My love of Shakespeare in the Park is sort of limitless, which is odd because my love of Shakespeare is not. Every year, even years when I don't have a fond affection for the play being performed (like this year's Comedy of Errors), I look forward to going. Here is a not-so-well-kept-secret though -- the press and benefactors don't have to wait on line. Because of this, it has been many years since I experienced the line to get free tickets.
Last weekend however, I was walking through the park at around 10 a.m. and spied some people I hadn't seen in years. They were waiting for tickets. I joined them for a couple of hours and was reminded what a nice total experience Shakespeare in the Park is (not that I want to wait in line in the future or anything). You meet all kinds of eclectic people on the line. The couple in back of us was in their mid-40s, here from Kansas City and was bringing -- or trying to bring -- their teenage son to Comedy of Errors. The vast majority of the people in front of us all seemed to be young. My friends had arrived at 8 a.m. with a lot of water and a picnic blanket. They aren't the type of people who can afford to pay full price, or even half price, for most Broadway or major off-Broadway shows. This offered them a chance to see stars they knew from TV at an affordable price... nothing.
With arts funding being cut all over the place, and individual donations not completely filling the gap, I am constantly reminded of how difficult it is to present offerings like Shakespeare in the Park. Difficult, but exceedingly important. The Public is coming off a good season. While Giant was far from perfect, I was struck by its scope, and impressed by the enchanting orchestra. Although I've never been a huge Richard Nelson fan, I appreciated Sorry. I didn't see The Twenty-Seventh Man, but I read, and heard, Adam Feldman rave. Fun Home has great potential. Then there is Here Lies Love, the acclaimed Imedla Marcos musical brought to you by my favorite younger director, Alex Timbers. The show has been selling out and is rumored for a transfer to anywhere of a number of venues (including the Daryl Roth, warehouse spaces and the Circle in the Square). Hopefully this will all mean more members and more support for their free efforts, like Shakespeare in the Park. I suspect many people will choose to buy tickets -- or, um, support the Public and therefore receive a ticket -- to the "free" Love's Labour's Lost musical as well. Directed and adapted by Timbers (with music by Michael Friedman), the musical will star Daniel Breaker (King of Navarre), Kevin Del Aguila (Dull), Colin Donnell (Berowne), Andrew Durand (Boyet), Jeff Hiller (Nathaniel), Rebecca Naomi Jones (Jaquenetta), Justin Levine (Moth), Patti Murin (Princess), Lucas Near-Verbrugghe (Dumaine), Bryce Pinkham (Longaville), Charlie Pollock (Costard), Caesar Samayoa (Don Armado), Maria Thayer (Rosaline), and Audrey Weston (Katherine). It is destined to get a lot of attention.
Throughout the years, I have waffled on the Public, as I often don't agree with the season choices. However, Shakespeare in the Park is a treasure -- every year. It is my favorite thing to do in the summer. If you don't want to become a financial supporter of the Public, try the online lottery or the line. The latter is not as horrible as it seems.