Shakespeare in the Park (or Free Shakespeare in the Park) is a theatrical program that stages productions of Shakespearean plays at the Delacorte Theater, an open-air theater in New York City's Central Park. The theater and the productions are managed by The Public Theater and tickets are distributed free of charge on the day of the performance. Originally branded as the New York Shakespeare Festival (NYSF) under the direction of Joseph Papp, the institution was renamed in 2002 as part of a larger reorganization by the Public Theater.
The festival was originally conceived by director-producer Joseph Papp in 1954. Papp began with a series of Shakespeare workshops, then moved on to free productions on the Lower East Side. Eventually, the plays moved to a lawn in front of Turtle Pond in Central Park. In 1959, parks commissioner Robert Moses demanded that Papp and his company charge a fee for the performances to cover the cost of "grass erosion." A court battle ensued. Papp continued to fight Moses, winning his enduring respect and the quote "well, let's build the bastard a theater." Following this, Moses requested funds from the city for the construction of an amphitheater in the park. In 1961, the Delacorte Theater was built. The first performance held in the theater in 1962 was Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, starring George C. Scott and James Earl Jones.
The Delacorte Theater is an open-air amphitheater located on the southwest corner of the Great Lawn in Central Park, closest to the entrance at 81st Street and Central Park West. It was built in 1961 and named for George T. Delacorte, Jr., who donated money for its creation. Belvedere Castle and Turtle Pond provide a backdrop for the shows at the Delacorte. As shows at the Delacorte begin in the early evening, shows usually start in daylight; as the play rolls on, the sun sets and the audience is drawn into the illuminated action on the stage. Since 1962 the Public has had the privilege of its exclusive use.
Tickets to Shakespeare in the Park are free and tickets for a given performance are distributed the same day by various methods:
Shakespeare in the Park also offers specific performances throughout the summer for patrons with hearing and/or vision loss including Sign Language interpreted performances, audio-described performances, and open-captioned performances.
Each summer since the Delacorte's opening has seen between one and three works produced, with two works being standard since 1973. The plays of Shakespeare account for about four-fifths of the works produced, and, except for 1977 and 1980, each summer's line-up has included at least one work by Shakespeare (or, in the case of 1970, one work adapted from Shakespeare). Non-Shakespeare productions have included plays such as Anton Chekhov's The Seagull and Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt and musicals such as On the Town, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the latter two having made their world debuts at the Delacorte.
The 2017 production of Julius Caesar stirred up controversy over the similarities between President Donald Trump and the production's portrayal of Caesar. Despite the fact that the play, which revolves around the murder of Caesar, is widely viewed as a cautionary tale against political violence and "the use of antidemocratic means to defend a democracy", commentators objected to what they characterized as the murder of a stand-in for President Trump. In response to online backlash, Delta and Bank of America withdrew their sponsorship of the production. One performance was interrupted by activists Laura Loomer and Jack Posobiec.
The Public Theater is heavily reliant on private donors. In 2005, the theater company was among 406 New York City arts and social service institutions to receive part of a $20 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which was made possible through a donation by then-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Many plays from the summer festival have gone on to Broadway, including Wilford Leach's staging of The Mystery of Edwin Drood from the 1984–1985 season and The Tempest from the 1995–1996 season. The festival has also attracted many well-known actors, such as Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman, Martin Sheen, and Al Pacino – the latter two of whom appeared as Brutus and Marc Antony in a toga-clad historical production of Julius Caesar, directed by Stuart Vaughan in 1987, in the first of the NYSF's Shakespeare Marathon. Since its inception, the festival has become popular with both New York natives and visitors to the city, and while the Delacorte Theater has 1,872 seats, prospective theatergoers can expect to sit in line for hours before the early afternoon ticket distribution. Approximately 80,000 people attend Shakespeare in the Park every year.
Over the years, the New York Shakespeare Festival supported other theatre companies throughout New York, helping to foster the growth of Off-Broadway, as well as specific theatre programs and projects. Among these companies that benefited from NYSF during critical periods of their development was the Theatre for a New Audience. The Theatre for a New Audience developed a number of productions sponsored by the NYSF, including A Midsummer Nights Dream, presented at the Ansbacher Theatre, and through this sponsorship, the company was able to grow and expand its outreach to new audiences. Another such company was the Riverside Shakespeare Company. The Festival, under Papp's leadership, sponsored several Riverside Shakespeare Company productions at a critical stage in its development, beginning with Riverside's New York premiere production of Brecht's Edward II in 1982 at The Shakespeare Center on the Upper West Side (dedicated by Joseph Papp in 1982), followed by Equity parks tours of free Shakespeare throughout the five boroughs of New York City, much as the NYSF had done for years before. Riverside Shakespeare Company summer parks tour of Free Shakespeare sponsored by the NYSF began with A Comedy of Errors in 1982, followed by The Merry Wives of Windsor, featuring Anna Deavere Smith in her New York stage debut as Mistress Quickly, Romeo and Juliet, and The Taming of the Shrew. During the NYSF period of support, the Riverside Shakespeare Company expanded greatly, offering for the first time The Shakespeare Project in 1983, and serving a wide range of audiences in the five boroughs.
