Shakespeare in the Park Line LiveBlog!

Find out the plan here.

FINAL POST: 2:30PM (One and a half hours after ticket giveaway, five and a half hours till show)—The final moments of waiting for tickets for Shakespeare in the Park are sudden and quick. It’s not exactly the stellar finish you would hope for after all the build up. After being rushed in a line, we were given tickets and pushed out of the way. No choice of seat (Ours are the middle but near one of the top rows, and whether there were better seats given to others behind Dan is a frustrating mystery), no nothing. Two tickets and out the door much quicker than we came.

Of course, who wants a big celebration, or an annoying person examining and deciding on ticket spots for ten minutes while everyone waits? The Public Theater has it right—just take your tickets and go; if this was on Broadway, it’d cost you at least $200. I was originally planning to stick around and watch the excitement and agony of all the others behind me, but I didn’t want to gloat, and I didn’t see the point. People wanted there tickets, and wanted to get out.

And I think that is the ultimate lesson of waiting for Shakespeare in the Park—The Bard takes second stage to the park. Watching people line up and all collectively agonize and anticipate as the line gather and we all waited was an experience that I can only call fun. It’s one of those memories that becomes buried is nostalgia. At the end of the summer, I will turn to Dan, and say, “Remember when we slept like hobos in Central Park and met all sorts of crazy people and lost our minds?…that was awesome.” And most likely, he will simply respond, “Indeed.”

Well. I’m tired. I need a nap before Pacino takes off. The rain held off (and its going to hold off the entire night, thankfully). Thanks for reading.

Shakespeare in the Park continues through to August 1st. Come for the Shakespeare, Stay for the Park.

Click through to see the entire LiveBlog

12:40PM (TWENTY MINUTES TO GO)—Time to clean up the space. They are lining us up for tickets, so Live Blogging will have to cease till after the mayhem begins. Stay tuned for a post later this afternoon recapping the madness of trying to get tickets. Until then, enjoy your travels, wherever they may be.

NOON (ONE HOUR TO GO)—A few final Flickr flicks. Right across from where we were sitting, a couple of girls showed up and waited for fifteen minutes. When they asked us if the could cut into the space behind us, Dan informed them of there was 400 person line behind them. They slowly walked away.

11:30AM (One and a Half Hours to Go)—As the hours turn into minutes, and the anticipation builds, I took one last stroll down the line. A few last observations came to me. First of all, the demographic for waiting in line is pretty much 20s and 30s. The people whose youthful spirits can afford to lose a day of work and will find a great piece of art totally worth it. Sure it is spread across all demographics, but its college students and post-college students that know that true art is worth any price.

However, the best revelation was one much more subtle and beautiful—the conversations between random strangers. Just as ours with the college students behind us began, people are making friends all in a common bond of waiting for art. Giving up an entire night and day for the adventure to bond with fellow New Yorkers (and some tourists). As people listen to the friendly flute player, re-read passages from The Merchant in preparation, and get one last hour of sleep, everyone is fueling up for the final pull, the moment of truth. Where else can someone justify sleeping in a park after all…

I spilled my water. This needs to end.

11:00AM (Two Hours To Go)–New photos posted to Flickr. 10 people back, a woman was caught trying to bring her friends in. Under a thick accent, she played innocent. The line enforcers limited her to two tickets. Justice served!

10:30AM (Two and a Half Hours To Go)—I tried to do a headcount, and while it was confusing and messy, it was more or less around 300. Not bad for a Thursday showing in which rain was predicted, but I’m curious to whether those people will receive tickets. Everyone is still quiet, and now comes the hagglers. Not homeless asking for money: petitions, surveys, and psychological studies. And people are going for it—anything to pass the time. The heat is finally coming down through the trees, and as temperatures rise into the 80s, people seem less and less comfortable. The beauty of the park is dissipating into a humid and green prison. The lack of World Cup and Wimbledon coverage is even more disturbing. But perseverance my friends, perseverance. The Shakespeare in the Park like would certainly be a comedy—everyone is happy by the finale, except for those at the back of the line (but do they even count?)

However, in the end, the alcoholics are the true winners (and a favorite character of Shakespeare’s tales)

10AM (3 Hours To Go)—Stray Observations:

1. Dan noticed a group of young high school girls, maybe only in the 9th grade, debating the finer points of language in Shakespeare. Perhaps not all hope is lost is our youth.
2. Spotted in the Bathroom: Shaving cream, razor, soap, deodorant, shampoo…basically the whole works.
3. In a collection of photos from past Shakespeare in the Parks: Denzel Washington in Richard III. Wow.

A note for those curious on how to blog without running out of battery or wireless. Have a Macbook Pro and an iPhone. Your Macbook better have good battery. Don’t use it except to write your posts. Download a program called Disk Aid, and an iPhone App called FileType. When your blog post is ready, use FileType to send your document to your iPhone. Open it on iPhone and copy the text from your blog post. If you use WordPress like me, you can simply paste it into the blog text. Thus you can publish from your iPhone (use Edge instead of 3G—it saves battery and when you are just publishing text you don’t need the extra speed).

