Free Shakespeare in the Park, one of the longtime treasures of summer in New York City, will be smaller-scale and itinerant this year because a gut renovation of the program’s Central Park home is underway.
The Public Theater, the nonprofit organization that presents the annual Shakespeare festival, announced Tuesday that, instead of its usual large-scale productions at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, this year it would send a smaller production of “The Comedy of Errors” to parks and plazas around the city between Memorial Day and the end of June, followed by outdoor screenings of a filmed production of “Much Ado About Nothing” in July, August and early September.
The production of “The Comedy of Errors” is a 90-minute bilingual musical adaptation from the director Rebecca Martinez and the composer Julian Mesri that the Public staged last year at city parks and recreation centers as part of the theater’s mobile unit. This summer’s five-week touring production will have a slightly larger company, and will visit some larger venues than last year’s production. It will start in Manhattan, with a week on a plaza in front of the New York Public Library’s flagship building in Bryant Park, followed by a series of dates at Hudson Yards and other locations in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island. All performances will be free.
“It’s not a replacement for the Delacorte — it’s not intended to be a replacement — but my hope is that it will be successful enough as an experiment that this expanded version of what the mobile unit does can keep going indefinitely,” Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public, said in an interview.
The filmed production of “Much Ado About Nothing,” directed by Kenny Leon and starring Danielle Brooks and Grantham Coleman, was shot during a run in Central Park in 2019; it will be screened outdoors, free, at sites in all five boroughs.
“Much Ado About Nothing,” filmed for the PBS series Great Performances, will also be among four Shakespeare in the Park productions that can be streamed online during May and June. The others are a 2023 production of “Hamlet,” a 2022 production of “Richard III” and a 2021 production called “Merry Wives.” Streaming the Great Performances films will be free, but will require registering online for access.
The Delacorte has been closed since last fall for a $78 million renovation. A groundbreaking was held in October and the project is scheduled to finish sometime next year, and the summer of 2025 is expected to include Shakespeare back in Central Park.