Delacorte Theater

things-to-do Feb 26, 2021

Located in the heart of Central Park, New York City, Delacorte Theater is a 1,872-seat open-air theater, home to the Public Theater's free Shakespeare in the Park productions, one of NYC’s most beloved summer traditions. Tens of thousands of New York natives and visitors come to the Delacorte to enjoy free Shakespeare. Two plays are produced each summer, at least one of which is traditionally a play by Shakespeare.

The Theater itself is an open-air theatre venue, which boasts a seating capacity of 1,872, offering clear views of the stage from any seat in the house. Both Turtle Pond and the majestic Belvedere Castle can be seen in the background, completing the picturesque setting for this renowned Central Park theater.

While the Theater is responsible for having introduced many a new talent to the stage, it also frequently employs more well-known actors and actresses, including Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, among others.

How it came to be:

The Delacorte Theater, operated by The Public Theater, founded by Joseph Papp in 1962, has hosted numerous productions of classic plays in addition to those by Shakespeare, such as Anton Chekov's The Seagull and Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children.

Papp had started seeking funds in 1958 for a permanent outdoor amphitheater in Central Park, under the aegis of Helen Hayes. Papp believed theater was essential for all to experience, and that it should be free for all. These conceits, and Papp's personal drive and determination, are what propelled Shakespeare in the Park into becoming one of New York City's most treasured and beloved traditions.

delacorte theater

The first production, in 1962, was The Merchant of Venice starring George C. Scott and James Earl Jones.

Notable recent productions include Amy Adams, Denis O'Hare, and Donna Murphy in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods, Lily Rabe in As You Like It, Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice, Anne Hathaway and Audra McDonald in Twelfth Night, and the 2008 revival of HAIR.


Tickets to Shakespeare in the Park are free and can only be obtained on the day of a performance. At 12 at noon, tickets are distributed, two per person, at the Delacorte to the line of people that usually springs up early in the morning when the park opens at 6 AM.

People have been known to camp out at the park entrance closest to the theater, 81st & Central Park West, to get tickets for that day's performance. Anyone 5 years old and older can obtain and are required to have a ticket should they wish to see the show. In addition to the mainline which snakes through the park, the Public also offers a few other options to get tickets. One is the line for Seniors which begins at the benches closest to the theater's box office. The tickets provided to that line have easy access inside the theater and are only available to persons 65 and above. ID is required to obtain the tickets.

In 2009 the Public introduced the Virtual Ticketing system which is an online drawing to win tickets to that day’s performance without waiting in line in person.

On the day of a show, users can log on to anytime between midnight and 11:59 a.m. to register for that evening's performance. After 12:00 p.m. that same day, users will receive an e-mail stating that they have received tickets to the show.

Tickets can be claimed at the Delacorte box office between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. under the name and address used for registration. A valid photo ID is required for all pick-ups at the box office.

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