By Carol Tannenhauser
“Alas, Poor New York: Shakespeare in the Park is Canceled,” read a New York Times headline, on April 17, 2020.
What a difference a vaccine can make.
Rejoice, New York! The Public Theater, the nonprofit organization that founded and has run the festival since 1962, announced last week that Free Shakespeare in the Park is returning, “beginning July 6 through September 18, with MERRY WIVES, a fresh and joyous adaptation by Jocelyn Bioh of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by our Associate Artistic Director and Resident Director Saheem Ali.”
One aspect of this adored summer ritual will not be happening this year, however: the part that involves setting up camp in Central Park to secure free tickets.
“Due to current Health and Safety protocols, there will not be any day-of-performance, free ticket distribution lines in Central Park, in the boroughs, or at The Public’s flagship on Lafayette Street,” The Public Theater wrote. “Instead, this summer, free tickets will be distributed entirely via an advanced digital lottery hosted by our new partner, GOLDSTAR. Enter the lottery through the Goldstar app on Apple, Android, and the website each Tuesday and Friday, one week prior to the next week’s scheduled performances.” Click here for the schedule and further information.
The Delacorte Theater, an outdoor ampitheater, where Shakespeare is performed (enter the park at West 81st Street and keep walking), is allowed 80% of its 1,800-seat capacity, with both Full Capacity and Physically Distanced sections. Full Capacity sections are reserved for those who are COVID-19 vaccinated, and the Physically Distanced sections are reserved for those who are not COVID-19 vaccinated. Everyone will be required to wear a mask inside the venue, regardless of vaccination status.
“Now that the project is officially a go, the emotional weight of this experience is starting to kick in,” said Bioh, in an interview with Vanity Fair. “We all understand how precious what we do is and how easily it can be ripped away from us. That renewed spirit is going to be a really beautiful thing.”
Set in South Harlem, amid a community of West African immigrants, Bioh’s adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor, featuring an all-black cast, “is a New York story about tricks of the heart, performed in the heart of the City — Central Park’s magical Delacorte Theater,” wrote The Public. “A raucous spinoff featuring the Bard’s most beloved comic characters, this hilarious farce tells the story of the trickster Falstaff and the wily wives who outwit him in a new celebration of Black joy, laughter, and vitality.”
“’I believe that Black joy is an act of rebellion,’ Bioh said. ‘No one wants to see it enough. Those are not the stories that make mainstream news. Our resiliency is that, regardless of everything that we have been through, there is still joy,’ she says. ‘There is always comedy. There is always a way to celebrate, and to celebrate us.’”
So much wrong with this. For starters:
1. Why are we celebrating the senior cultural icon of white male patriarchy? Shakespeare wrote his last play around 1620; what could he possibly have to say to the 21st century?
2. With so many CoVid variants flying around like gypsy moths among unvaccinated people without masks, how can we countenance such a large gathering? People will surely get sick; some will die — for what?
3. Finally, the elitism: this is basically a party for privileged English majors and the culturally-ambitious, at a huge expense when the streets are crowded with our hungry and homeless. Surely there are better ways to spend money than on some meaningless festival with little public benefit.
Old ways die hard, but this relic is absurd, and an insult to to all who struggle.
“Shakespeare” may dazzle the easily-impressed and Eurocentric culture mavens, but as a wise man once wrote, “all that glisters is not golf.”
Yell at the cloud some more, old man.
You have no knowledge of the history of theatre do you.
You left out the part about ‘cultural appropriation’.
While this is obviously satire, woke progressives are completely serious when it comes to canceling people like Shakespeare.
I hope this is some sort of weird parody comment
oh gee – you must be fun at parties.
One of the great things about NYC is the free arts programming. And being vaccinated, I am quite comfortable taking advantage of it.
Who can party with so much injustice in the world? Don’t be so shortsighted!
Re1 “what could he possibly have to say to the 21st century?”
Really? Then why did Trump-lovers go so fruitcake over 2017’s “Julius Caesar” that they twice interrupted the show? And without the inspiration of “Romeo and Juliet” would there have been a “West Side Story”?
Re2 “Surely there are better ways to spend money”
The Public Theater relies on PRIVATE donations, such as The Carnegie Foundation, etc.
Re3 “the elitism: this is basically a party for privileged English majors and the culturally-ambitious”
Wikipedia: “Approximately 80,000 people attend Shakespeare in the Park every year” Hmmm, 80,000 privileged English majors??
