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This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the June 27, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Summer Shakespeare Perfect in New York

Rain coming down in buckets on Sunday morning, June

17, does not bode well for the opening night performance of the New

York Shakespeare Festival’s "Measure for Measure." The

evening,

however, has brought clear skies and a cooling breeze to Central Park.

As we walk the winding, well-lit, and heavily trafficked paths, the

shrubs and greenery seem more alive and lush than usual. The sun

hasn’t

quite set by the time the performance begins. The natural light fades

gradually and our eyes become more focused on the performance than

on the park’s resident white egret that suddenly soars over the

turrets

of the awesome, storybook castle, Belvedere, a permanent part of the

park landscape. Our reserved seats are dry, our palettes satisfied

with on-site specialty food and drink, our jackets and umbrellas (just

in case) are stuffed beneath us. All is as right with us and with

this setting as it is with the Bard’s pentameter verse. And except

for the occasional roar of an SST overhead, we are indeed transported

to another world — magical, accessible, and available to all.

So don’t worry if you haven’t got $200 to spend on a pair of tickets

to you-know-which Broadway show. The best deal in the Big Apple is

the free tickets given away for each performance of the Joseph Papp

Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, now celebrating its

46th summer season at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. It’s

almost too late to recommend "Measure for Measure" (it will

close June 28) which was brought to sparkling life under the stars

by Mary Zimmerman, the Chicago-based director who created and staged

the delightful and imaginative Homer’s "Odyssey" last season

at the McCarter Theater. It wasn’t an easy task to make this, one

of Shakespeare’s more difficult and dark comedies, accessible; yet

it was a pleasure to experience.

It is not too late to try to persuade you to enjoy the New York

Shakespeare

Festival’s second and concluding free production of the summer. Mike

Nichols will be directing a new adaptation by Tom Stoppard of

Chekhov’s

"The Seagull." It is not unusual to see prominent film and

stage stars appearing in the esteemed festival’s classic plays and

this one is no exception. The star-studded cast features Meryl Streep,

Christopher Walken, Allison Janney, Kevin Kline, Debra Monk, Natalie

Portman, John Goodman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Larry Pine, and Stephen

Spinella. Previews begin July 24, and performances continue through

August 19. If I were you, I’d get on line early.

How to get tickets : At the Public and at the Delacorte.

Free tickets to Shakespeare in Central Park are available on the day

of the performance, beginning at 1 p.m., at the Delacorte Theater

in Central Park, and from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Public Theater, 425

Lafayette

Street. Depending on the play and the cast, potential patrons should

plan to spend an hour or more prior to the opening of the box-office.

Don’t be discouraged. At last Sunday evening’s "sold out"

performance of "Measure for Measure," it looked like most

everyone who was waiting in the standby line at the Delacorte prior

to the 8 p.m. performance got a seat.

Each person may receive up to two tickets. Tickets are for reserved

seats and are good for the day of issue only. Once you have your

ticket

you need not wait in line again. The theater opens at 7:30 p.m.;

latecomers

are seated at management’s discretion. In the event of rain, they

may delay the beginning of the performance, but they will perform

if and when it seems possible. If the performance is canceled because

of rain or for any other reason, tickets are not valid for reissue

or exchange.

The Delacorte Theater is located near Turtle Pond in Central Park.

The closest park entrance from the East Side is at 79th Street and

Fifth Avenue; from the West Side, at 81st Street and Central Park

West. It’s a lovely and safe walk to the theater with hundred of

people

making their way along the paths. From my own experience, parking

on the street along Central Park West (from 72nd Street to 85th

Street)

is a pretty good bet if you arrive at least an hour before show time.

For more information about Delacorte performances and tickets, the

Delacorte’s phone number is 212-539-8750; phones are open from 10

a.m. to 10 p.m. on performance days. For information about wheelchair

seating, call 212-539-8659.

One more thing: From the time when our son and daughter were in grade

school and all through high school, we took them and as many of their

friends that could squeeze into our station wagon to see two

Shakespeare

in the Park productions each summer. As parents, you will find

yourselves

accused of many things by your children when they become adults. Our

children’s memories — aside from those that have no bearing on

family entertainment — of the fantastical "Midsummer Night’s

Dream" to the historical (and complete) "Wars of the

Roses"

that we all saw together, endure. Today, they give us credit for

exposing

them to great live theater and for their lifelong love of the form.

— Simon Saltzman


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