"All the World's a Stage": One Woman's Survival Guide to Waiting in Line for Shakespeare in the Park
By Carey Purcell
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.
Make Yourself Comfortable
Bring a book or two, a deck of cards, board games, a crossword puzzle, an iPhone or even your iPad to stream a movie. Even if you manage to nap for a few hours while you are in line, people and dog-watching will probably get boring as the day goes on. Depending on how long you are waiting, you could even read the a copy of the play you're seeing that night.
The wait is always better if you have someone with you. You can help keep each other awake or take turns napping in shifts. Make sure you get in line together; people are not permitted to join groups after the lines are formed.
Make New Friends
Tickets are distributed at noon. Each person can get two tickets.
Before the park opens, the line for tickets starts at 81st and Central Park West. After the Park opens at 6 AM, the line moves to the Delacorte Theater. Someone from the Public Theater will come out and lead you there, but if you are waiting outside the park, you should probably set an alarm for 5:45 AM.
There are public restrooms by the theatre, in the park.
If you have any questions while you're in line, employees of the Public Theater will be there. They will talk with you while you wait and ensure that people respect the rules and don't cut in front of each other.
Thursday, July 25 – Staten Island
Friday, July 26 – Bronx
Saturday, July 27 – Brooklyn
Tuesday, July 30 - Manhattan
Wednesday, July 31 – Queens
If you can't leave your apartment or office, you can always enter the online lottery. Create an account at shakespeareinthepark.org and enter the virtual lottery. If you win tickets to that night's performance, you'll receive an e-mail at noon that day.
And for those who wait in the park...
Enjoy the Wait
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