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Into the (Shakespeare in the) Park Line

NYC History NYC Story

Restless purple clouds drift under a night sky. A breeze rustles through an enchanted forest. Off in the distance a flag flutters over a majestic castle, which overlooks a land of magic and beauty. In order to witness such beauty, some noblemen pay small fortunes; others peel their eyes open before dawn and wait for hours for a taste of Sondheim. The song I sing is about three brothers who took the latter route and arrived at 81st street and Central Park West at 5 o’clock in the morning. Seven hours later, they scored tickets for their friends and loved ones to a free production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods at the Delacorte Theater.

I’ve been enjoying an amazing bounty of culture and entertainment at the Delacorte for at least fifteen years. My Grandma has brought me to some incredible shows, including Twelfth Night, starring Julia Styles, Zach Braff, Oliver Platt, Christopher Lloyd and Jimmy Smitts. “Shakespeare in the Park” shows two world-renowned performances a season; the first is often Shakespeare and the second is a more contemporary production. Two years ago I got to see the highly acclaimed revival of Hair, which soon thereafter hit Broadway (this production may have the same future!)

The Delacorte Theater is named after a fascinatingcontroversial & joyful philanthropist George Delacortet; the Public Theater is the organization that presents the show at the Delacorte. Started by Joseph Papp 50 years ago, a theater producer who tirelessly fought for open government funding of the arts, the Public Theater believes in the democratic virtue of bringing free theater to diverse audiences in order to address contemporary issues and provoke conversation. This production of Into the Woods is no different. For those unfamiliar with the show, lyricist Stephen Sondheim teamed up with longtime collaborator James Lupine to bring a new type of tale to the stage using a litany of classics with a shockingly modern twist.

A young narrator escapes into the woods after a fight with his father; using characters like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, the Witch, and the Baker and his Wife, this show stirs up questions and lessons about raising children, losing parents, discovering maturity and rediscovering oneself. With Sondheim’s sarcastic lyrics, adult themes and ambiguous metaphors all wrapped up in delightful melodies and hilarious patter, this show teaches and entertain all at once, with something for all members of the Delacorte’s diverse audience.

However, the Shakespeare in the Park experience is not just the show but also acquiring the tickets! For decades, theatergoers have been lining up before dawn (sometimes before midnight!) to score free tickets handed out at 1pm for each evening’s performance. Matt, Gideon, myself, as well Matt’s girlfriend Jenny and our friend Liz packed in for the long haul with blankets, pillows, papers, iPads, sandwiches, salads, snacks and an epic game of Risk.

The Game of World Domination has been a staple in the Levy household for years, complete with trash-talk, diplomacy and vendettas so deep that after one particularly brutal game, Matt refused to talk to Mark for a week. Gideon and I had a intense battle, not because I wiped him and Matt off the globe in one massive sweep but because acorns were falling perilously close to the board. Victory arrived just in time for us to pack up and snag the tickets before returning to Gramma’s apartment on the Upper West Side for a much-needed nap. All that was left for the day was to dive back into the woods for an enchanting evening.

By Jonah Levy

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