This week, I checked off a major New York City bucket list item and saw The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park. If you’ve never heard of it, you must know that these performances are of Broadway material. Tony-award winning stars flood the stage every year, and there are usually two or three different performances throughout the summer. Best part? The tickets are free.
So that’s great and all, but how do you get tickets for Shakespeare in the Park? A massive, notorious Line, that’s how. The Line instills fear in many. I decided that it was time to conquer this Line on Saturday, so I grabbed a friend, and we tackled it head-on. It was by no means an easy feat…you must have extreme bravery and courage. Let me give you a preview of what it’s really like to wait in this line, so you can see if you’d like to do it yourself:
Blow-by-blow of our time in the LINE OF DOOM:
4:00 a.m. – I receive a personal wake-up call from my friend, Adina. This ensures that I actually get up. I am now held responsible for my actions and cannot say that I “missed the alarm.”
5:00 a.m. – I somehow make it to the edge of 81st and Central Park West. People are already lined up, yet the park is not open. We are about 17th in line. I think Adina is talking to me, but it is dark outside so I am still internally sleeping.
6:00 a.m. – Park actually opens, the sun is out and hopes are high. I am actually speaking in complete sentences.
6:30 a.m. – We have been escorted into Central Park by the theater staff – it feels like our own personal tour because NO ONE ELSE IS THERE. We settle down in a huge line outside the Delacorte Theater and wait.
7:00 a.m. – We are told that we cannot leave our blanket domain unless to pee and take a short walk around the vicinity. Adina wrestles with the fact that the box office opens at noon and not 10, leaving 2 extra hours she did not account for. Alas, a dear, dear gentleman arrives and hands us a menu for Columbus Gourmet Food. SWEET LORD. We order food that can be delivered directly to us in line. (New York City camping?)
7:30 a.m. – We FEAST! Food arrives and hopes are restored. Apparently this is also dog-walking time in the park. We are attacked by many cute dogs.
8:30 a.m. – Naps.
10:00 a.m. – We are refreshed. Stretches occur, as well as a little walk down the enormous line. The walk lasts 4 minutes. We didn’t count, but there are definitely hundreds of people waiting.
11:00 a.m. – We finally ask “what are we seeing?” because we didn’t think of everything, ok? Our phones tell us “Cymbeline.”
12:00 p.m. – We prepare to receive our precious tickets. We stand up, walk to the theater, and have our tickets by 12:02 p.m.
We peace out, sleep and return at 7:30 p.m. for the 8:00 p.m. show.
For the record, it was worth it. It was one of the most well-done plays I’ve ever seen in my life – everyone was so talented. And this one, Cymbeline, was hysterical and there was dancing and singing, so I was thoroughly entertained. The set itself was magnificent, especially as it turned dark and the trees surrounding the theater lit up and Belvedere Castle peeked out from behind the scenes.
So what did I take away from the line experience? How would I do it differently next time?
How to Survive the Line:
- Make sure it’s going to be a nice day. Nothing ruins 7 hours of waiting in line outside like a bunch of rain.
- Be careful getting to the park – 4:00 a.m. is very early, and there are not many people out and about. I would Uber.
- Bring a big comfy blanket for the ground, another for warmth (gets a little cold in the a.m.) and some chairs if you want them.
- Bring a cooler of food and drinks.
- Wear comfy, practical clothes, even if you’re going to get photographed in the park by the New York Post (yep, that’s me in that picture, walking to the bathroom). Years of looking like crap on the front page of the Metro section is worth your comfort.
- Bring your phone and a portable charger just in case! If you order food, the delivery person needs to call you to find out where you are in line.
- Bring books and magazines.
- Bring your dog if it’s well-behaved. Some people had them in line, and it was fun for everyone.
- Arrive 6:00 or earlier. The first person in line arrived at 3:30, we were very close to the front and arrived at 5. People a quarter down the line arrived at 6:00, but I wouldn’t get there much later than that because when the box office opens, you’ll have to wait in that line even longer to get your tickets (and you might not even get them).
- Don’t wait until the last week unless you want to get there at 3 a.m. (it will be packed!)
- Make friends with your line neighbors.
- Bring games if you go in groups. Or, download some on your phone like “Head’s Up.”
- You can get two tickets per person – invite a friend! They will be thankful they didn’t have to wait.
Make sure you check the schedule before waiting in line. You can apply for the lottery to win tickets, or you can even pay for tickets (big bucks), but none of those are as fun or memorable. Waiting in line is like the TRUE TEST of a New Yorker. Let me know if you go – hurry before the summer ends!