Times Square has become so synonymous with New York theatre that many people forget it was named after the venerable New York Times newspaper, after it moved into a former hotel on 42nd Street in 1904. The theatre district had begin on Lower Broadway, crept uptown to Astor Place, on to Union Square, and finally to Times Square where it can be found now.
Times Square became the heart of the city's entertainment industry after World War I, and just walking around the area (avoiding the crush and the hordes of moderately creepy Elmo and Mickey Mouse impersonators) will evoke memories of endless songs, from On Broadway to 42nd Street itself.
However, you don't have to fight your way through the often hellish crowds of Broadway in order to see great theatre in New York, especially in summer. Ever since the Delacorte Theatre opened in 1962, fans have been queueing to see world-class troupes bring The Bard to the New York public thanks to Shakespeare in the Park.
New York theatre director/producer Joseph Papp founded the Shakespeare Theatre in 1954, but after the open-air, 1,872-seater Delacorte was built in Central Park it has found a permanent home there for around two months each summer. The theatre is a short stroll from the 81st Street/Central Park West subway station, (lines B and C).
Two performances are put on annually, occasionally featuring non-Shakespeare plays but generally showcasing the Stratford scribe and always showing at least one of his works. You have missed the first half of 2016’s double-header, a wonderful all-female production of the misogynistic ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ but may still be in time for the summer’s second offering, ‘Troilus and Cressida.’ And you can even bring your own snacks and drinks!
The ticketing policy can be a little complicated, but that is mainly because, like all the best things in life, tickets are free. Since they are only available on the day of each performance, people begin queueing for them outside the Park gates before it even opens (at 6am!) for particularly popular performances. These early birds can snap up two tickets each when the ticket office opens at midday, and they are also available by lottery, (either in person or through the popular Today Tix app), or by becoming a patron in advance. There is even a senior line, closer to the booth, which gives you easy access seating, (but don’t forget to bring your ID to prove you are over 65!)
Your best bet as a visitor, however, is probably to return later in the day for a shot at returned tickets. These are given out, one per person, at 7:30pm the night of each performance, (which begin at 8pm), and queues generally form by 4pm, often earlier. Bring a blanket, a book and some snacks, make some friends, and be sure whoever is going to the play with you can join you before 6pm, at which point staff ‘close’ the line and you can no longer hold the place for friends. It’s a great opportunity to see a professional performance often featuring some big names, keeping up the tradition of the theatre’s first performance over half a century ago, a ‘Merchant of Venice’ featuring none other than James Earl Jones: Darth Vader himself!
When he isn’t exploring New York and queueing up for Shakespeare tickets, Doron is generally reading books and blogging about his literature addiction. You can read more from him at his blog, doronklemer.wordpress.com