To see or not to see? My experience at Shakespeare in the Park

Central Park NYC
Kirsty Fowler/Staff

I have been to New York City three times in my life. While the trips were not long, the city was enchanting nonetheless. Looming buildings shielded any external stress that followed me from the West Coast. Noises danced all around me. The sounds of honking taxis alone meant nothing. It was only until they were melded with the murmurs of bustling city dwellers, food cart owners and street performers that a symphony was made.

Yes, I loved being in the city that never sleeps. My previous trips told me that. This year, though, I experienced another side of the famous metropolis. Rather than sticking to the traditional tourist path that led to Times Square and lovely Lady Liberty, I ventured into areas that were equally memorable. Out of my experiences, though, nothing was more memorable than Shakespeare in the Park.

It was introduced to me through my friend, with whom I was staying. She gushed over it, describing the experience as unforgettable. The productions only took place during the summer, hosting two different Shakespeare plays over the season. If that wasn’t enough, the playhouse was hidden deep within Central Park. The theater sat so naturally between the trees and pathways, it seemed to be carved from the ground.

I was game to go after hearing only five minutes of her heavily prepared speech. Once I agreed, she mentioned the one caveat: You had to wait for your tickets.

Hearing this, I thought it wouldn’t be too bad. The tickets were free (a blessing hidden among the expensive New York City lifestyle), so I was expecting this. Let me just say this, though: You have to earn your ticket. To ensure a spot, my friend and I had to trek to Central Park at 6 a.m.

Then, we waited.

Six hours later (yes, I said six), I was the proud holder of a ticket to this year’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I had never seen a Shakespeare performance before and couldn’t have chosen a better theater company to take my Will S. virginity. Some of the actors had previously been in Broadway productions. One individual even took the lead role in my favorite musical “Fiddler on the Roof” prior to joining Shakespeare in the Park. With every nugget of knowledge I gained about the production, I became more excited. Just as the sun was setting in NYC, the curtains (metaphorically speaking) were ready to rise. It was during this time that we started to make our way over to the theater.

Once in the seating area, nature began to set the stage. The sky became a pallette of watercolors, with hues of red, purple, orange and blue bleeding into each other overhead. The trees rustled around us as if they too were whispering words of excitement about the play.

Ten minutes later, the play began. Now, I could tell you all the details, every minute observation I made. But I won’t. Instead, just know this: This play was the best thing I have ever seen. Period.

The acting was magical. I had never seen individuals take on characters with such passion before. They spoke eloquently, translating the Shakespearean text to modern-day vernacular with their tone and body movements. The set and lighting was something out of a fairy tale. The music accompanying the story floated through the air, hushing the busy symphony that usually overtakes New York City during the day.

After this production, I left with a new appreciation of the city. Between the large and loud attractions the city provides, New York hides its treasures away, exposing them only to those who dare to look a bit deeper. While my trip continued to be filled with experiences I will always value, I left with the words of Hermia, Helena, Demetrius and Lysander ringing through my head.

Kirsty Fowler is the blog editor. Contact Kirsty Fowler at [email protected].

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