Everything moves outside during summer in NYC: dining, drinking, dancing. Catching live music on a balmy New York night is tough to beat but absorbing some life-enriching culture in the form of Shakespeare in the park might just do it. Central Park’s main run has already come to an end, and it’s notoriously tough to get tickets as it’s heavily oversubscribed. The early bird doesn’t necessarily catch the worm and when you’re sweating bullets, so who wants to spend all day lining up? But there’s no need to lament another summer of missed opportunities to see the Bard’s work al fresco; you can still catch some contemporary productions across the city this week and into September.
At Summit Rock in Central Park, you can see The Taming of The Shrew from Friday the 2nd to Sunday the 4th for its second and final week. The Barefoot Shakespeare Company is dedicated to bringing Shakespeare to a wide and diverse audience; earlier in the summer they performed As You Like It at Summit Rock. For The Taming of the Shrew they’ve updated the story by setting it in the 1950s in this raw, sharp production. Friday’s performance starts at 18:00, and Saturday and Sunday starts at 16:00. It’s free and to get there you can take the B or C trains to the Natural History Museum stop on 81st Street.
A musical adaptation of Twelfth Night is another chance to see Shakespeare, albeit more contemporary in execution, at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Public Works have put on this ambitious production, and the diverse offering is directed by Artistic Director of Baltimore’s Center Stage, Kwame Kwei-Armah, with music and lyrics by the critically acclaimed songwriter Shaina Taub. It’s bound to be a feast for the senses. It’s on for four nights from 20:00 on Friday the 2nd to Monday the 5th. Admission is free and tickets are available from 12:00 in the park but reserved seats can be purchased for $75.
From September 1st to 17th you can see Measure for Measure in Bryant Park, 6th Avenue at 42nd Street. The Drilling Company also put on summer performances of Shakespeare in a Parking Lot, and it’s their third year of putting on Shakespeare in Bryant Park. This interpretation of Measure for Measure moves from the brothels of Vienna to a battle of the sexes set in the South. On Thursdays the performance starts at 21:00, it’s at 18:30 Friday and Saturday evenings, and there’s a matinee performance most Sundays at 14:00. Bryant Park is a stunning park to visit at any time of year. Admission is free at the midtown Manhattan park, spitting distance from the Public Library. There are food kiosks, great coffee and bistro chairs on hand, as well as plenty of lawn for picnic blankets.
And finally it’s particularly fortuitous that there’s still a chance to see Gorilla Rep’s annual production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, now in its 26th year with Director Christopher Carter Sanderson at the helm. It’s staged in the beautiful southwest corner of Washington Square Park from 20:00 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, until the final performance on Sunday, September 4th. The production script is completely uncut, as it has always been. I spoke to Sanderson about what’s so special about watching Shakespeare outside in New York City.
“Running around, chasing fairies and lovers in the park is not to be missed,” he said. “This unique staging launched the contemporary immersive theatre movement in NYC and around the world.”
This play is the hallmark production of this long-running and influential company and the subject of the scholarly work Gorilla Theatre (UK publisher, Routledge 2003).
“It is thrilling to be in an audience that is mixed up and rearranged at every turn, and in the summer NYC’s audience for free, outdoor theatre is made up of every class and kind of people. During Gorilla Rep’s Midsummer, they all laugh and cry at the same things. It’s magical.”
There’s something truly enchanting about seeing Shakespeare’s plays performed 400 years later in a modern-day Manhattan setting. A unmissable quintessential New York experience.