By William Shakespeare
Adapted by Jocelyn Bioh
Directed by Saheem Ali
Weekly Digital Ticket Lottery Will Begin Accepting Entries
Tuesday, June 29 in Partnership with Goldstar
The Jerome L. Greene Foundation Jumpstarts Return of
Free Shakespeare in the Park With $1M Gift
The Public Theater (Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis; Executive Director, Patrick Willingham) will begin performances of the 2021 Free Shakespeare in the Park production of MERRY WIVES on Tuesday, July 6 at The Delacorte Theater. Adapted by award-winning playwright Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Associate Artistic Director and Resident Director Saheem Ali, the all-Black staging of the delightful comedy will officially open on Tuesday, July 27 and was recently extended by three weeks to now end on Saturday, September 18. The Public will close out the summer with their Annual Gala as a special performance of MERRY WIVES on Monday, September 20, with a rain date of Tuesday, September 21.
Continuing a 59-year tradition of free theater in Central Park that was interrupted for the first time ever in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, this fresh and joyous adaptation of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor will be set in South Harlem, amidst a vibrant and eclectic community of West African immigrants. MERRY WIVES is a New York story about tricks of the heart, performed in the heart of the City—Central Park’s magical Delacorte Theater. A raucous spinoff featuring the Bard’s most beloved comic characters, this hilarious farce tells the story of the trickster Falstaff and the wily wives who outwit him in a new celebration of Black joy, laughter, and vitality.
With the lifting of New York State’s COVID-19 restrictions, The Public is thrilled to announce that The Delacorte Theater’s seating capacity will be significantly increased to 1468 seats or approximately 80% with both full capacity and physically distanced sections to allow more New Yorkers to attend MERRY WIVES as the beloved summer tradition of Free Shakespeare in the Park returns.
“We are thrilled with the news that we will be able to welcome far more New Yorkers into The Delacorte than was previously possible. What better sign that New York is returning than our theater in Central Park full of laughter, applause, and excitement,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “The Governor’s decree to lift restrictions acknowledges a beautiful reality: we are finally starting to recover from COVID-19. And how gorgeous that when we gather, we’ll be in the most democratic of civic spaces. Shakespeare in the Park is free because the culture belongs to everyone; from July 6 on, there will be a rousing acknowledgement of that truth every night at our beautiful theater. We’re back. Let us come together.”
Proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test is not required for entry; however, all patrons over the age of two must wear an approved mask to enter the theater in accordance with theatrical union requirements and under the guidance of our health advisory consultants who are monitoring vaccination and infection rates locally in New York City. MERRY WIVES will be performed without an intermission and policies may be updated at The Public’s sole discretion. For more information on the health and safety protocols this season, please visit thepublic.nyc/safeinthepark.
The all-Black cast of MERRY WIVES will include Abena (Anne Page), Shola Adewusi (Mama Quickly), Gbenga Akinnagbe (Mister Nduka Ford), Pascale Armand (Madam Ekua Page), MaYaa Boateng (Fenton/Simple), Phillip James Brannon (Pastor Evans), Brandon E. Burton (Ensemble), Joshua Echebiri (Slender/Pistol), Branden Lindsay (Ensemble), Ebony Marshall-Oliver (Ensemble), Jarvis D. Matthews (Ensemble), Jacob Ming-Trent (Falstaff), Jennifer Mogbock (Ensemble), Julian Rozzell Jr. (Shallow), Kyle Scatliffe (Mister Kwame Page), David Ryan Smith (Doctor Caius), and Susan Kelechi Watson (Madam Nkechi Ford).
MERRY WIVES will feature scenic design by Beowulf Boritt; costume design by Dede Ayite; lighting design by Jiyoun Chang; co-sound design by Kai Harada and Palmer Hefferan; hair, wigs, and makeup design by Cookie Jordan; original music by Michael Thurber; original drum compositions by Farai Malianga; fight direction by Rocío Mendez; choreography by Darrell Grand Moultrie; and sound system design by Jessica Paz. Narda E. Alcorn will serve as Production Stage Manager.
Tickets to MERRY WIVES are free, continuing The Public Theater’s long-standing tradition of free programming and community engagement. This year, free tickets will be distributed, two per person, entirely via an advanced digital lottery hosted by new partner Goldstar. The lottery will accept entries through the Goldstar app and website each Tuesday and Friday, until 12pm ET, one week prior to the next week’s scheduled performances, beginning Tuesday, June 29.
This season, The Jerome L. Greene Foundation is playing a pivotal role in bringing Free Shakespeare in the Park back to New York. With their leadership gift of $1M making Free Shakespeare in the Park possible, The Jerome L. Greene Foundation is championing The Public’s mission to create great theater, boldly conceived, and free for all.
The Public is proud to honor and celebrate NYC’s healthcare and essential workers in the first week of performances (July 6 – July 10) with the generous support of JetBlue Airways, Ernst & Young, and Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Since 1962, over five million people have enjoyed more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals at The Delacorte Theater. Conceived by founder Joseph Papp as a way to make great theater accessible to all, The Public’s Free Shakespeare in the Park continues to be the bedrock of the Company’s mission to increase access and engage the community.
MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR has appeared on The Delacorte stage only twice before in Free Shakespeare in the Park’s 59-year history. It was last seen in 1994, directed by Daniel Sullivan and featuring Brian Murray as Falstaff, Tonya Pinkins as Mistress Ford, David Alan Grier as Master Frank Ford, and Andrea Martin as Mistress Quickly. The first production at The Delacorte was in 1974, directed by David Margulies and featuring Barnard Hughes as Sir John Falstaff, Cynthia Harris as Mistress Ford, and Danny DeVito as John Rugby.
