Seeing Shakespeare in the Park last year was not only one of the highlights of my summer but of all of my theater-going experiences. It was that good. I was super excited to learn that this summer, they were performing Twelfth Night with the always lovely Anne Hathaway.
Given the horrible June weather (it's an outdoor theater) and our schedules, I waited until the last week to get tickets. All tickets are free and handed out the day of the performance at 1 pm, which means you have to get there hours early and wait in line. I am not working now, I have got the time, and I really wanted to see the show so that didn't really bother me.
On Wednesday, I arrived at the theater at 6:20AM to find a massive herd of people. Last year, for Hair, I showed up around 8:00AM, and I remember feeling stunned to see about 100 people already there. This year, I arrived an hour and a half earlier than that and there are probably more like 500 people there. By the time I reached the end of the line, I was practically sitting in the reservoir (maybe about a half a mile away from the theater). I knew I was doomed, but I planted my seat down, listening to the frantic chatter of all the people around me in disbelief of this scene, until a few hours later, the theater staff member came by and announced that based on my position in line, I had a 1% chance of getting tickets. So I went home.
Friday (today), I was going to be hardcore. Alarm set at 4:00AM. Clothes laid out. Book bag packed. I was out the door in 15 minutes. It was pitch black with a big moon as I walked to the park, only a handful of apartments on my way had their lights on, the only people on the streets had obviously just vacated a bar. I wasn't even sure if I was even allowed inside the park at this hour of the night, but I walked in anyway. By the time two other theater-goers and I walked to the theater, there was absolutely no one there. Could we possibly be the first in line? My heart fluttered with possibility and happiness until the lights of a police car approached us.
"The line starts at 81st Street and Central Park West until the park opens," the policeman informed us. By the time we walked there and reached the back of the line (which extended five blocks), it was 4:45AM and we were probably 430th in line (I only know that because someone was counting). The people in the very front of the line got there at 9:30PM the previous night!
When the park opened at 6:00AM, and the line snaked inside of the park, I ended up only about 50 feet ahead of my position on Wednesday, and I had arrived an hour and a half earlier! So much for being hardcore. The theater staff told us that it was unlikely we would get tickets but there was a small chance. Everyone surrounding me stuck around, so I did too. It was heartbreaking to see all the people walk by who came hours after us, with excitement in their steps, only to be turned away, again and again. We barely had a shot, they were doomed.
I overheard a staff member mention that you didn't have to wait for tickets in the first few weeks of the show, you could just walk up at 1PM. (The boy next to me in line wearing the argyle sweater made me feel a little better by reminding me that the audience had to wait in line and/or watch many of these performances in the rain. I guess they did not cancel performances due to weather as I assumed).
It sounds like it wouldn't be the case, but the time sitting in the park waiting for tickets goes by really fast. I read a ton, had interesting conversations the livelong Upper Eastsider on my left and argyle sweater boy on my right. Plus it was a beautiful morning and just relaxing to sit in the park, even if it was a bit chilly and I had to wrap myself in a sweatshirt, a puffer and two towels (yes, in July).
Eight hours later, I didn't get the tickets.
As for the cumulative 12 hours of my life wasted on not getting to see Twelfth Night, there could be worse things than that.
Why is it that everything cool in New York has to be such a drag?
The show ends Sunday; I won't be trying for tickets again.