Public park picnics, beach lounging with pigeons, tourist-riddled gallery hopping, sweat-drenched city joggers—what New York summer is complete without the Shakespeare in the Park frenzy? Folks all around the city can be heard boasting, “Dude, I woke up at, like, six in the morning to get my Shakespeare in the Park tickets!” Hordes of Bard lovers queue in at Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre in the wee hours of morn, armed with folding chairs and busy-work crossword puzzles. The less passionate turn to Craigslist, offering line standers upwards of a lucrative fifteen bucks per hour.
SummerStage is Shakespeare in the Park’s tame cousin. No tickets are needed for entry—just a small dose of willpower to wait on the quarter mile-long line leading to the packed Rumsey Playfield. The wait, luckily, never surpasses ten minutes, though an exasperated few caved for an illicit bottle of brew to last it out. Most just make weather-related small talk to tide them through, opting instead to get their drink and semi-gourmet sandwich fix from inside vendors. (A word to the wise: getting there an hour before show time is the difference between grabbing a relaxed blanket spot in the picnic area or chillin’ out on the bleachers next to a putrid garbage can.) The space resembles a small-scale, modern age Woodstock; though intensely packed with barefoot twenty- and thirty-somethings, all remained in polite, pleasant order. Folks snaked through the mass of arms, legs, and feet with overflowing cups of beer in hand, offering profuse “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry”s after every inevitable spill of booze.
An eclectic mix of music and dance series populates much of SummerStage’s event calendar. Included on this summer’s line-up are select picks from the Metropolitan Opera, Forces of Nature Dance Company, alternative punk group Jack’s Mannequin, and “King of Latin Soul” Joe Bataan. Every once in a while comes a shake-up to the old grind—The Moth, a non-profit storytelling organization, spread the spoken word love to Central Park on a breezy late June night. The evening’s theme? Big nights.
Seasoned storyteller, writer, and host Andy Borowitz kicked things off with a recount of his now-wife’s bizarre mixed messages on their first few dates. (Moral of his story: never trust your therapist.) Comedian Jessi Klein, loveable badass Sherman O.T. Powell, MothSHOP instructor Bonnie Levison, band leader (and almost-doctor) Salman Ahmad, and Permanent Midnight author Jerry Stahl shared funky tales of drug excursions, quirky relationships, and extraordinary circumstances of ordinary life. All six storytellers gave hearty, lemon-zesty slices of their big nights to a serene audience and, appropriately, the big, darkening night—a night unmarrable by even the most putrid garbage can.