Shakespeare in the Park will return to NYC this summer

March 16, 2021

The Delacorte Theater. Photo credit: Joseph Moran

Bringing some much-needed sunshine on this dreary March day, the Public Theater on Tuesday announced plans to bring back its free Shakespeare in the Park program this summer. As first reported by the New York Times, the Theater is preparing to present just one production at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park for an eight-week run beginning in July. The news comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month announced live performances and events could resume in New York as early as April 2.

For this abbreviated 2021 season, the Public Theater will present “Merry Wives,” an adaptation by Jocelyn Bioh of Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives of Windsor.” The play is set in South Harlem “amidst a vibrant and eclectic community of West African immigrants” and will be a celebration of Black joy, according to the theater.

The free event will run from July 5 through August 29. Details about the performance schedule, safety protocols, and ticket distribution will be announced in the coming weeks.

“People want to celebrate,” Oskar Eustis, the theater’s artistic director, told the Times. “This is one of the great ways that the theater can make a celebration.”

The annual program was canceled in April last year because of the coronavirus pandemic and the theater had to lay off staff. In non-COVID times, tickets to Shakespeare in the Park are reserved for members of the Public Theater and then made available to the public through in-person lines and online lotteries. It’s not yet clear how the free tickets will be issued this year.

Starting April 2, live performance venues will be able to open at 33 percent capacity or up to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors, Cuomo announced. If all attendees present proof of a negative COVID test prior to entry, capacity can increase to 150 people indoors and 500 people outdoors, according to the state.

Some venues have already announced plans for performances, including The Shed, which will reopen next month with a five-night indoor performance series, and Lincoln Center, which will transform its 16-acre campus into 10 new outdoor performance venues beginning April 7.

In January, the state launched the “NY PopsUp” initiative, a program that includes 300 pop-up live outdoor events and performances around New York as part of a broader plan to revive the arts and culture industry in the state.

In other positive news, the NYC Parks announced they are hiring staff to help put on their free outdoor movie events, signaling a slight return to normalcy for the city in the warmer months ahead.


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