One of the best parts of summer is all the outdoor performances and one of the best things in NYC is the free Shakespeare in the Park.
Most of these productions are so very good and there is always a buzz around in terms of people trying to get tickets or who have seen the current performance.
However getting tickets can be a bit complicated if you’ve never done it before. So I will try to break it down for you.
What is Shakespeare in the Park
The original Shakespeare in the Park was born from an idea by director-producer Joseph Papp in 1954. The original started as various Shakespeare workshops then to smaller scale productions on the Lower East Side. Eventually in the 1960s the current Delacorte Theater was built and performances began at its current location in 1962.
The productions are world class and have seen many famous performances grace its stages. You never know who may be performing in the upcoming productions. Even if without well-known performances the acting, direction, and stage design is top notch.
When is Shakespeare in the Park
The Public Theater puts on two different Shakespeare in the Park performances each summer.
Performances Run Tuesday – Sunday.
Shakespeare in the Park Productions for 2023
Where is Shakespeare in the Park Performed?
Shakespeare in the Park performances are held at the Delcorte Theater on the West Side of Central Park.
The easiest way to get here is to enter the Park on West 81st St. and Central Park west.
Closest Subway: Museum of Natural History (B / C)
How Much are tickets to Shakespeare in the Park?
I didn’t realize that this was a popular inquiry but tickets are free! It is one of the best free things to do in NYC, and a great way to spend a summer evening in Central Park. However, if you don’t want to try for tickets and have money to spare, there are ways to get tickets for a donation (detailed below).
Can you Buy Tickets to Shakespeare in the Park?
The short answer is Yes.
Basically you can reserve yourself two tickets to a Shakespeare in the park production if you donate $500 or more to the Public Theater. It is possible to reserve more tickets with a higher donation (i.e. higher Support Tier)
Its these purchases along with donations from private and corporate sponsors that allows Shakespeare in the Park to be free.
If you want to donate. You can reserve your tickets at the Support Page. Donations I believe are also tax deductible.
What you need prior to getting Tickets
You must have a Public Theater Patron ID to get free tickets.
Register at the Public Theater website and you’ll see a patron ID as part of your registration.
Once you Register. Look on your profile for your Patron ID. You just need the ID # (or a screenshot of the profile page) to provide.
Where to get Tickets
You can either line up or enter the various lotteries to win tickets. Each person can get up to two tickets from one of the various methods.
Lining up for Tickets in the Morning
Each morning of a performance tickets are handed out at the Delacorte theater in Central Park at 12pm. However you’ll need to get in line way before then. The park “technically” opens at 6am, but I’ve found that around 8 – 9am is generally sufficient.
There is also a standby line each evening for any unclaimed tickets for that night’s performance. You can get very lucky and possibly even show up just before the performance. You must be in line by about 630pm for the performance. Tickets are distributed at 730pm.
We’ve found you should get there by about 430 – 5pm to get tickets in standby.
Note: You may or may not get two seats together.
Through the Show Ticket App – TodayTix – you can enter a digital lottery each morning for that day’s performances.
You’ll be notified around noon each day if you win. You have about 45minutes to claim your tickets via the app. Tickets can be retrieved at the Delacorte theater between 5pm and 7:30pm. Any tickets not claimed by 730pm are forfeited to standby patrons.
In Person Lottery
At the Public Theater (425 Lafayette St) each performance day there is a lottery for tickets for that day’s performance. You need to enter the lottery starting at 11am for the noon drawing.
Closest Subway Locations: Astor Place (4 / 6) or 8th Street (N / R / W)
As part of a plan to encourage residents of the outer boroughs (Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island), a limited number of vouchers are distributed in each of those boroughs.
The vouchers are redeemed at the Delacorte Theater for tickets. You must claim your ticket by 730pm.
You can view the ticket distribution locations here.
Tips for Getting Tickets
- Weekends are busier than weekdays. Particularly Saturdays. Plan accordingly for your wait time.
- You only need to have one person for every two people you are planning to get tickets for. You’ll need to be in line to get tickets.
- Generally for standby you can often get another one of your friends in line with you. Don’t abuse this or you might all get kicked out.
- Bring snacks, blankets, seats for the long wait. Bring water if the weather is warm and sunblock. We made waiting to be a bit of a picnic out with friends.
- There are bathrooms at the public theater (and a snack bar). You’ll need someone with you to watch your spot though if you need to go.
- You can bookmark the lottery page on TodayTix. Makes it easier to enter each day.
- Have your Patron ID information saved as an image in your phone.
- If you are flexible and don’t care where you sit (or whom you sit next to), the standby line can be a great way to possibly score last minute tickets.
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- How to Score Cheap Broadway Tickets
- How to Get Tickets to Free Live Tapings – NYC
- Free & Low Cost Museums in NYC
- Best Free Things to Do in NYC
Have you been to Shakespeare in the Park? Any other tips or advice you’d share? Did I miss something or did my article help you out? Let us know!
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