The Delacorte Theater. Photo credit: Joseph Moran.
Now in its 58th season, the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park has announced its 2020 season, which will feature two free performances– “the rarely seen drama” Richard II, and a musical adaptation of As You Like It choreographed by Sonya Tayeh of Moulin Rouge! Watching an open-air production in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater is a true New York City tradition, as is lining up for tickets (though these days, there is also a digital lottery option).
PUBLIC WORKS Musical Adaptation of William Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT conceived by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub, with music and lyrics by Shaina Taub, choreography by Lorin Latarro and directed by Oskar Eustis and Kwame Kwei-Armah. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.
Richard II has only appeared at The Delacorte once 30 years ago, at which time Public Theater founder Joseph Papp directed the production with Peter MacNicol playing Richard alongside Marian Seldes, Tony Shalhoub, John Bedford Lloyd, Tom Aldredge, and Rocky Carroll. A story of “lost sovereignty, political intrigue, and psychological complexity,” according to the press release, the drama details the life of King Richard II at the end of the Medieval Ages, from 1398 to 1400, during which time he fights for land and power with his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, who will later become Henry IV. It is one of Shakespeare’s only works written entirely in verse.
Richard II will run from May 19th until June 21st and is being directed by Saheem Ali, whose most recent success was Signature Theater’s Fires in the Mirror. His other Shakespeare credits include Henry V for NYU Grad in 2018, Twelfth Night for the Public Theater Mobile Unit in 2017, and an associate directing role for Shakespeare in the Park’s 2015 production of The Tempest.
Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It is “an immersive tale of faithful friends, feuding families, and lovers in disguise” where the four main characters find refuge in the magical Forest of Arden after being banished from their homes. This musical adaptation of the play first premiered in 2017 through the theater’s Public Works program, which works with partner organizations across the five boroughs to include community members as well as professionals in productions.
As You Like It will run from July 14th until August 8th. It was adapted by songwriter, composer, and performer Shaina Taub, who is also an Artist-in-Residence at the Public Theater, along with Laurie Woolery, the director of Public Works. In addition, music and lyrics are by Taub, and she will play the role of Jacques (previously, she adapted Twelfth Night for Shakespeare in the Park). Woolery will direct the show, and the original choreography is by Sonya Tayeh who made a name for herself on the television show So You Think You Can Dance and most recently choreographed Moulin Rouge! on Broadway. Along with Taub, Darius de Haas as Duke Senior and Joél Pérez as Touchstone will reprise their lead roles. The rest of the professional cast is yet to be announced, but they will be joined by two rotating ensembles of roughly 200 amateur actors.
In a statement, artistic director Oskar Eustis said, “There is no issue in the world that can’t be helped by a little Shakespeare. This summer, Richard II explores the extraordinary danger and possibility of regime change and As You Like It celebrates a Forest of Arden where all refugees are welcome. Laurie Woolery and Saheem Ali make their Shakespeare in the Park directing debuts and these brilliant artists will prove to us, once again, that Shakespeare is the most democratic of dramatists.”
A photo of the line for Shakespeare in the Park. Photo credit: Courtesy of The Public Theater.
Members of the Public Theater receive tickets to Shakespeare in the Park; the rest of the free tickets are available through several lotteries that open up tickets every day there is a performance. There are in-person lines at the Delacorte Theater, the Public Theater lobby, and other locations throughout the five boroughs, as well as an online lottery. More details will become available on May 1st and can be found here >>