s may have been Albert Quinton, a little-remembered name who nonetheless took on small parts in As You Like It, Richard III, Henry VI, Parts I and II, Twelfth Night, King John, The Comedy of Errors, Antony and Cleopatra and The Merchant of Venice.

Other notable Delacorte regulars include James Earl Jones, who put in seven appearances between 1962 and 1973, ending with his King Lear; Tom Aldredge, who essayed eight roles between 1965 and 1987; and Liev Schreiber, whose parts got bigger and bigger from 1995’s The Tempest on, but hasn’t been seen since his 2006 Macbeth. DIRECTORS Much of the talk about Delacorte directors in recent years has been focused on Daniel Sullivan, who is obviously a favorite of the current Public Theater regime. He has piloted recent productions of The Merchant of Venice, All’s Well That Ends Well, As You Like It and The Comedy of Errors. But his Central Park credits stretch back to 1994, when he staged The Merry Wives of Windsor. In total, he’s directed eight Shakespeares in the Park.

Stuart Vaughan, who was an early and important figure at the New York Shakespeare Festival, directed five plays at the Delacorte beginning in 1970. Wilford Leach, a name associated with the New York Shakespeare Festival’s middle years, directed nine, beginning in 1978, including The Pirates of Penzance and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and often functioned as his own set designer.

Gerald Freedman, meanwhile, piloted a whopping dozen productions, beginning with As You Like It in 1963 and ending with Much Ado About Nothing in 1988.

It should come as no surprise, however, that the most frequent director at the Delacorte was its founder, Joseph Papp. He directed the theatre’s first production, The Merchant of Venice with George C. Scott. His final directing job at the theatre was Henry IV, Part I in 1987.

DESIGNERS The prize for most numerous Central Park credits, however, goes not to an actor or director, but designers.

There are a number of names in the running for that title. Ming Cho Lee, the famous set designer, worked on nearly a couple dozen of Delacorte shows between 1962 and 1973, beginning with The Merchant of Venice and ending with Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Lighting designer Martin Aronstein began his association with A Winter’s Tale in 1963. A couple dozen plays later, he ended it with Measure for Measure in 1976.

Costumer designer Theoni V. Aldredge had a longer run than either of the two men above. Her first Delacorte credit was The Merchant of Venice in 1962. Her last, in 1988, was Much Ado About Nothing. There were 30 plays in between.

THE PLAYS When you present a near-total theatrical diet of Shakespeare across 50-plus years, there are bound to be some repeats. The most performed plays at the Delacorte include some you might expect. The classic comedies As You Like It and Twelfth Night have had five go-rounds. The Comedy of Errors and Much Ado About Nothing have enjoyed four turns. The towering masterpiece Hamlet has been seen four times, as has the rousing and popular history play Henry V and the Bard’s final play, The Tempest.

Other frequent visitors, however, may surprise you. Three versions of A Winter’s Tale? Three tries at Two Gentlemen of Verona, plus two stagings of the musical version of that play? Four Measure for Measures, for God’s sake!

And, believe it or not, there are still a couple Shakespeare works that have yet to be seen until Central Park’s greenery, including the famous Julius Caesar.

Well, there’s always next summer. Is Dan Sullivan available?

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