More than 400 years after his death, Shakespeare remains the most popular playwright on the planet—and New York City, a world capital of live theater, is among the best places to see his work.
In the summer, the City’s actors move outdoors as Shakespeare productions pop up in parks, parking lots and every place in between. While The Public Theater’s Central Park shows—known as Shakespeare in the Park—are the most famous, other NYC theater companies put on The Bard’s plays for free in one-of-a-kind settings as well. Here’s our guide to this summer's Shakespeare season.
Shakespeare in the Park
Othello: May 29–June 24 (Tuesdays–Sundays, with some exceptions); 8pm
Twelfth Night: July 17–August 19 (Tuesdays–Sundays); 8pm
Since 1962, The Public Theater’s free productions at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park have featured unusual takes on the classics. This year, Tony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson directs Othello, and The Public’s artistic director, Oskar Eustis, co-directs with Kwame Kwei-Armah a musical adaptation of Twelfth Night originally conceived for the theater's Public Works project.
New York Classical Theatre
Romeo and Juliet: June 5–24 (Central Park); 7pm
June 26–July 1 (Rockefeller Park); 7pm
July 3–15 (The Battery); 7pm
July 17–22 (Carl Schurz Park); 7pm
July 24–29 (Brooklyn Bridge Park); 7pm
New York Classical Theatre’s productions roam around outdoor parks all over the City, so be prepared to walk a bit and bring a blanket to sit on. This season, the company presents the world's first and foremost star-crossed lovers in locations ranging from the Upper East Side to the banks of the East River. If you’re interested in the process behind the production, check out the rehearsals in Central Park (May 14–30, most weekedays and Saturdays)—also open to the public.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: June 14–24 (Thursdays–Sundays); 6:30pm
This troupe presents Shakespeare as audiences first experienced it: in the round, outdoors and in daylight. Castle Clinton in The Battery is the unusual venue for A Midsummer Night's Dream, a light comedy for a bright summer's eve. Free tickets are distributed at 6pm for the 6:30pm show, which wraps just before dusk.
Shakespeare in the Parking Lot
Hamlet: July 5–August 5 (Thursdays–Saturdays); 6:30pm
The Drilling Company has presented Shakespeare’s works in parking lots on NYC’s Lower East Side since 1995; its current home is just behind The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center. This year's asphalt-bound production is Hamlet, all about that brooding prince of Denmark.
Shakespeare in Bryant Park
A Midsummer Night's Dream: May 18–June 12 (Fridays, Saturdays); 7pm
Twelfth Night: July 27–28 (Friday, Saturday), 7pm; July 29 (Sunday), 3pm
Macbeth: August 24–September 8 (Fridays, Saturdays); 7pm
The Drilling Company, those Shakespeare in the Parking Lot guys, has been expanding its season with uptown productions of The Bard in beautiful Bryant Park. First up this year is the comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream, followed by a one-weekend-only run for Twelfth Night in July. They wrap up the summer by presenting an NYC-themed Macbeth, set in the rough-and-tumble Five Points section of the City during the mid-1800s.
Smith Street Stage
A Midsummer Night's Dream: June 18–July 1; 7:30pm
In 2010, Smith Street Stage had just five actors for its debut production, Romeo and Juliet. Now the company has grown to include more than 30 members, who’ve performed for thousands over the course of eight summers in Brooklyn’s Carroll Park. This season they take on the popular comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Free Shakespeare in the Parks
King Lear and All's Well That Ends Well: July 26–August 26
Hip to Hip Theatre Company specializes in family-friendly Shakespeare productions that clock in at 90 minutes. This series tours two shows in repertory to more than a dozen City parks in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx. A half hour before showtime, free workshops for children use games to help kids connect to the characters and stories. For up-to-date details on performance locations and start times, visit their Facebook page.
Hudson Warehouse Summer Stage
Romeo and Juliet: June 7–July 1 (Thursdays–Sundays); 6:30pm
Hamlet: August 2–26 (Thursdays–Sundays); 6:30pm
Hudson Warehouse’s Shakespeare productions—staged on the expansive North Patio of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Riverside Park—have been set in the 16th and 17th centuries, in modern times and even in an apocalyptic framework. The orange glow of the sunset adds to the beauty of each performance. This year, the company does two of Shakespeare's most well-known plays, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet.