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OPINION: Waiting for Shakespeare in the Park

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For Brooklyn Daily Eagle

All the good spots are taken by nine. Everyone knows this. People stretched out on benches and chairs along a path in Central Park like something from a history book, sleeping, sweating, eyeing that last sip of water. I’m left with one option. It’s the end of the line or nothing, one more hopeful waiting all morning for free Shakespeare in the Park tickets.

Despite a lush cathedral of trees, it’s already warm and balmy inside the park. Today is the final performance of the Public Theater’s production of “The Comedy of Errors,” and I’m hoping it gets hotter. Brutal would be nice – the more suffering the better, because I’m not just here for tickets; I plan to whine and complain too. If this thing runs smoothly then I am left with nothing. 

I’ve come seeking penance for copping scalped tickets to last year’s performance of Into the Woods. It was decadent, way beyond my means, and certainly not in the spirit of the Public Theater’s Great Joe Papp. So if I sweat here for hours and miss by only one or two heads, that should teach me. Should I acquire the coveted passes and rain pours down like Juliet’s tears, then I shall be reborn. Last year I offered a man $250 to wait on line for me. He stood there grinning and said, “Perfect.” 

A pair of young ushers presents themselves to our section. They’re friendly enough but might as well be on horseback wearing mirrored shades: Attention, please!  This is the line for Shakespeare in the Park tickets.  You may not leave this line for any reason…They recite more rules and etiquette then hoof it back to the theater.

Hour three arrives without fanfare so I elect to sit and ponder some concerns. This may be my last theater season for a while. My fiancé and I are planning a family, and I’m truly going to miss it, the flying spittle and perfect silence of every arena. One evening we managed to score a New York trifecta: Pacino on stage, Harvey Keitel right behind us, and a mystical Woody sighting only four seats away. 

I’m feeling a bit remorseful when a father and son zip by to restore some clarity. Dad’s pedaling a large bicycle, while Junior cranks from behind with unnecessary gusto. It’s a wonderful spectacle and my turn atop that bike is long overdue. An usher announces that things are looking good, and a huzzah rings out from our entire weary section.         

We’re down to the last 40 yards. The sculpture of “Romeo & Juliet” safeguards the entrance, while young men play cellos in the foreground. It’s tranquil and cinematic, a Shakespearian “Field of Dreams.” I take my last steps, reach out, and behold! Two crisp white tickets are placed in a palm. At home I present them to my pregnant fiancé as though I’ve slain dragons. But when we arrive to the theater freshly scrubbed, I can’t help but break another rule by smuggling in a third. My new family fits comfortably inside two seats, our baby’s first show, and one more New York trifecta.

--JB McGeever

JB McGeever's stories have appeared in Writer's Digest, Newsday, and The Christian Science Monitor.  He lives in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.

October 21, 2013 - 8:00am


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