PHOTO SPECIAL: 50 Years of Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte

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14 Jun 2012

As the Public Theater celebrates its 50th Anniversary of Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater, we look back at the last half-century of outdoor productions.



James Earl Jones, Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Natalie Portman, Morgan Freeman, Martin Sheen, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Audra McDonald and Raul Julia are just a few of the stars to grace the stage of the Delacorte since 1962.



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Charlotte Rae and Martin Sheen in Romeo and Juliet, 1968
Photo by George E. Joseph/©The New York Public Library



The Public will celebrate with a one-night-only gala staged reading of Romeo and Juliet, which will be offered June 18 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

Academy Award winners Kevin Kline and Meryl Steep — both veterans of New York Shakespeare Festival — will star as the play's respective title characters.

Romeo and Juliet will also feature four-time Tony nominee Raúl Esparza (Leap of Faith, Twelfth Night) as Sampson, Apothecary and Watchman 1; Jesse L. Martin (The Merchant of Venice, Rent, The Government Inspector) as Gregory, Friar John and Watchman 2; Jerry Stiller (The Three Sisters, Much Ado About Nothing, The Ritz) as Peter; Tony nominee Christopher Walken (A Behanding in Spokane, James Joyce's The Dead, Othello) as Mercutio; Tony nominee Sam Waterston (Abe Lincoln in Illinois, As You Like It, A Walk in the Woods) as Benvolio; Tony winner Jeffrey Wright (Angels in America, Topdog / Underdog, Julius Caesar) as Tybalt; Abraham (The Golem, Twelfth Night) as Friar Laurence; Tony winner Christine Baranski (Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rumors) as Nurse; Tony winner Cullum (Shenandoah, Measure for Measure) as Capulet; Tony nominee David Harbour (The Merchant of Venice, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) as Abraham, Capulet Servant and Paris' Page; Tony winner Bill Irwin (King Lear, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) as Montague; Sandra Oh (Stop Kiss) as Lady Montague; Tony winner Phylicia Rashad (A Raisin in the Sun, Everybody’s Ruby) as Lady Capulet; and Tony nominee Michael Stuhlbarg (The Pillowman, Hamlet) as Paris. Sharon Washington (Coriolanus) will read the stage directions. 

The cast will be joined on stage by live musicians playing original music by award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori.

Daniel Sullivan will direct the performance that celebrates to the day The Public Theater's 50-year anniversary of producing Shakespeare in the outdoor venue. This is the Public's annual fundraising gala.

The Public Theater has produced Romeo and Juliet twice before at the Delacorte (1968 and 2007). Streep, who has performed five times at the Delacorte since 1976, and Kline, who has performed nine times since 1970, will play the iconic teen-age roles for the first time in their careers, according to The Public. They last shared the Delacorte stage in a 2006 production of Mother Courage and Her Children.

Al Pacino, who starred in Sullivan's The Merchant of Venice at the Delacorte in 2010 (the production moved to Broadway), will be honored for his body of work with The Public Theater in the special evening, which includes dinner, the Shakespeare performance and a post-show party. Pacino's work with The Public Theater goes back to the early 1970s.

Ticket prices start at $1,500. For information about tickets for The Public Theater's Anniversary Gala, call (212) 539-8547 or visit shakespeareinthepark.org.

The benefit event is being chaired by Public Theater board members Arielle Tepper Madover and Alexandra Shiva.

The Delacorte Theater in Central Park officially opened on June 18, 1962, with a production of The Merchant of Venice, directed by Public Theater founder Joe Papp and Gladys Vaughn and featuring George C. Scott and James Earl Jones.

Conceived by Papp as a way to make great theatre accessible to all, over the past 50 years more than five million people have attended more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals at the Delacorte.

The Public Theater is under the leadership of artistic director Oskar Eustis and executive director Patrick Willingham. Read more about The Public Theater's presence on Broadway in the Playbill Vault, the most comprehensive Broadway database on the internet.

Visit publictheater.org.