Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shakespeare in the Park: The Lead up

The experience of attending and obtaining tickets for NYC’s Shakespeare in the Park is a labor of love.

It’s a battle at the Delacorte Theater which you, a lone solider, take on with a group of strangers. When you complete your mission and obtain tickets, you celebrate with fan fair and an evening of free theater under the stars. For some, independent of the production or the story, it’s all about doing it – and saying you did it. For others, it’s only about the theater and for some unique creatures, like myself, it has to be a little bit of both.

Let me take you through the process. The Public Theater, which produces Shakespeare in the Park, offers free tickets to the shows the day of the performance. A maximum of two tickets per person are released to theatergoers at 1 pm, which is the bulk of the tickets for the night. Just this year, the organization also began offering a limited amount of tickets to people through their website the day of the show. Although it’s a kind gesture, I don’t know anyone who actually received tickets through this method (and believe me, we all tried). Rolling over in your bed and firing up your computer probably sounds much more appealing that setting your alarm clock and standing in line with strangers, it’s not a sure fire way to see the show. So, I opted to stand in line, or as New Yorkers say – stand on line.

The lines this year where the longest they have ever been, forcing the organization to actually define an “end of the line” near the south west corner of the reservoir. This year also brought the earliest line standers, with several performances drawing people in as early as 20 hours in advance. Business professionals, students, retirees, and actors lineup with air mattresses, cardboard boxes, sleeping bags, and multiple meals packed in coolers to obtain tickets to the show. I love theater, but quite honestly I love sleep and my social life just as much.

I attempted to obtain tickets to the Public Theater’s most popular production of the summer, The Merchant of Venice on July 19. I arrived in the Park at 7:15 am, and met up with my friend Emily about 100 yards away from the south west corner of the Reservoir. The line attendants, including a very hot actor, told us at 8:30 am that there was no chance of us obtaining tickets.

My second attempt was on July 27, for the less popular and star-studded performance of The Winter’s Tale. The show had received some poor reviews and although I was pretty amazed by the casting, it didn’t have the star power of Al Pacino behind it. I happen to love the story of The Merchant of Venice and was always confused by The Winter’s Tale but knew the production would be worth it.

I arrived at the theater at 9 am and walked along the line till I hit the end; still on the walkway just before it made it’s first turn onto the dirt. I knew I was safe and was ecstatic from the moment I showed up. I took my place next to a very nice gentleman from the Upper West Side who ordered his breakfast sandwich to be delivered to him in line (a true NYC experience) and began chatting with the high school English teacher a bit further up the line. For entertainment and to avoid starvation I brought several magazines, my book club book (Girl in Transition), my camping chair, a towel, hummus and carrots, iced coffee and water, but I ended up playing with my iPhone and talking to the people in line most of the time.

As noon rolled around we began moving forward and obtained tickets at 1:30 pm! I almost couldn’t believe it. And, wow, was it ever worth it! Check out my review of the show in the following posting.

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