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Insider Tips for Getting Tickets to Shakespeare in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park tickets

ZEALnyc, May 29, 2018

The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park is one of the best theater deals in town, because as its title states: it’s FREE! This season will bring a new production of Othello, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and will bring back the 2016 Public Works’ musical adaptation of Twelfth Night, with music and lyrics by Shaina Taub which was previously presented in a limited run.

Tickets are distributed on each performance day at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park at 12 noon. Performance days vary, so check the calendar. Each person (age 5+) can get two tickets. Seat locations are distributed randomly and have nothing to do with where you are on the line. There is a separate line for seniors (65+) and for patrons with disabilities (attestation required). If you don’t receive tickets, you can join the standby line after the last ticket is distributed. Of course, standby tickets are distributed only if available—and only 1 per customer. Note: The Public wants as many people as possible to have access to Shakespeare in the Park, so each person is limited to two free tickets to two performances of each production.

If the performance gets rained out (which the Public tries very hard to avoid, so if there’s a light drizzle, bring a hat or slicker; umbrellas are not allowed) you are out of luck. There are no rainchecks.

On the line tips:

Ticket availability depends on several things, mainly who’s in the play, so when there is a highly recognizable name from Broadway, the movies or television featured in a production, tickets become a very hot and sought after.

  • For a good play with a star performance, people begin arriving for tickets as early as 6 AM when the park opens. Sometimes folks begin queuing up even earlier at the park entrance at Central Park West and 81st Street. A Delacorte staffer will escort you in once the park opens. Usually (non-star performances) you can join the line around 8 and get tickets. But that’s not a promise.
  • Go during previews, since a good review after opening night will dramatically increase desirability. And go during a weeknight if you can. Even with NYC’s fabled quiet summer weekends, there are still a lot of people around who want to see these performances.
  • Do a rain dance. The folks at the Public work hard to avoid a cancellation, so threatening storms or a light drizzle can be your ticket in. It also means lots of people won’t show up, so the standby line might be your friend (see below).
  • Many waiting spots require sitting on pavement or grassy-ish spots, so bring a blanket or chair. Also bring food and drink, although some local restaurants and pizza places will deliver to the line. And (if you’re solo) bring something to pass the time, since you’ll be on line for several hours. Do plan for the weather—bring sunscreen, a hat, an umbrella—whatever it might call for.
  • If you are planning to wait with friends, have everyone arrive at the same time. It is totally uncool (and unfair to the people behind you) to have latecomers join you and grab more tickets. Besides, Delacorte staffers might notice and they will definitely send your friends—and you—to the back of the line. Plus, if you want to sit together in the theater, you need to sit together on the line. Note that there is a bathroom available and you are allowed to leave the line for a bathroom break.
  • Try the standby line. If you can’t manage to wait on line during the day (like, you have a job), zip up to the park after work with a picnic and a book and wait for standby tickets. It’s not a guarantee, but you never know.
  • This year, everyone trying to obtain free tickets will be required to have a Public Theater Patron ID number; for information or to confirm you have already registered click here.

How to avoid the line

  • Get lucky: If you feel lucky, you can try the Virtual Ticketing System. Set up an account and enter between midnight and noon to be in the lottery for the next performance. You can enter every day there is a performance. You’ll get an email around noon if you’ve won, and you pick up your tickets at the Delacorte between 5:00 and 7:30. Tickets not retrieved by that time will be released to the standby line. Separate lotteries are available for seniors (65+) and Accessible (ADA) seating.
  • Get downtown: There are a limited number of vouchers for performances distributed via an in-person lottery at the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street at Astor Place. Sign-up begins on every performance day in the lobby at 11:00 AM, to be drawn at noon. Those selected receive two vouchers, each good for one ticket. They can be redeemed between 5 and 7 PM at the Delacorte. As with the virtual lottery, tickets not retrieved by 7 PM will be released for standby. Note that the senior and ADA accessibility lotteries are not available through the downtown distribution.
  • Get out of Manhattan: There is limited ticket distribution in boroughs other than Manhattan. On certain dates, vouchers for that night’s performance will be distributed at locations throughout the city—but only one location per day, and only on some dates. Vouchers are distributed between 12 noon and 2 PM, while supplies last. Each person gets two vouchers, each good for one ticket, and exchanges them for tickets at the Delacorte between 5 and 7 PM. As with the downtown distribution, senior and ADA accessibility seating are not available.
  • Get the app: TodayTix, an app that lets you buy theater tickets on your phone and also offers access to lotteries and discounts, has partnered with the Public to give away a pair of free tickets to every performance. Download the app (it’s free) and enter every day. It works the same way as the Public’s own lottery—it’s just another chance to score those hot tickets.
  • Get your wallet out: You can buy, sort of, a ticket to Shakespeare in the Park, by becoming a sponsor for $500. Sponsor ticket costs are 100% tax-deductible and it’s certainly for a good cause, even if it seems a little beside the point of the whole venture. Sponsor tickets are also available at a discount if you subscribe to the Public’s upcoming season.


Editor’s Note: This is a reposting of previously published content.

For the latest news and reviews on theater in New York City and beyond click here.

For a listing of Broadway shows click here.

Cover: The Delacorte Theare in Central Park; photo: Tammy Shell.


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