Shakespeare in the Park is a privilegless privilege available to all those who are willing to wake up early and sit in a long line for a few hours. Apparently, as I learned in line from a person wearing an official t-shirt, which is all of the qualification I need, Joseph Papp created this festival with the idea that it would not just be for the highfalutin New Yorkers, but for anyone and everyone who wanted to see a play. One should not have to pay for culture, but one must have a morning free of obligations with which they can sit in line for five hours. Just not Monday – no plays on Monday night, and you’ll wonder why the park is so empty. It’s because you’re dumb.
I had never done this in the city before, and having already missed the run of one of my favorite plays (Much Ado), I wanted to make sure I got this experience in before summer was over. Also, John Lithgow.
I asked a bunch of experienced New Yorkers how to manage the line – when to get there, what to bring, how long this mishegas takes. I was informed that if you get to the line in the park after 0800, there’s no point – you’re already too late. OK, I thought, one early morning won’t kill me. Plus, my ass has nothing to do, and can nap it out all afternoon prior to the play. SO, if you’re wondering, which you’re probably not, but I don’t care because I’m the one writing, here’s how this all works:
12:00AM: Before you pass out, enter the online ticket lottery. You’ll never win, but this way you’ll have all of your bases covered.
6:30AM: RISE AND SHINE! Get up, let the Good Doctor convince you that it is uncouth to go out in public unshowered, still put on exercise clothes because you don’t give a damn, and get ready.
7:00AM: Pack a bag. Breakfast, coffee, water, reading material, sunscreen, something to sit on, flask – it’s going to be a long morning, so whatever you need to get yourself through.
7:10AM: Time to leave. I happen to live close to Central Park, so it only took us about 15 minutes to get there and find the end of the line. If you happen to live farther away, your timetable may need to shift to the shittier & earlier part of the morning.
7:15AM: Amaze at the beauty and air-freshiness of this time of morning. No wonder everyone is running! I sure as shit wouldn’t, but it is damn beautiful out.
7:20AM: Find the Delacorte Theater in the park. It’s about where 81st St. would be. But in the park. Use the map on your phone, dummy.
7:21AM: IS THAT THE FUCKING LINE?
7:25AM: IS THIS STILL THE FUCKING LINE?
7:30AM: Finally get to the end of the miles-long line, and set up camp
7:40AM: Make friends with the dude behind you who has an adorable puppy. Play with said adorable puppy for hours on end to pass the time.
8:00AM: Listen to a lady in a King Lear t-shirt tell you the rules of the line: there are no cutsies, no savesies, and certainly no joinsies. Remember that your friend thought of doing this with you, still isn’t here yet, and hope that she gets caught breaking kindergarten rules.
8:45AM: Get pissed at your friend for coming up with this idea in the first place when she shows up to meet you in the line after over an hour of you securing your own spot. Remind her that technically, her ass should go to the end of the line. Get angrier when she leaves all of her shit with you so she can walk her dog. Remember that you are not a morning person, and quell the anger.
10:00AM: Talk to the guy in front of you in line, who tells you that the rock behind where you’re all sitting is not-so-lovingly referred to as the “rock of doom,” for if you are queued beyond it, there’s no way you’ll get tickets. Hope that you’re not one of the unlucky many.
10:15AM: Here come the advertisements – flyers for another Shakespeare-esque play somewhere at Fringe, another flyer for actors that drink while performing Shakespeare, get free books from interns who work for the New York Times, and get totally weirded out by a dude with a puppet…bro, no.
10:30AM: Find the bathrooms attached to the theater. Walk back along the hoards of people who have been waiting in this line for longer than you have, but realize that the line is entirely too civilized. People asleep on blow-up beds with their laptops out, others sat on benches reading books, bags left without any caution to hold their owner’s space. This may be the only place in the city where people trust each other this much. Ah, theater-goers.
10:45AM: A guy in a King Lear t-shirt holding a walkie-talkie comes by to tell you that your chances are good. Fucking right they are.
11:00AM: Make fun of people working out in the park with your line neighbors. While you have been sitting on your ass for about four hours. Way to go, guy in the park doing chin-ups on a tree branch.
11:30AM: Starting to get antsy. The guy behind you in line has been talking with you this whole time, and you realize it’s only a half hour to go. How does he have so much freaking energy? Why did I bring so much shit to read…
11:55AM: Someone else in a King Lear t-shirt tells you to pack up your shit and get ready to MOVE. Because it’s all about to happen.
12:00PM: WE’RE MOVING
12:10PM: We’re standing…
12:15PM: WE’RE MOVING AGAIN
12:30PM: Tickets have been procured! SUCCESS! Joy! Chest bumps! And now, naps.
Great success. King Lear was awesome. John Lithgow was brilliant, the set was awesome, Annette Bening was awful, and best of all, apart from your time, it was completely free. So, there you have it – the best way to occupy an entire day with one event without spending a dollar. Good luck to you in all your endeavors. This is Kitty, signing out.