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.



Morley: “If You’re Feeling Helpless”

Singing of pleasure and women of hope, the singer/songwriter Morley jazzes, sambas, and folks her way across the stage of Joe’s Pub in a sleek silver dress. Her generous spirit adds to the warm evening of song on a cold New York night.

Morley’s considerable talents project well in this venue.  Her voice is flexible and both her high and low registers are affecting. Her songwriting and singing are unique with echoes of Joni Mitchell and Tracy Chapman. Her writing when specific can be strong: “Unshackled” a new song she wrote about the practice of shackling pregnant prisoners in New York prisons is gripping. Her signature song, “Women of Hope,” is simple and direct in its imagery, especially with its references to protestor Aung San Suu Kyi’s  call to action: “If you’re feeling helpless, help someone.” Some of Morley’s songs have a tendency to be a bit too generic in their lyrical sentiments but on the other hand, Morley can also grab onto a resonant phrase like Sever the Ties and make something special of it. In her best work, she finds an image and dives deep.

As a composer, Morley takes risks, and you can hear her jazz influences. She also plays with standard pop form. She might begin with  a/b/a/b, but soon she’s taking flights in the middle up and down the universe before returning back to home base. Those twists and turns allow Morley to go deeper and wider, a bird’s eye view of the world.

The set was nicely shaped beginning with “Pleasure” (“I’m talking about spiritual pleasure, I’m talking about intellectual pleasure,” she teases as she seduces) backed by a strong band including Robin Macatangay on guitar. Her combo dwindles down to three then two then one as the evening becomes more intimate culminating in an Abbey Lincoln song, “Throw it Away,” followed by a new song called “Baldwin’s Wings” based on a James Baldwin essay. Other memorable songs included “Call on Me” and “A Life Fully Realized.” She rounded out the set by returning the band for a closing of “Love and Understanding” backed with a strong Latin beat. For the encore, she did an acoustic version of “Women of Hope” with the audience joining in on the refrain.

In the intro to one of her songs, Morley mentioned how the late choreographer Geoffrey Holder had said to her that art is this: you make a messy painting and then you find a way to make it beautiful.

Last night, Morley brought beauty along with love, spirit, and elegance to the evening.