Dumb Waiter: Shakespeare In the Park Guide


As the ancients said:

“Art, and the Shakespeare-in-the-Park line, is long, but Life is short.”

One of  New York City’s delights in the summer is the free theater offered by the Public Theater in Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre. Usually it consists of two different Shakespeare plays, one that opens in June and the other in July.

To get the free tickets, you have to show up at the Delacorte in the morning and wait on line until noon, when the tickets for that evening, a maximum of two per person, are given out.

The problem is figuring out what time to get on the line; although there are many tickets given out, for a popular production it is possible to be on the line and have enough people in front of you so that the tickets run out before they get to you. There’s nothing worse than getting to the park and seeing a long long line in front of you, and wait for hours, only to be told that there are no more tickets for that evening.

If you call up the Public and ask them what would be a recommended time to get there, they are cagily unhelpful. They will refuse to suggest a time, rightly feeling, I suppose, that if they gave out a time, it would just mean that people would all show up a bit earlier than that and cause a bottleneck even earlier.

If you are 65 or over, or disabled—and they will ask for proof—you may wait instead on a “Senior” line. Each person may still get two tickets, one of which must be for Senior or a disabled person, but the other ticketholder does not have to be a Senior or disabled. But if you call up the box office about the Senior line, they still will be quite Sphinx-like concerning what time to arrive to guarantee a ticket.

So, since I waited on line today, I decided I would keep track of how many people showed up hour by hour. This way you can judge for yourself what time you might want to come.

So, a couple of caveats; the best day, hands down, to guarantee admission, is to come on a weekday while the show is in previews , before its official opening. Once the play gets its initial media reviews, even if they are not positive, potential audience members become more aware of the show and the lines get longer, earlier. With that in mind here’s what happened today, waiting to get tickets for tonight’s performance of Othello:

7:00 AM: I arrived at the park, and there were 35 people ahead of me on the regular line. There was no one on the senior line.

8:00 AM: There were now 80 people on the regular line and 10 people on the Senior line.

9:00 AM: The regular line now had 115 people waiting, and 15 were on the Senior line.

10:00 AM: The regular line grew to 140 people, and the Senior line to 30.

At this point, I stopped keeping track. But when tickets were distributed at 12 noon sharp, everyone got tickets.

I have to say this is the first time of many occasions waiting where the line seemed so short. But as I said before that is probably because it was a weekday, and the show was still in previews. Be aware that these guidelines would be very different on a weekend and once a show has been reviewed.

Hope you get to see some of the shows this summer, the productions are always fun, and a worthwhile theater experience.



Go Ask Alice


(Click to enlarge)

Alice in Wonderland, sculpted by José de Creeft.

Legend has it that the Mad Hatter’s features are those of George Delacorte, who paid for the statue.

Central Park, near East 75th Street

New York, New York

Big-Time Bard’s Birthday Bash Soon



It’s April, which means that its time again to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday with the 7th annual Sonnet Slam at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, April 21st.

This year, I’ve been assigned Sonnet 70, which seems a little less daunting than some of the others I’ve had in past years.

That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air.
So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being woo’d of time:
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And thou present’st a pure unstained prime.
Thou hast pass’d by the ambush of young days,
Either not assail’d or victor being charg’d;
Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,
To tie up envy, evermore enlarg’d:
If some suspect of ill mask’d not thy show,
Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts should’st owe.

As always, the key to interpreting these sonnets is to first unpack the form into three quatrains and a couplet, and then to make sure that every word is understood with its original Elizabethan meaning. I found the first ten lines here fairly straightforward to understand: beautiful people attract envious slander, so don’t feel too badly about it.

It’s the last four lines which present me with syntactical and comprehension difficulty.

I think the sense of them is something like, thank goodness the power of this poem is not enough to ward off slander —because if it did, then you would be besieged by suitors, and by inference, the poet would not have you to himself. But it’s a little tricky, and I still have to work out its exact meaning.

Monday, Full of Grace

Paul Simon in New York’s Central Park invites you to Graceland this Monday morning.

Hear the crowd roar at the line “There is a girl in New York City/ Who calls herself The Human Trampoline.” For me, this song is Paul Simon at his songwriting best.

Shakespeare Sonnet Slam

Last April, I participated in the 4th Annual Shakespeare Sonnet Slam in Central Park. It’s a lot of fun—participants perform all 154 sonnets in order, one per person, all in one afternoon. It’s open to anyone who wants to do it. Email them about a month before Shakespeare’s birthday, April 26th, 2015, and they will assign you a sonnet to perform for this year’s event on April 24th.

I was assigned Sonnet 33 last year. I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with it beforehand. You can read it below. (BTW, it’s easier to deconstruct the meaning of a sonnet by breaking it up into three quatrains and a final couplet.)

Sonnet 33

Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out, alack, he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.
Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.

Just for fun back then, since I was playing around with learning how to edit sound digitally, using computer software, I made this recording of the sonnet.

Pro audio editing tip: You can make anything, even reading the phone book, sound a hundred times better if you layer it over a bed of Pachibel’s Canon in D.  🙂

(Click on the triangle to play)