Monday, July 19, 2010

'Shakespeare in the Park,' revisited

Katie in Central Park with our hard-earned
free tickets to "The Winter's Tale."

It's been ages since I saw Shakespeare in the Park with some friends. Every summer since 1954 the Public Theater has presented free Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater in a tradition begun by the Public's founder, Joseph Papp.

I'm not sure why I didn't go more often. My parents were patrons, meaning they got their tickets in advance and got the best seats. Their goal was to see as many of the plays as possible, and I think they came pretty close. I can't remember them inviting me. Maybe they didn't. They certainly took Diane and me, and later us and our children, to many Broadway shows.

Anyway, Katie and I finally went Saturday. We saw "The Winter's Tale," which is in repertory with "The Merchant of Venice."

The catch is that you have to wait in a long line to get your tickets, which they give out starting at 1 p.m. You get two tickets per person. Park gates open at 6 a.m., and people are already in line near the park entrance in the wee hours. I asked the first person in line when he got there, and he said 3:30 a.m.

This I could not do. We got there at 8.m., and the line was already pretty long, but people came after us too. The line started moving at 1, and we got our tickets at 1:30. It felt like a big accomplishment.

The woman next to us said that she arrived at 6:30 a.m. to see the season's big draw, "The Merchant of Venice" starring Al Pacino, and a staff member told her to go home because she was too late.

Our time in line was actually quite pleasant. We sat in what we call our baseball chairs, dating to the days when we set up these seats-in-a-bag at baseball and softball games. We brought books, water and snacks. Katie walked up to the front of the line, where the cafe is, and came back with good coffee and muffins. Both of us went a couple of times. Later we ordered lunch from a nearby deli whose number the staffers gave out, and our sandwiches arrived by bicycle shortly afterwards.

Waiting in line was a show in itself. Protected from the sun by trees lining that path, we watched a parade of people with their dogs in all shapes and sizes. A flautist entertained, walking up and down the line. Our friend Pam joined us for a while. It felt like five minutes, not five hours.

We walked back to my cousin Jeanne's nearby apartment, where we were staying. We regrouped and did a few errands and then, before we knew it, it was time to head back. We stopped for sandwiches which we ate on the way, and, as instructed, arrived at the Delacorte at 7:45.

The setting makes for half the experience. The sky grows darker as it finishes its descent, casting shadows on the stage. The lights flicker on in the buildings around the park. It's like turning the lights down in an indoor theater. The stage becomes brighter and brighter.

We thoroughly enjoyed the play. It didn't have the buzz of "Merchant," but it was beautifully done. We knew the play, so the ending was not a surprise, but it was so magical that we could have been seeing it for the first time.

Afterwards, we walked back to the apartment and collapsed. It was a hot day with a lot of walking. I was so worried about staying hydrated that I drank so much I could have floated away, but I guess it did the trick.

On Sunday we sqeezed in bagels and coffee with our cousin, Joanne, then met up with Ben and his girlfriend, Meg. Joanne left, and the four of us went down to the United Nations area to have lunch with my Aunt Marge and Uncle Bill, who live nearby.

Then, load the car, stop for Starbucks and hit the road.

If I do say so myself, not bad for someone with a hematocrit of 25 when last checked and a painful left side due to stupid latest fall.

Katie helped a lot, lugging the heavy stuff. She was a delightful, insightful companion.

A+ mother-daughter weekend.


PJ said...

Just catching up on your posts. I'm glad your dermatologist treated you like a mensch, unlike her staff. That had really pissed me off.

I'm glad you enjoyed NYC. Obviously, you can do a lot with a low hematocrit, Ronni. And I mean YOU. I was in NY, too, mainly shopping and eating. We walked by Central Park Sunday night on the way to a restaurant.

Here's to having fun with low blood counts!

donna said...

What a nice weekend! I love Shakespeare and I bet seeing "him" under the stars is great. What a day for you. You are amazing. I am going to give your blog address to a friend of mine who needs some support. You have helped and inspired so many. Love you and see you soon.

Diane said...

Great post and so wonderful to hear you had a successful weekend in our home town!

Susan C said...

What a great memory for you and Katie!

Nelle said...

Sounds fabulous! Glad you had such a great weekend. I love Katie's dress. Near Princeton I went to see some productions where you reserved your tickets ahead but had to arrive early to pick them up and you could get a "boxed lunch" right before a wonderful experience. I saw Marriage of Figaro amongst others.

pam said...


it was absolutely delightful to spend time with you and Katie in our hometown park, and local museum! (cheating, the gift shop!)

am so glad that you enjoyed the magic of the Papp Theatre...on a midsummer night's eve...