The Ultimate Guide to NYC's Shakespeare in the Park

See Shakespeare Under the Stars in Central Park (for Free!)

••• Photo credit: The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park / Joan Marcus

This beloved summer tradition has brought the Bard to Manhattan's Central Park for more than 50 years. Presented by The Public Theater, the free Shakespeare in the Park productions are predictably one of summer's hottest tickets, proposing a transporting journey from under the stars of Central Park to time-honored Shakespearean worlds. Below, read up on everything you need to know about making the most of the 2016 season of Shakespeare in the Park.

What productions and actors are being featured for 2016?

Three plays will be put on for the 2016 summer season. The Taming of the Shrew kicked things off, as directed by Phyllida Lloyd, and starring Katherina (as played by Olivier Nominee Cush Jumbo) and Petruchio (as portrayed by Tony and Olivier winner Janet McTeer). As The Public Theater describes, this is "Shakespeare’s original screwball comedy showing the lengths men will go to for their legacy, what women will do to break free, and the outrageous things we all do for the human heart."

Next up is the rarely produced Troilus and Cressida, directed by Tony-winning director Daniel Sullivan. The producers give this synopsis: "Both warriors and lovers play hard to get in this surprisingly modern epic about the hot blood, hot thoughts, and hot deeds of the ancient Greeks."

There will also be a short run on a musical adaptation of Twelfth Night, as directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah with music and lyrics by Shaina Taub; it's being presented by Public Works.

When is Shakespeare in the Park scheduled in 2016?

The Taming of the Shrew ran from May 24 through June 26; Troilus and Cressida is scheduled from July 19 through August 15; and Twelfth Night runs from September 2 through September 5. Performances are generally held every day except Mondays during their runs, at 8pm.

The theater opens approximately 30 minutes prior to showtime.

Where is Shakespeare in the Park held?

The shows are performed at the open-air Delacorte Theater in Central Park, with the Belvedere Castle in the backdrop. The closest park entrance is at 81st Street and Central Park West.

How can I get tickets to Shakespeare in the Park?

Scoring tickets to Shakespeare in the Park takes some perseverance and luck. There are several ways to get free tickets, which are issued on the same day of the event, and limited to two tickets per customer. Note that seating locations are distributed at random. Click through the links below for all the official ticketing details from The Public Theater:

  • Line Up at the Delacorte Theater: The traditional way of nabbing seats, tickets are distributed at noon on each performance day; note that ticket lines can be painfully long (folks have been known to start lining up at 6am, when the park gates officially open).
  • Virtual Ticketing Lottery: The easiest way to get seats, though there are no guarantees, is via this random online lottery, administered by the TodayTix app.
  • Downtown Distribution Lottery at Astor Place: A limited number of same-day vouchers are also distributed downtown at The Public Theater (425 Lafayette St. at Astor Pl.).
  • In the Boroughs: On select dates, a limited number of vouchers for the same day's performance will be distributed at locations throughout the five boroughs.
  • Become a Summer Supporter: Make a $200 donation toward Shakespeare in the Park and The Public Theater, and get a guaranteed seat for the production of your choosing.
  • Going Standby: A long shot, but there is a standby line that starts at 6pm at the Delacorte Theater for any unclaimed tickets (note there's a limit of one per person).

Will there be bathrooms at the theater?

Yes, there's a bathroom at the Delacorte Theater, but lines can be quite long – go before you come to avoid the hassle.

Will there be food and drink for sale at the theater?

Yes, there are light bites and beverages like hot dogs, pretzel, ice cream, beer, and lemonade for sale.

You can also bring your own food and beverages (so long as everything fits under your seat), though glass containers are prohibited.