no Shakespeare in the Park for me

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, then you may have followed my mini saga this morning as I attempted to get a pair of free tickets to tonight’s performance of Twelfth Night, starring Anne Hathaway, at the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park. She’s been getting spectacular reviews, which is nice, but that’s not why I wanted tickets. It’s free Shakespeare. In Central Park. I’ve attended many Shakespeare in the Park productions, and it’s always lovely sitting outside in the Delacorte Theater on a summer night being serenaded by the Bard. So to speak.

This year, though…
The last time I saw Shakespeare in the Park, in 2006 — when Liev Schreiber was playing Macbeth — I was in line for tickets by about 7:30am, and there were only a few dozen people ahead of me. The Public Theater distributes tickets for that night’s performance — limit of two per person — starting at 1pm, but the line always fills up way before that. (The first year I tried for tickets, ages ago now, I showed up at 10am, and was told there was no point in waiting, the line was already so long that I’d never get tickets.)

So I showed up for the line today a little before 7am, with my brother Ken, who Facebook’d this on his way to meet me this morning:

Ungodly; out the door while still it’s dark
To queue for tix to Shakespeare in the Park

It was madness. The line was blocks long, snaking through the paths of Central Park, looping around and back on itself more than once. And it got worse when the NYC Parks people tried to organize it a bit, tried to straighten out the loops and tighten up the line: people started either getting legitimately confused and lost, or were taking the chance to jump ahead.

Whatever: it was all moot, because only a few minutes later, a guy from the Public Theater came to tell us that there was no chance in hell that the folks as far back on the line as we were would be getting tickets.


Ken and I talked to some people near the front of the line as we were leaving the park: they’d been there since 5am, the people at the very front since 4am. Which means they would wait eight or nine hours for tickets to a play that runs maybe two and a half hours.

I’m not sure that that’s not too high a price to pay for free tickets.

Twelfth Night closes on Sunday, and I don’t have another day that I can devote to waiting in line (and organizing things so I could do so today was a semi-major undertaking), so there goes my chance for Shakespeare in the Park for this summer.

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Wed, Jul 08, 2009 11:15am

It’s a long shot, but you can try joining the virtual line.

That’s crazy, btw. I saw the show a few weeks back. Got there at 7 AM and was at the front of the line. Must be because it’s close to closing.

Wed, Jul 08, 2009 11:24am

last year the line at the Public theatre was eliminated due to construction, so i tried the “virtual line” every. single. day. nothing. i don’t believe it works.

Wed, Jul 08, 2009 11:49am

I won for “Hamlet.” “Hair” was a different story. Entered every single day, never won. Had to do the real line for that one.

Wed, Jul 08, 2009 11:56am

I had luck at the beginning of the run, before all the buzz. I also used the stand-by line, figuring I’d try that before waiting all day… and it worked. People always put if off until there’s big buzz or until the last couple of weeks.

Wed, Jul 08, 2009 12:14pm

“Hair” is by Shakespeare? Man, that guy *was* ahead of his times!

Wed, Jul 08, 2009 12:39pm

one year i *won* tix in an online competition, by composing a sonnet about the Public Theatre. awesome.

Wed, Jul 08, 2009 12:52pm

Do they still have the line downtown? That’s the one I waited in to see Patrick Stewart as Prospero in The Tempest some years back. That one is apparently significantly shorter than the one midtown. But who knows how things have changed?

Wed, Jul 08, 2009 2:01pm

Maybe they need a new method other than first come first serve. I dunno, some sort of lottery or something that doesn’t require devoting an entire day to standing in a line in Central Park.

Wed, Jul 08, 2009 3:29pm

I just hope they’ve done something about the Wall Street types paying their poor assistants to stand in line at 5am and then hand the tix over to their bosses.

Wed, Jul 08, 2009 10:22pm

I waited for 14 hours and I’m home at 10…consider yourself lucky…

Jeremy Heilman
Jeremy Heilman
Thu, Jul 09, 2009 12:47am

I actually won tickets this year using the virtual line a few weeks ago, but by dumb luck I won them on a night when I had tickets to a Phoenix concert. I ended up going to the concert, and passed the tickets on to a friend.

She raved, but the Phoenix concert was practically a rave itself, so no regrets.

Thu, Jul 09, 2009 1:03am

Am I the only one picturing Liev Schreiber performing Macbeth as Sabretooth?

… guess so. LOL

Thu, Jul 09, 2009 5:29pm

i’m not sure a “lottery” is any “fairer” than being willing to drag yourself out of bed in the dark of night and wait on line for 14 hours for tickets to a performance of *shakespeare*! the tix are free… if someone is willing to devote that kind of time to acquiring them, more power to them.

but it has to be said that there are a lot of problems with other types of ticket sales. in may, i was desperate for tix to see Leonard Cohen, who was performing first at the Beacon, then at RCMH. the tickets were sold online only. i sat, poised with my fingers over the keyboard for the starting time for both events. at the starting time, i couldn’t get on. after 3 minutes THREE MINUTES every single seat was sold out. every. single. one. (RCMH has approximately 6,000 seats — and they were sold out within 3 minutes?) but who was lucky enough to get them? i don’t know but they were available on StubHub and ebay and ticket broker sites within an hour at absolutely ridiculous prices — jacked up 100% in some instances.

so, i think it’s a hell of a lot fairer to stand on line — first come, first served, but at least you have to actually be there.

Fri, Jul 10, 2009 2:30pm

Is anyone trying to get tix this weekend? Any estimates on when you’d have to get there to be sure of tix on Saturday or Sunday? I imagine it’d be pretty early since it’s the weekend and these are the final shows…

Sat, Jul 11, 2009 12:59pm

I tried to get tix this morning (Sat the 11th) and I definitely recommend SKIPPING IT! I got there at 7am and was told the line began at 10pm last night, and that the last folks in line who’ll get tix arrived at 2 am.

It’s b/c of the great reviews and now it is the last few nights. Saw lots of inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags in the line. Will try the virtual line, just to see what happens.

Better luck next year.