9:35AM–Dan, using the portable Shakespeare iPhone app, has corrected me that it is Polonius who talks about method in the madness.

9:30AM (3 Hours and 30 Minutes To Go)—The line now stretches along another winding path, adding at least another quarter to the absurdity abound. All over, passersby have debates with so called “experts” whether they should wait in line. And its worth debating. Those who are not given tickets are given vouchers for reserved seats that are unused. A select group of these tickets are given out at 5pm, usually about 50. With the line reaching that point (also taking into consideration that not each person will take two tickets, there is always hope. On another side of the line, a delivery man from Andy’s Deli struggles to find the man who ordered food. You’d think they would set up a better system—you have to meet the delivery man at point X or something. There are four games of scrabble, along with four games of cards, and one of uno. Most of all though, people want to be left alone. Everyone is being quiet. None of the frustration or anger has set in, as its all a mystery. And why should they freak out now? There’s no reason to be disappointed for another three hours at least. This line is an endurance contest—most here will get tickets, but does El-Jay, who waited since midnight, have better tickets than the person who scores the front row seats because the reserved person forgot to pick theirs up? El-Jay will have his pride in the end. He’ll be able to say, “I did it. I was there for all thirteen hours” (and it doesn’t hurt that he has half a liter of Corona in him. Whether Pacino delivers a knock out performance is beside the point (but he will, for the record). The line is the performance itself.

9:00AM (4 Hours To Go)—If anyone wanted to blog with me along this line, there’s something else you could surely blog about from here: dogs. Every type of dogs. Little poodles, big greyhounds, cute terriers, furry retrievers. Every color and size. And they are all adorable. With four ours to go, reaching the two thirds mark of this journey, its becoming harder and harder to not only comprehend what I’m seeing, but also write any of these posts. I’m observing the senior line, which gets to sit comfortable near the box office. Will they get tickets before us? The mystery continues; the insanity deepening.

8:25AM—Flickr updated with the ever growing line. Someone just counted the line and walked away in disapointment. The cafe is open; people strive for coffee. The road is now open to cars. An owl won’t stop hooting. As Hamlet would say, there is a method to this madness.

8:15AM (4 Hours and 45 Minutes To Go)—Spotted in Line: Newspapers (Most Popular—New York Times), Ninetendo DS’s, Scrabble, Screenplays, Journals, Knitting, Magazines, Coolers, Full Size Air Mattresses, Umbrellas to protect from the sun (Sunbrella?), Anxious Calls to Parents, Anxious calls to significant others, ThinkPads, Work, Homework. Not Spotted: iPad or the new iPhone. After all, you can only choose one.

8:00AM (5 Hours to Go)—After dabbling in some GRE, a few different plays (who can read Moliere while running on 25 hours of no sleep anyways?), and listening to teenagers act like teenagers, the pains of this line are becoming obvious. Although I was able to fall asleep for a good twenty minutes, twenty minutes will not make up for the five hours to go. Bugs are everywhere. The shade of the tree only provides so much help. Morale is low. Only the St. Crispin’s Day Speech in Henry V could make this crowd rise to their feet in anticipation. For now, we’d rather let the day waste away.

7:00AM (6 Hours To Go)—As people near the front of the line have begun to settle in, most people are choosing the best way to pass the time: sleep. Numerous people are laying on cardboard boxes, blankets, and lawn chairs—anything in the hope of suddenly waking up six hours later and with tickets in their hand. The truth is, there is no easy way. A book can help (I’ve brought a couple dramas to read). Dan studies for the LSAT. The weather is treating us nicely for the moment, but the weather is poised to reach into the 90s before the tickets are given out. Cyclists zoom through the road on the side, and dogs are abundant. The line is now what can only be described as long (pictures coming soon) The road is long, but at the official halfway mark, its time for the real insanity to creep in.

6:35AM—Flickr photos of the Delacorte are up.

6:30AM (6 Hours and 30 Minutes To Go)—I got a few words in with John, our resident enforcer. John refused to give a count on the longest lines he has seen, but behind his dark black glasses, I could tell that he knew it had been thousands. “Sometimes at about 9:30 or 10, we just send people away.” John seems to be a pro at this sort of thing, having statistics that he prides himself in only knowing. He is not allowed to tell people they are or aren’t guaranteed a ticket, but I’m sure he knows the answers to all the mysteries of the Shakespeare line. Hopefully, by 1pm, I can pry it from him.

6:00AM (7 Hours To Go)—We have moved into the Park! As a small journey into the beauty of Central Park, we arrived outside the Delacorte Theater. As expected, a group of twenty people were waiting there. As expected, the Line Enforcer (named John) told them to get to the end. One group in particular was no happy, but that’s life ain’t it. Although Dan and I lost our nice little bench, we have instead gotten a nice quiet atmosphere outside the Delacorte. Although, given a few hours, animosity will pick up. John laid down our three ground rules.

1. You Can’t Go Anywhere except the Café and the Bathroom (But two places will deliver!
2. No Swapping with people
3. No Joiners!

So we’ll see how it goes. Pictures to come on Flickr!

