9 Shows You Can See in New York Completely for Free
Summer in the city means free theater.
If you love theater but don't have the budget for tickets, summer is your season. That's when some of the most exciting companies in New York present free outdoor productions. While the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park is the most famous example, there are others that don't require you to wake up at the crack of dawn to wait in line for tickets. Here is our list of the nine most exciting free productions playing in New York this summer:
1. Othello — Shakespeare in the Park (May 29-June 24)
Dealing with the intersecting forces of race, sex, and political power, Shakespeare's Othello is as relevant today as it was 400 years ago. Chukwudi Iwuji stars as the Black Venetian general driven to a jealous rage, while Corey Stoll (who portrayed Brutus in last season's controversial production of Julius Caesar) plays the scheming Iago. Ruben Santiago-Hudson directs. The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park is the standard against which all other free summer productions are judged. You can expect Broadway quality, which is why tickets move fast: They are distributed outside the Delacorte Theater at noon (first come, first served). We advise getting there by 7am at the latest to secure seats.
2. Romeo and Juliet — New York Classical Theatre (June 5-July 29)
Physically experience Shakespeare's tragedy of doomed romance in this panoramic production (which means the audience moves around from scene to scene). Director Stephen Burdman will turn the area around the Pool in Central Park (near West 103rd Street) into fair Verona (June 5-24). The production goes on the road after that, playing Rockefeller Park (June 27-June 30), the Battery (July 2-15), Carl Schurz Park (July 17-22), and Brooklyn Bridge Park (July 24-29).
3. A Midsummer Night's Dream — Smith Street Stage (June 20-July 1)
No summer would be complete without Shakespeare's comedy of mixed-up love in the Athenian woodland. This year's production takes place in Brooklyn's Carroll Park. Director Jonathan Hopkins reimagines Athens as today's New York City, a place where magic hides in the unlikeliest of places, and the MTA is run by mischievous fairies.
4. The Three Musketeers: Twenty Years Later — Hudson Warehouse (July 5-29)
This is the second installment of Susane Lee's four-part adaptation of The d'Artagnan Romances by Alexandre Dumas. It takes place during the childhood reign of Louis XIV and features an older (but not necessarily wiser) d'Artagnan fighting for king and country alongside his faithful band of musketeers. We loved the first part, which featured intrigue, scandal, and the best swordplay of the summer. Expect inventive al fresco staging from director Nicholas Martin-Smith on the back patio of Riverside Park's Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument.
5. Twelfth Night — Shakespeare in the Park (July 17-August 19)
Singer-songwriter Shaina Taub and director Kwame Kwei-Armah have conceived this vibrant musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Illyrian comic romp. It played just a weekend in 2016 as part of the Public Theater's Public Works program, but this monthlong run at the Delacorte will give more New Yorkers a chance to see it (for those unable to wait in line, there's also a digital lottery). Nikki M. James returns to play Viola, while Taub reprises her role as Feste. This is the show everyone will be talking about this summer.
6. King Lear & All's Well That Ends Well — Hip to Hip Theatre Company (July 26-August 26)
The wandering players of the summer, Hip to Hip Theatre Company takes its latest two-play repertory to venues across the five boroughs, Jersey City, and Southampton (click here for a complete schedule). King Lear is the Bard's tale of an aging and vain ruler who divides his kingdom among his greedy children, while All's Well That Ends Well is a comedy of desire and deception that is sure to raise eyebrows in the #MeToo era.
7. Hamlet — Hudson Warehouse (August 2-26)
Shakespeare's most celebrated tragedy closes up the summer season for Hudson Warehouse. George K. Wells directs the tale of the melancholic Danish prince whose uncle skips ahead of him to claim the throne (and his mother's hand in marriage) after his father dies under mysterious circumstances. As always, the production takes place under the imposing edifice of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Riverside Park.
8. The Rover — Torn Out Theater (August 16-26)
Torn Out Theater raised quite a stir last summer with its nude production of Shakespeare's Hamlet, which played a sensational weekend in Brooklyn's Prospect Park before transferring to Manhattan's Central Park, just steps away from the Delacorte. This year, the company has assembled its first mixed-gender cast for a very naked production of Aphra Behn's restoration comedy about Carnival in Naples. Press materials for the production (directed by Pitr Strait) claim that it "celebrates body freedom and empowerment," which is a novel spin on Carnival's usual themes of drinking and sex.
9. Macbeth — The Drilling Company (August 24-September 8)
You're not supposed to say the name of this play inside a theater, so it's just as well that this production will take place in the great outdoors of Bryant Park, in a production that evokes the Civil War-era gang activity of Manhattan's Five Points neighborhood. Shakespeare's tragedy of ambition and fate seems like the perfect end of the season, as midsummer dreams give way to a busy fall in the city that never sleeps.