The Playgoer: Shakespeare in the Park Line goes Online!

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Shakespeare in the Park Line goes Online!

Hallelujah, the Public has seen the light! I can't believe what I'm reading:

The Public Theater is launching the virtual line initiative this summer to increase accessibility to Park shows. While the majority of the tickets will still be given out at the line in Central Park, a limited number of tickets will be available each show day online. The virtual line will allow people who are registered at The Public Theater website to log-on the day of a show (starting at midnight) to submit a request for up to two tickets. At 1PM, they can log-on to the theater website again to see if they have received tickets for that evening’s performance. The tickets will be held at the box office and a valid photo ID will be required. The selection process is completely random and is not determined by what time of day a person submits a request for tickets.

A big change for a NY institution. But a welcome one.

This means that the only waiting in line (as opposed to online) will be at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. Tickets will not be handed out downtown at the Lafayette St. Public Theatre headquarters.

The website is a little ambiguous about the reasons for (and implicitly the longevity of) the tweak:
The Public Theater will not be distributing tickets downtown at 425 Lafayette Street due to ongoing construction on the exterior of the building. See below for info on how to get tickets online!

But whatever the reason I applaud the experiment. It's a fair compromise. You still have the first come-first served "egalitarian" option in the park. But for those of us who work during the day, we stay up till midnight and take a chance on the ol' internet casino. Yes, it's luck of the draw--but so was waiting on line some years! (Not to mention the weather.)

So what's changed? For the last few years we've seen the Public gradually sell off a greater portion of the seats to those willing to cough up $160. And this year--for one individual can buy as many as 10 tickets! Yes, for $1600. (I believe in the past there's at least been a limit of 2.)

(And I still don't know what they mean when they justify this appeal as helping "those who cannot wait in line to attend the theater." Are these tickets being given away to the infirm? I don't think so.)

So lately the only way to see this free and democratic event was to pay 3 figures or donate one of your precious vacation days toward the affair. Or just take your chances on the weekend with everyone else in the city and environs.

But by finally exploring alternate options, by finally recognizing that forcing people to sleep on the streets of the Bowery is not something we should be romanticizing in these days of gentrification, I do believe some folks at the Public are coming to their senses and recognizing that the concept of "Free Will" has to address freedom of access as well as just $ value.

Dare I wonder if the recent departure of Executive Director--and effectively chief fundraiser--Mara Manus has anything to do with this? Could this be a counterweight to the increased selling of indulgences for these sometimes highly desirable seats?


J W said...

i'm guessing that this is not only to bring them into the millenium, but also because SPF will be in residence at the public this summer. They probably dont want their audiences tripping over the people and their lawn chairs, umbrellas, and blankets.

Playgoer said...

Ha! Good point J.J.