There are no shortcuts to getting free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. Everyone has to wait in line, and the earlier you get there, the better your shot is.
Shakespeare in the Park is the free program of the Public Theater, with two performances at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park since 1962. This year, "Much Ado About Nothing," which premiered on June 3, will run until July 6, and "King Lear" will be on stage from July 22 until August 17.
Tickets are handed out at noon and given on a first come, first serve basis. Each person waiting in line can get vouchers for two tickets, which are given out between 4 and 7 p.m. the night of the performance. The park doesn?t open until 6 a.m., but some diehards wait outside the park gates starting the night before. During the production of "Twelfth Night" in 2009, Anne Hathaway and the rest of the cast went out after the performance and then ordered the people waiting for the next night?s performance pizza.
"It?s pretty much fair game," said Frank Gambino, the assistant theater manager.
"I?ve lived in New York, this is my 21st summer, and I?ve probably come every other year," said Manhattan resident Laurie Lewis, who arrived at 4:30 a.m. on Friday for a shot at tickets. "I don?t want to wake up early, come out early and miss getting tickets, so I?d rather err on the side of mega-early."
There?s also a virtual lottery, which begins at 12 a.m. the day of the performance and email is sent to ticket hopefuls by 2 p.m. The virtual lottery selects who will get tickets at random.
A group of people must start waiting at the same time, nobody can just meet a person in the middle of the line and no one can replace anyone else. Those in line can leave the line for a few minutes at the time for food or to use the restroom, but otherwise, bring plenty of things to do to entertain yourself for a morning in Central Park. The concession stand opens at 11 a.m., so be prepared.
Ronald Colbert of Staten Island, the first person who showed up to wait on line for the June 6th performance had arrived at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday night to wait for tickets.
?It?s worth it for the cost,? Colbert said. He recommends going before the press reviews any shows, bringing a collapsible canvas chair to sit on, refreshments, and an inflatable air mattress for sleeping, as well as plenty of reading material. He brought two books to read on Thursday and Friday.
Elizabeth Gilbert and Matt Shaw, both theater students who live in Manhattan, had arrived at 5:30 on Friday to get tickets. This is the first time seeing a Shakespeare in the Park performance, and they were taking selfies on the line to document their progress as well as a frisbee, books and "intellectual conversation" to keep themselves entertained.
Jodi Rothstein of Manhattan, who was playing cards while she waited, said she had a job interview while waiting on the line. She had arrived with two friends at 7:15 Friday morning.
"The time went really quickly," said Marcie Kaufman, who waited with Rothstein. Their tip for waiting in line: "Bring good friends."
But one Westchester resident near the end of the line at noon said he had showed up after a work meeting?which he had done the day before as well but hadn't gotten tickets. "I thought I was a genius since it was raining," he said.
"The chances are slim" of getting a ticket, he admitted on Friday. He said he frequently checks on Twitter to see if anyone is tweeting about the length of the line any day.
Note: The Westchester resident did get a ticket in the end. He was among the last 20 people to get one.