Friday, July 29, 2011

All's Well That Ends Well

Katie waits for tickets to Shakespeare in the Park.
Last year's trip New York to see Shakespeare in the Park was pretty simple: Get there at 9 a.m., early but not as early as those who start lining up at 6 a.m. when Central Park opens; get free tickets at 1 p.m.; return at 8 p.m, then see Shakespeare outside at the Delacorte Theatre.

Last year I wouldn't have had the energy to get through this summer's more complex trip.

For starters, last year we took the train, but I was tired of schlepping bags from the train station, so I drove with Katie. First challenge: Parking the car. (A garage is a last, desperate resort.) I have had nightmares about parking and losing my car in New York, and although that had never happened, it almost did when we drove in on Sunday.

I parked temporarily so we could say hi to Jeanne, Bruce and Amanda (we stayed in their apartment) and drop off some stuff. I left the car nearby (on 73rd and Lexington), went upstairs briefly and then returned to move the car to a spot "that's good for tomorrow."

 I was tired from driving the three hours down, plus stopping for lunch in Stamford with Ben, Meg and Jim, and then I went out the side door, which somehow that disoriented me. (I guess it doesn't take much.) I shouldn't even admit it, but the need to confess is strong, so I have to say that for some reason I mistakenly thought the car was on Second Avenue.

It wasn't, so I walked in loops in the lower 70s from Second, to Third, to Lexington. Unable to find it, I basically thought I had lost my mind. Finally I spotted it on Lexington Avenue and 73rd, only a block and a half from the apartment. I was dripping with sweat, but I haven't been so happy in a long time.

(Later I felt better when Bruce told me he had 'lost' his car, reported it stolen, the spotted it hiding at the bottom of an incline.)

Next I drove around looking for a spot on the south side of a cross-street, where the signs say No Parking Tuesday and Friday from 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m. (for street cleaning). After about half an hour of this, I had just said out loud to myself "I hate New York!" when a spot appeared in front of an apartment building on 73rd near Fifth, like water in the desert.

OK then. The next day, Monday, we lined up at 9 a.m. to wait for tickets to "All's Well That Ends Well." The waiting is part of the experience. You bring chairs, books, newspapers, muffins, whatever. You make friends with the people around you, watch the parade of people and dogs along the path and are serenaded by a musician who stops and performs at spots along the path.

Soon after we got our tickets at 1 p.m., the rain began to fall. We did a few errands and walked back to the apartment, trying to decide if we should take a chance and go to the show or do something else. It's like going to a baseball game: You should show up no matter what because you never know what will happen. But if the performance is canceled, your tickets are no good (except for souvenirs).

We hemmed and hawed and decided to skip it, going out to dinner and a movie instead. Even if the rain stopped, the seats would be wet. As Jeanne said, "Who wants to see Shakespeare with a wet ass?" We decided to try again the next day, when the forecast was better.

The next morning, Katie went to get on line at 9 a.m. while I took care of the car; I planned to join her after. I got to the car just before 9 and said hi to the maintenance man, who was hosing down the pavement. When the street cleaner comes, you need to move your car out, and then, unless someone has snuck in behind you and stolen your spot, you back in.

I opened the window and began my wait by calling Emily. Looking the other way, I was surprised by a stream of water coming in through the window and hitting me in the face. I screamed like I was being murdered and told Emily I'd call her back. It was my friend's way of alerting me that the street cleaner was coming. It was 9:06. So I moved out and then back in, but I wasn't finished yet. You still have to wait out the full time, so I sat there and read until 10:30. (Further uptown, in my home territory, they make it easier by just having a half-hour window.

I then carried the (heavy) chair and my stuff back into the park, got on another line, and we got a new set of tickets. It was a nice day and we were going to run in the park, but after lunch, I crashed on the couch while Katie did the same on a bed.

Later we grabbed a slice of pizza on the run, got to the theater and took our seats under a beautiful twilight sky. But no more than half an hour after the performance had started, rain began to fall, turning into a downpour just as the actor playing the ailing King of France said, "Lend me a hand." He added, "Or an umbrella."

The actors walked off the stage, the audience applauded, and then we began our descent to seek cover. We were in the second to last row, so we got drenched. Katie loved it. I felt like I was a little too old to go with the flow (so to speak), but I did my best. Everyone waited under the overhang around the theater. The rain stopped after about 15 minutes, we went back in, and the performance resumed.

Talk about Shakespeare with a wet ass. I was soaked through.

At the show we saw last year, "A Winter's Tale," I have to say I dozed off occasionally. It was hot and muggy, and the production wasn't as good as this year's.

This time I was definitely wide awake. It was partially because I had been doused with water, and also because the production was superb: Crisp, clear, beautiful to look at and easy to follow. If you're interested, here's the New York Times review, in which Ben Brantley called it "a captivating production."

The audience gave a rousing round of applause at the end, probably feeling more appreciative because of the rain delay.

We will be back next year.


Anonymous said...

Dearest Runder-Woman --

i am so glad that you enjoyed Shakespeare in the Park -- so new york -- ordering breakfast while on line --

in some ways it is better than Shakespeare-on-Avon or the Globe in London -- for nyc -- american accent and all -- speaks to the universality of the Bard...

Also -- your readership should note that your parents were among the first patrons of Joseph Papp and the 'play's the thing' in Central Park --


Ann said...

A friend works as an environmental engineer in Central Park and is always regaling me with the fabulous events scheduled for the summer. It sounds like you've had quite an adventure. Shakespeare under the stars sounds heavenly. said...

Hi Ronni,

I saved your article that appeared in the NYT mag section in 2003 for inspiration. Recently, I was cleaning out a file aptly labeled "inspiration" and re-read it. And then in our world of technology, I googled you and here we are.

I am so thrilled that you are in remission. I've often wondered what happened to you and hoped for the best - it seems to have come true!

I do not have cancer, but your article touched me in a way that made me want to root for you; obviously as so many others felt. Maybe it was the connection to South Hadley? (I went to UMASS) I'm not sure. But we all like heroes and you certainly are one! Continued good health and thanks for your inspirational words.

Susan C said...

I've got to put this on my bucket list!