Free Shakespeare in the Park’s return to The Delacorte this summer is a moment of joy and connection after more than a year of not being able to gather in-person to experience theater together. As planning for a safe reopening in July moves ahead, The Public continues to navigate immense challenges because of the global coronavirus pandemic, and in response to the long overdue reckoning around racism in the country and in the theater community, The Public continues to interrogate its practices and systems to move closer to being an inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist organization. This is a moment of uncertainty, transformation, action, and accountability. There is much work to be done, but The Public’s mission has not changed, and artists and their voices play a critical role in this moment too.
To support The Public Theater, become a Supporter or Partner by visiting publictheater.org/supporttoday. For more information about the Annual Gala performance on September 20, visit publictheater.org/gala21 or email email@example.com.
Since 2002, Goldstar has been on a mission to make it easy and affordable for both its 10 million members to discover live entertainment events, and for its 6,000 venue partners to sell out their shows. Loaded with one-of-a kind features, Goldstar’s apps and site are designed to help people experience more local live events, including theater, comedy, concerts, dance, cabaret, food tours, and everything in between—all at prices that are typically half-off or better. For event organizers, producers, performing arts centers, and promoters across the nation, Goldstar is an essential marketing tool that builds new audiences, increases overall revenue, and reaches members who are only interested in one thing: live entertainment. To learn more, please visit Goldstar at www.goldstar.com.
ABOUT THE JEROME L. GREENE FOUNDATION:
The Jerome L. Greene Foundation supports select programs that make a significant impact on the lives of all New Yorkers in the arts, education, medicine, and social justice. Its 40-year history is grounded in the vision of its founder, Jerry Greene, to give back to the city he loved. Today, the Foundation honors this commitment by continuing to fund quality programs and by identifying new ways to increase access to the arts and to education, create opportunities for ground-breaking medical research, and help ensure social justice for all. www.jlgreene.org.
ABOUT THE PUBLIC THEATER:
THE PUBLIC is theater of, by, and for all people. Artist-driven, radically inclusive, and fundamentally democratic, The Public continues the work of its visionary founder Joe Papp as a civic institution engaging, both on-stage and off, with some of the most important ideas and social issues of today. Conceived over 60 years ago as one of the nation’s first nonprofit theaters, The Public has long operated on the principles that theater is an essential cultural force and that art and culture belong to everyone. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Executive Director Patrick Willingham, The Public’s wide breadth of programming includes an annual season of new work at its landmark home at Astor Place, Free Shakespeare in the Park at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park, the Mobile Unit touring throughout New York City’s five boroughs, Public Forum, Under the Radar, Public Studio, Public Works, Public Shakespeare Initiative, and Joe’s Pub. Since premiering HAIR in 1967, The Public continues to create the canon of American Theater and is currently represented on Broadway by the Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Girl From the North Country. Their programs and productions can also be seen regionally across the country and around the world. The Public has received 59 Tony Awards, 184 Obie Awards, 55 Drama Desk Awards, 58 Lortel Awards, 34 Outer Critic Circle Awards, 13 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards, 56 AUDELCO Awards, 6 Antonyo Awards, and 6 Pulitzer Prizes. publictheater.org.
The Public stands in honor of the first inhabitants and our ancestors. We acknowledge the land on which The Public Theater stands—the original homeland of the Lenape people. We acknowledge the painful history of genocide and forced removal from this territory. The Public also gives our respect to the people of Seneca Village, a community of Black property owners who were eradicated from their land, where The Delacorte Theater now makes its home. We recognize the sacrifice that these ancestors made. We honor the generations of stewards and we pay our respects to the many diverse indigenous peoples still connected to this land.
The Jerome L. Greene Foundation is the proud season sponsor of Free Shakespeare in the Park.
The LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust provides leadership support for The Public Theater’s yearround activities.
FREE TICKET INFORMATION
Tickets to MERRY WIVES are free, continuing The Public Theater’s long-standing tradition of free programming and community engagement. This year, free tickets will be distributed, two per person, entirely via an advanced digital lottery hosted by new partner Goldstar.
The lottery will accept entries through the Goldstar app and website each Tuesday and Friday, until 12pm ET, one week prior to the next week’s scheduled performances. The lottery will begin accepting entries on Tuesday, June 29 for the Tuesday, July 6 and Wednesday, July 7 performances, and then again on Friday July 2 for performances July 8 through July 10, and continue each Tuesday for Monday-Wednesday performances and Friday for Thursday Saturday performances thereafter.
MERRY WIVES will have Open Caption, Audio Described, and ASL performances; dates will be announced on publictheater.org. Accessible tickets for these performances will be available through their respective Goldstar ADA Accessible Digital Distribution and our Partners in Accessibility TDF.org and HandsOn.org. GalaPro will also be offered for on-demand Closed Captioning, Spanish subtitles, and Audio Description in August and September.
The full performance calendar and complete ticket distribution details can be found at publictheater.org.
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By William Shakespeare
Adapted by Jocelyn Bioh
Directed by Saheem Ali
Featuring Abena, Shola Adewusi, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Pascale Armand, MaYaa Boateng, Phillip James Brannon, Brandon E. Burton, Joshua Echebiri, Branden Lindsay, Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Jarvis D. Matthews, Jacob Ming-Trent, Jennifer Mogbock, Julian Rozzell Jr., Kyle Scatliffe, David Ryan Smith, and Susan Kelechi Watson