Shakespeare in the Park, Scarface Edition: How to Navigate the Yearly, Insane Free Ticket Tradition Starting Next Week


Every summer, one of the hottest dates in town emerges out of Central Park. And it’s back. With Al Pacino.

Yes, the magical time of year when the Public Theater puts on some of the hottest shows in town in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater is here again. Magic how? Well! The Public pairs famous actor people – like Meryl Streep, or Anne Hathaway, or this year, yes, Al Pacino – with Shakespeare, in Central Park! Occasionally, they’ll do other neat shows, like Hair, which transferred to Broadway and won a Tony. The best part? It’s free. The catch?

You have to be mildly insane to get the tickets.

Here’s how this works, for those who don’t know. There are four ways to get tickets.

1. You get in line at the Public Theater or the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Because everyone else wants these tickets, you have to line up at the asscrack of dawn. People line up so early to get these tickets, even movie stars feel bad for them, and bring them pizza.

2. You try to get tickets through The Public’s online ticketing system. If you get lucky, you get picked on a random night. But everyone else is doing this, so you probably won’t get picked. If you do get picked, you have to go pick your tickets up between 5PM and 7PM, or you lose them.

3. You can pay for tickets and be a donor to The Public. But you’re going to be paying $175 a ticket for something people are getting for free.

4. Get crafty and pay someone to stand in line for you. Or a scalper. Oh, Craigslist. You won’t read this in the Times‘ guide on how to get these tickets, but yes, people do it. You will think about it at some point. It works.

You want to see Pacino in the Park? There’s a price to pay, Chico. But the shows typically turn out to be pretty great, and again, it makes for an incredible date in Central Park. It’s one of the few equalizing, unbridled joys of living in this city in the Summer. Don’t forget to take advantage of it.

And now, to get you excited for Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice, a clip from Scarface:

[Correction: The article originally stated that you should line up at The Public Theater or The Delacorte in Central Park. The nice people at The Public emailed me to remind me that you haven’t been able to line up downtown at The Public since 2008. Now I feel bad that I suggested that you should buy tickets off of Craigslist. If you do, please remind your respective scalper that although he’s providing a service for some people, he’s also chipping away at the intrinsic equality value of this opportunity, one where New Yorkers get to experience something wonderful on a previously leveled playing field. But do it after you have the tickets in your hand.]