"All the World's a Stage": One Woman's Survival Guide to Waiting in Line for Shakespeare in the Park

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22 Jun 2013

Heidi Schreck and Emily Bergl in <i>Comedy of Errors</i>.
Heidi Schreck and Emily Bergl in Comedy of Errors.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Forget the dog days of summer. Every year since moving to New York, there has been at least one day each summer when I have gotten up before 4 AM — by choice.

I was determined to get tickets to the free productions of Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater. Every year, tickets have been given out in the afternoon, on a first-come, first-served basis to those who waited in line. Some years, when the cast of the play featured big-name stars, people would sleep on the sidewalk outside the park to ensure they were in the front of the line. I never took it to that extreme; when I lived within walking distance of the Delacorte, on Second Avenue, I would set my alarm for 3:30 AM and walked to the park, ready to sit in line for nine hours in hopes of being handed two tickets to that night's performance.

My friends called me crazy, but I saw nothing unusual about sitting in Central Park for one-third of a day in order to get free tickets to a play. And, I'm not alone; people have been lining up for Shakespeare in the Park since 1962. Over the years the Delacorte Theater has been home to the talents of James Earl Jones, Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway and Al Pacino.

In this writer's opinion, the show has always been worth the wait. I've enjoyed the 2008 concert of Hair, the 2009 performance of Twelfth Night and the 2010 performance of The Merchant of Venice in Central Park — even if I did yawn a bit during the performances.

Waiting in the park all day can feel a bit like entering battle, and no soldier goes to the front unprepared. To help those who want to see The Comedy of Errors and Love's Labour's Lost this summer, I've put together a list of tips to ensure fellow theatregoers stay comfortable while waiting for tickets.

Click through for advice from a veteran about surviving the wait.


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