Summer in the City: Waiting in Line for Shakespeare

Written by Lorraine Duffy Merkl on . Posted in News Our Town, News West Side Spirit, Our Town, West Side Spirit.


This is my 34th season waiting on line to see Shakespeare in the Park at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. summer in the city

Over the past three-plus decades, my husband, Neil, has hung out with me a handful of times; he really doesn’t mind, he reads his book. My 16-year-old daughter, Meg, loves it. Even though she is not a morning person, to be part of this treasured summer tradition, Meg will rise, help carry our chairs and blankets to the center of the park, and with the promise of ordering from Andy’s Deli on Amsterdam Avenue, gladly make a mother-daughter day out it.

My 19-year-old son, Luke, however, has gone roguLe. Three years ago, the one and only time I convinced him to hang with me, I thought his head would blow off. He could not believe he was wasting his time sitting around. In fact, Luke said he would rather pay somebody to stand there for him or, better yet, just buy a seat. The minute we got our tickets, he grabbed his backpack and started to run towards the Great Lawn to join his friends; Luke’s parting words to me were, “Never again.”

Although I, and apparently many others, don’t mind the process for procuring tickets, for which the line can be as entertaining as the play itself, Luke’s viewpoint seems almost what you’d expect from a New Yorker, particularly a native. Which leads me to ask, why is it that in the city that never sleeps, and where everything happens in a “New York minute,” are so many people standing still?

In the opening credits of movies that are set in Manhattan, the camera pans down from the skyline to the busy streets where everyone is walking with purpose to a score that Neil calls “New York hustle and bustle music.” But the reality is that sometimes we’re hustling and bustling to stand on line (never in line, of course) — and not just for free Shakespeare tickets. Even though we can buy movie tickets at home on the computer, if it’s a really popular film, we find ourselves standing on a line that wraps around the block to get into the theater.

We wait at the bus stop, down the subway, in the East Side shopping trifecta of H&M, Sephora and Barnes & Noble, with their crowd-control stanchions, so that you not only stand and wait, but do so in a restricted area. Further across town, the line waiting at Fairway can put you in such a trance that the store has employees to roust you from your daydream when it’s your turn, and direct you to a cashier.

Could it be we’re not the exciting, if-you-blink-you’ll-miss-it, fast-paced city we claim to be? Or perhaps, waiting on line is a New Yorker’s way of taking a well-deserved break.

All something to think about, as I take in Lily Rabe as Beatrice and Hamish Linklater as Benedick, in another glorious evening in the park.

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