This is great satire. Well done.
Gee. What tipped you off? Maybe the last line?
The whole account was dripping in satire. At least I hope it was for the author’s sake…
I’ll miss the lines!
Exclusive lottery access discriminates against the poor who do not have computers or cell phones. These events are held in a public park on public land. If you donate $500, you get tickets without going through the lottery. This year, Shakespeare is for the affluent. The Public wasted an opportunity to link access to vaccinations. Papp would be ashamed.
If you donate to the Public then you’re also helping to support the theater. Due to the limited seating capacity not everyone got the number of seats they would normally be allotted for their donation this year. In any case, it’s unlikely that most people don’t have access to a cell phone or another digital device to enter the lottery. I think you’re really reaching for a way to claim discrimination.
I have no mobile or wireless devices. This is as close as I come to “social media” participation.
How many of “the poor” could have afforded previously to take hours off work to wait in line for in-person tickets? I’m generally pretty sensitive to equity and access concerns, but I think you’re inventing problems here.
It’s the data plan issue. Maybe you have a prepaid or limited data or whatever that keeps you from being able to download their app. Not everybody can afford the more expensive smartphones that are even able to hold that many apps. If you buy the least expensive one, after you load a web browser, your email app, and maybe like Instagram or something, the phone won’t let you download more apps. It doesn’t have enough memory. You also have to remember that many of our public libraries, where internet access used to be readily available, are also still closed.
My first thought when I saw that they moved it this way was that tickets were basically going to be harder for the layman to get than ever. They’ve made it the same way as Broadway rush, and when’s the last time you or anybody you know ever got a ticket that way? Every tourist and their mother is going to be flooding that system before they come here on vacation.
Also, you can use your day off to stand in line, to your other point, but you can’t get an hour off on a work day to get tickets online. You may work in a white-collar job where you can pull your phone out every now and again, but not everybody in the city does. A lot of jobs (food service, construction, healthcare), when you are at work, you are working. I’ve worked retail jobs where if they saw you pull your phone out, you were fired.
We now have to worry about the data plan challenges of access to Shakespeare for a construction worker whose third most essential download is Instagram?
“Layman”? Like, there are professional ticket “getters”? Also, I was completely unaware that every facet of public life or spending had to take into account the frequency of “pulling out your phone” for every possible occupation.
And what do you have against the mothers of tourists? Why are they less important as theater goers? That’s just mean.
I think “truth and reason” is a very optimistic alias.
I love that we’re getting more satirical, parody comments on here. Well done, Peter! You almost had me thinking you don’t care about your fellow man.
Yes. Thank you for making those rational observations.
This theater-maker doesn’t have a cell phone by choice. I guess I don’t have Shakespeare in the Park this summer either.
…but you’re online right now? I thought it was ‘good news’ that the Public was able to expand their seating and extend their performances. No one has to take off time from work to order, as there are 12 hour windows to register. Stand-by tickets will also be offered. Too much drama over a non-issue. 🙁
If you have a way to leave silly comments on this blog, you have a way to sign up for the SIP lottery.
Hey, I’ve got an idea – how about let’s get excited about something for once??
I’m with Christine… can’t we have anything to enjoy, celebrate, or participate in, without someone taking a dump on it? It’s not a Klan rally, it’s Shakespeare in the Park, and a pretty woke-ass version of it at that. They’re literally giving free tickets away. That’s a good thing. A nice thing. No one is flying in to the Delacorte on a private helicopter or being fed grapes dipped in baby seal tears by indentured servants while they watch the play. It’s just an outdoor theater with seats, performers, and some entertainment.
How about we start from a place of “Yay, we can go out and do stuff without dying!” and then work our way up from there?
That first comment was clearly from someone trying to be funny, from a very bad, sad place of anger and fear that they might someday have to live in a just society. Imagine giving up your life to feeling that way instead of ENJOYING SHAKESPEARE COMING BACK.
Because ‘guilt’ is more entertaining than ‘gilt’.
Boy oh boy some of you sure know how to suck the life out of a room. Injustice does not preclude one from enjoyment of unrelated things. How about we let those who feel excluded from this speak up for themselves rather than assume they even care about getting tickets to an artistic performance. Something tells me they’ll take to the streets if they feel so strongly about it.