Although I learned to love Shakespeare by going to Shakespeare in the Park, I know not everyone has a great experience, so I asked all my friends what they thought was a must for going to see Shakespeare outdoors. Here are the answers:
Sometimes “Shakespeare in the Park” means Shakespeare in a open air theater in a park, so you purchase (or stand in line for) tickets and then sit in stadium seating, such as in the NY Public Theater’s productions. But most of the time it’s more of a “bring your own lawnchair” arrangement.
How to have a comfortable time:
- Find out if there will be seating provided, and if not, bring lawn chairs, picnic blankets, or whatever will make you comfortable for a couple of hours sitting.
- Sunglasses, sunblock (if it’s a matinee, especially), bugspray, blankets or sweaters for if it gets cold by the final act. I’ve been known to whip out sleeping bags for chilly western NY evenings.
- If possible, choose a day with a nice weather forcast.
How to have fun and tasty time:
- Bring lots of snacks. Maybe a whole picnic dinner.
- Bring your beverages of choice! Many times alcohol is welcome to the park and/or available for purchase. My mom used to bring a big tupperware pitcher of lemonade.
- If concerned about the attention of the youngest members of your family, bubbles or crayons and paper. Although usually running around in the park is also an option.
When it comes to preparation, I came across a lot of different opinions. Many people said, “Shakespeare is totally understandable, you’ll be fine!” and while I usually find myself in this camp, there were several times when I was a teenager and having my yearly Shakespeare in the Park birthday party when my friends confessed at the end of the play they had missed a giant plotpoint, or couldn’t figure out which character was which. So if you are anxious about understanding play, here are some suggestions.
TIPS FOR THOSE INTIMIDATED BY SHAKESPEARE:
Ideas for preparing to see the play:
- Read a synopsis, don’t worry about that spoiling the surprises.
- Make a synopsis chart – maybe showing the character’s names and relationships with the major plot points. You can take your chart with you to the performance and check in with it if you get confused.
Ideas once for helping you understand as you watch
- Be sure to get there on time as missing the first bit of a play makes it hard to catch up on the exposition.
- Sit close enough so that you can see the actors well enough to tell them apart by sight, and hear them when they talk.
- Bring a printed out list of characters, and refer to it when you get confused
- I used to bring a copy of the play with me to the performance, sometimes a big old complete works, and it was nice to be able to follow along or just double check people’s names.
But the most important tip is to bring friends! If you see it and like it, go again and invite friends to come with you. For me growing up, it was one of the highlights of the summer, and hope these tips help you have a great time too.