5:40AM–Apparently there were 150 people lined outside for the performance yesterday. Today, not so many. The line enforcer cites the possible rain scare as a reason, but still thinks anyone past 6:45am will not be seeing Mr. Pacino.

5:35AM–The Line Enforcer has arrived. No truncheon though.

5:30AM (7 Hours and 30 Minutes to Go)—As Predicted, another ten people have jumped in line during the last fifteen minutes. Taxis are starting to pull up and drop people off. The sun is in full swing. El-Jay and his girlfriend attempted to light a joint but the wind did not play friendly. It looks like its going to be a beautiful summer day, though the afternoon rain will ruin it some bit. A few people have gone into the park before the 6AM curfew. Will these people get to go before us? Doubtful. On a side note—only an hour and a half till iPhone 4!

5:15AM (7 Hours and 45 Minutes To Go)—With four hours done, and only forty-five minutes till entering the park, the sun is slowly coming up on this New York City block. The runners and dog walkers are starting to make their entrance. Surprisingly, the line for this performance…is empty. Only three or four more people have joined the line, leading me to ask how a Shakespeare in the Park performance could so easily have so little enthusiasm at the moment. One might account for the bad forecast originally predicted for the day, but the latest forecast shows for only three hours of rain, neither during the waiting time nor the performance time. One might account for bad buzz, but who could truly resist Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice? My theory is that we are about to experience a rush of unprecedented manner—as the park opens at 6AM, people will rush to the Delacorte to join us night crawlers in line. Dan is listening to opera. I’m enjoying the atmosphere of the city. The anticipation slowly grows.

4:35AM–Two new pictures on Flickr. The line so far and a cop giving a ticket!

4:15AM (8 hours and 45 Minutes)—Dan and I have chatted with two of the kids behind us, who have proven to be much more interesting than originally thought. One goes to Stanford and one is at Fordham, and both are from Queens. We engaged in a discussion of New York City, study abroad, and the chances of Obama’s reelection. It’s funny—these conversations seem to start up sporadically, and in a place where New Yorkers spend most of their time avoiding each other, that people can connect in the strangest of places. Four more have joined the line, and El-Jay’s girlfriend has joined as well. She has a Southern accent. The wind has picked up, but the smiles are contagious.

3:30AM (9 hours and 30 minutes)—It’s All Quiet on the Central Park Western Front. Only two more stragglers have arrived, and settled in on a folded cardboard box. I’d go talk to them but they seem intent on sleeping. Dan has reminded me of something very important—his favorite Shakespeare is not Merchant of Venice, but Richard III, though Merchant might be his second. For the record, my personal favorite is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The sun should be up in a couple hours. Praying for no rain.

2:45AM (10 hours and 15 minutes to Go)—El-Jay takes a good sleep before the morning hours come, though the quality of the bench, despite his blanket, seems questionable. El-Jay has been going for five years, and his favorite was actually the revival of Hair. He claims that getting near the front of thqe line guarantees the best seats, and I’m hoping he’s right. Behind me is the next group, an unfortunate group of annoying high school kids, or as Manhattanites might call “bridge and tunnelers.” The nice calm wind seems to combat the humidity that might be coming on. Dan arrives, and joins me to settle in for the long haul.

2:12AM–Check out photos on Flickr all day long

2:00AM (11 Hours to Go)—I’ve arrived at 81st and Central Park after a long subway ride (I forgot how slow the 1 can be at times). I’m the fifth in line, right behind a man named El-Jay, who is a pro. El-Jay relays stories about the madness of waiting, especially around 6AM when the line moves into the park. “People were fighting and all sorts of crazy stuff” he recalls when Hair played two years ago. The street is quiet, and I’ve luckily secured a bench. My friend Dan has yet to arrive, but getting tickets seems to be not an issue. It’s time to set up camp. More updates to come.

1:00AM (12 Hours to Go): I have finished packing my stuff and am ready to head out the door to 81st and Central Park West. While others wait in line at the other side of the park (Hi iPhone 4!), the Shakespeare line is sure to be much smaller. As hopes for, the forecast has been adjusted, with some drizzling during the day, starting at 10AM, and ending around 6pm, hopefully giving a cool wet breeze for the 8pm performance. Right now my question is how many people are there already.

At this point, I’d also like to introduce my accomplice for the evening, Dan Amzallag, CC’11, who will be joining me on this strange adventure, as we try to keep our insanity in check. Dan is an English major who took Shakespeare last year, and claims Merchant of Venice to be his favorite play.

I’ll check back after my quick subway ride!

Peter Labuza, CC’11

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2 Responses to Shakespeare in the Park Line LiveBlog!

  1. ennaejoy says:

    Thanks for posting this! I waited last year for the final performance of Twelfth Night (we barely made the end of the line at 11pm) and the experience was exactly as you describe it. Shakespeare in the park – the wait, the show, the equal opportunity of getting tickets – is one of my favorite things about NY.

  2. mk says:

    I would just like to say that you and Dan owe me some damn Shakespeare tickets. Hope the show was amazing; wish I could be there.

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