John Lithgow is an American actor, musician, poet, author, comedian and singer. He made his film debut in the comedy-drama Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues (1972). He has since then appeared in over 50 films, countless television projects and on stage. Lithgow's first appearance on stage came in 1973, in a Broadway production of The Changing Room by David Storey, for which he won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play and a Drama Desk Award. Some of his other theater work he performed in were My Fat Friend (1974), Trelawny of the 'Wells' (1975) and the 1976 plays A Memory of Two Mondays / 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, Secret Service and Boy Meets Girl. Lithgow subsequently acted in films such as Obsession (1976), The Big Fix (1978), the 1979 films All That Jazz with Roy Scheider and Rich Kids, Blow Out (1981) starring John Travolta and I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can (1982).Lithgow's breakthrough came after playing a former football player turned transsexual Roberta Muldoon in a supporting role in the comedy-drama The World According to Garp (1982) with Robin Williams. Lithgow was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role. He then portrayed an airplane passenger who suffers from aviophobia in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). Later the same year, Lithgow went on to play a science professor in the television disaster film The Day After, which won him an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Special. As 1983 came to a close, he also featured in Terms of Endearment, where he played the role of a banker with Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger and Jack Nicholson, thus earning Lithgow his second Academy Award nomination in the same category. In addition, Lithgow had a string of main and supporting roles during the 1980s, notably in the 1984 films Footloose, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, 2010, Santa Claus: The Movie, The Manhattan Project (1986) and Harry and the Hendersons (1987).The 1990s saw Lithgow continue to appear in various Hollywood films, namely Ricochet (1991) opposite Denzel Washington, Raising Cain (1992), Cliffhanger (1993) starring Sylvester Stallone and The Pelican Brief (1993), where he was reunited with Washington. He was cast in a main role in the 1996 television sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, where he played a high-ranking commander of an alien unit of four who have been sent to Earth to retrieve information under the disguise as a university professor. The show spanned over 100 episodes, during which Lithgow won one Golden Globe and three Emmy Awards for his role, before ending in 2001. That same year, he became the character of Lord Farquaad in the animated fantasy-comedy film Shrek (2001) and later Shrek the Third (2007). Other roles Lithgow appeared in during the 2000s were The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004) with Geoffrey Rush, where he portrayed the famed director, screenwriter and producer Blake Edwards, Kinsey (2004) and Dreamgirls (2006). Lithgow also starred in the short-lived sitcom Twenty Good Years (2006). In 2009, he joined the cast of crime show Dexter as Arthur Mitchell, a family man who lives a double life as a serial killer. He appeared in a total of twelve episodes as the main antagonist on the fourth season, and for his performance, he won his second Golden Globe and fifth Emmy Award. Lithgow's later roles during the 2010s includes the science fiction film Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), the sitcom How I Met Your Mother (2005–14), where he performed as a guest star in four episodes in the role as the father of executive Barney Stinson, as the voice of Percy the White Rabbit in ABC's fantasy-drama and spin-off program Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (2013–14), and the 2014 films Love Is Strange, alongside fellow co-star Alfred Molina, The Homesman, and Interstellar. Lithgow can be seen as Winston Churchill in the television drama series The Crown (2016).Linda Lavin
Linda Lavin (born October 15, 1937) is an American actress and singer. She is known for playing the title character in the sitcom Alice and for her stage performances, both on Broadway and Off-Broadway.
After acting as a child, Lavin joined the Compass Players in the late 1950s. She began acting on Broadway in the 1960s, earning notice in "It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman" in 1966 and receiving her first Tony Award nomination in Last of the Red Hot Lovers in 1970. She moved to Hollywood in 1973 and began to work in television, making recurring appearances on the sitcom Barney Miller before getting the title role in hit comedy Alice, which ran from 1976 to 1985. She appeared in many telefilms and later in other TV work. She has also had roles in several feature films.
In 1987, she returned to Broadway, starring in Broadway Bound (winning a Tony Award), Gypsy (1990), The Sisters Rosensweig (1993), The Diary of Anne Frank (1997–1998) and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife (2000–2001), among others. In 2010, she appeared as Ruth Steiner in Collected Stories, garnering her fifth Tony nomination. She starred in NBC's short-lived sitcom, Sean Saves the World as Lorna and the CBS sitcom 9JKL.Tom Kitt (musician)
Thomas Robert Kitt (born February 28, 1974) is an American composer, conductor, orchestrator, and musician. For his score for the musical Next to Normal, he shared the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama with Brian Yorkey. He also won the Tony Award and 2008 Outer Critics Circle Award, and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for American Idiot and Everyday Rapture.