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
Much Ado About Nothing: May 21–June 23 (Tuesdays–Sundays, with some exceptions); 8pm
Coriolanus: July 16–August 11 (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, Kenny Leon will direct the classic comedy Much Ado About Nothing. In July, things turn darker with the political drama Coriolanus, directed by Daniel Sullivan.
Hamlet: June 13–23 (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 Hamlet, the Bard's brooding prince of Denmark. Free tickets are distributed at 6pm for the 6:30pm show, which wraps just before dusk.
Shakespeare in the Parking Lot
TBA: July–August (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 will be announced soon.
Shakespeare in Bryant Park
Hamlet: Princess of Denmark: May 16–25 (Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays); 7pm
Othello: August 30–September 1 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), 7pm; and September 5–7 (Thursday, Friday, Saturday), 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 a new take on Hamlet, with a woman taking the lead in this new production for the #MeToo era. They wrap up the summer by presenting a contemporary take on Othello.
Smith Street Stage
Romeo and Juliet: June, TBA
In 2010, Smith Street Stage had just five actors for its debut production. 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 tragedy Romeo and Juliet at their outdoor stage in Carroll Park.
Free Shakespeare in the Parks
A Midsummer Night's Dream and Richard III: July 24–August 25
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
Antony and Cleopatra: June 6–30 (Thursdays–Sundays); 6:30pm
The Merry Wives of Windsor: August 1–25 (Thursdays–Sundays); 6:30pm
Hudson Warehouse’s 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 clasics: the epic tragedy Antony & Cleopatra and the rollicking comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor.