The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park is set to return in the summer.
The 60th season will begin with “Richard III,” directed by Tony nominee Robert O’Hara and featuring “Black Panther” star Danai Gurira in the title role. It will continue with “As You Like It,” a musical that was originally scheduled for 2020 and delayed due to COVID-19.
Production dates, performance schedules and complete casting for both productions will be announced at a later date.
Since 1962, Shakespeare in the Park has been a New York City staple in the months warm enough to watch Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. More than six million people have attended the roughly 150 free productions that have been staged in the past 60 years.
“After last summer’s glorious and joyous ‘Merry Wives,’ this year, we are finally returning to a full slate of shows in the Park, and the artists and shows will be thrilling,” said Public Theater’s artistic director Oskar Eustis. “Robert O’Hara has been a member of The Public’s family for 20 years, as director and as playwright. One of our greatest and most exciting directors, he will be creating a ‘Richard III’ unlike any you have seen before. Our dearly beloved Danai Gurira will be giving us her version of this extraordinary character. Shakespeare’s Richard created the model for politics as an extension of show business — with devastating results. As always, Shakespeare seems to be speaking directly into our contemporary dreams and nightmares.”
“Richard III,” a tragedy about a political genius and his violent lust for power, has been previously staged at the Delacorte four times. It was last seen three decades ago featuring Denzel Washington in the title role and Sharon Washington as Lady Anne, directed by Robin Phillips.
“It has been over 30 years since ‘Richard III’ was produced at The Delacorte, and I’m excited to bring one of drama’s all-time favorite villains back onto the Central Park stage,” O’Hara said. “‘Richard III’ speaks to the dangerous machinations that we have witnessed by leaders throughout history, but most acutely in recent years in our own government. While navigating the projections of those around him by his decision to ‘prove the villain,’ Richard is our unreliable narrator, protagonist, and antagonist, drawing us deeper and deeper into his murderous mayhem. I am thrilled to collaborate again with the brilliant, multi-talented Danai Gurira as she returns to the Delacorte in the title role of this infamous usurper King, full of bloody confrontations, political intrigue, and familial toxicity.”
Public Theater artist-in-residence Shaina Taub is adapting “As You Like It” with director of public works Laurie Woolery. The show will feature original choreography by Sonya Tayeh, who recently won a Tony for her work on “Moulin Rouge: The Musical.” Woolery will direct the musical, which has music and lyrics by Taub. Darius de Haas (Duke Senior), Joel Perez (Touchstone) and Taub (Jaques) will star in “As You Like It,” reprising their roles from the original 2017 Public Works production. They will be joined by two rotating ensembles of community members from all five boroughs.
Eustis calls “As You Like It” an “extraordinary version of Shakespeare’s most beautiful play.”
“Composed by and featuring the electric Shaina Taub, adapted by her and Laurie Woolery, ‘As You Like It’ is an extraordinary creation of our Public Works program. You’ll see New York’s finest actors sharing the stage with hundreds of their fellow community members,” he said. “The joyous democracy of this Public Works show stuns the senses, and will certainly be one of the most glorious highlights of 2022.”
Woolery added, “Our musical adaptation of ‘As You Like It’ was created in response to a shifting world post the 2016 presidential election, where polarizing opinions fractured relationships and created a culture of ‘othering’ one another. Over the last five years, our country has experienced a global pandemic, anti-racist uprising, and so much loss that has further isolated us. The nature of theater is to gather and sit in community with one another. The heart of the story of ‘As You Like It’ contains the possibility of humans being whole again through the healing power of community and its ability to gather and hold space for one another during the darkest of times. This is a dream we had for over two years and can’t wait to gather together in community, outdoors, under the stars at the Delacorte Theater.”
Free tickets to both shows will be distributed in various ways across New York City. Distribution details and locations will be announced by May 2. TodayTix is partnering with Public Theater to offer free virtual ticket lottery distribution.
“We are thrilled to be returning as the exclusive lottery partner to the iconic New York tradition of Shakespeare in the Park,” said Merritt Baer, president and co-founder of TodayTix. “TodayTix was founded with the express purpose of democratizing access to theater, so we can’t wait for new and returning audiences to enter our easy-to-use digital lottery for a chance to attend a performance at The Delacorte and be exhilarated by live theater.”
The Public will welcome back audiences to the Delacorte at full capacity. Audience members will be required to show proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination and a booster dose (for those eligible in accordance with CDC guidelines). Face masks will also be mandated, except while guests are actively eating and drinking. Public Theater staff and artists are subject to a mandatory vaccination and booster policy, in addition to onsite testing protocols when working within all facilities.