Public Theater reveals 2018 Free Shakespeare in the Park season

Shakespeare's Othello and a re-imagining of the 2016 Public Works musical adaptation of Twelfth Night will be staged at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park in summer 2018.

Othello and Twelfth Night

Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of the Public Theater, has now announced details of the 2018 Free Shakespeare in the Park season. The 56-year tradition continues this summer with a brand new production of Shakespeare's timeless tragedy Othello, with performances from May 29 through to June 24, 2018, followed by a re-imagining of Public Works' 2016 musical adaptation of Twelfth Night, which will be remounted from July 17 through to August 19, 2018. Tickets for both productions are free and will be distributed daily at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park on a first-come-first-served basis.

Mr. Eustis commented: “The Public has not presented Othello in the Park since 1991. In a moment in America where issues of race, racism, and violence are engaging us all, the time is right to explore Shakespeare's great tragedy in America's most public theater in the middle of Central Park. We are also proud to present the Delacorte directorial debut of Ruben Santiago-Hudson, long one of the most beloved members of our family as actor and playwright, whose career as a director has soared in the past few seasons.”

Ruben Santiago-Hudson is a Tony Award-winning director and will helm a cast that will be announced in the coming months.

Synopsis: "Set amid war and palace intrigue in the 17th-century Mediterranean, this classic drama about a noble Black Venetian general whose marriage is sabotaged by theater’s most infamous villain, Iago, remains Shakespeare’s most urgent and relevant tragedy today. A lush, romantic vision gives way to the violent tangle of love and jealousy, race and revenge in this must-see production of Shakespeare’s great tragedy, Othello."

With reference to Twelfth Night, Mr. Eustis continued: "Public Works has been the most exciting new program The Public has created in a generation. Our Labor Day weekend pageants for the past five years have been greeted with rapture and imitation, having spawned sister projects in Dallas, Detroit, Seattle and the National Theatre in London. This summer, we are making a huge leap forward by presenting a full-length run of a Public Works show: Shaina Taub and Kwame Kwei-Armah's delightful and intoxicating musical version of Twelfth Night. Surrounded by a huge ensemble of community members, Twelfth Night will reach an enormously expanded audience with the deep Public Works message that everyone is an artist, and we are all in this together.”

This re-imagining of the musical adaptation will feature the 2016 princicpal cast members reprising their respective roles, including Tony Award winner Nikki M. James (as Viola), Andrew Kober (as Malvolio), Jacob Ming-Trent (as Sir Toby Belch), and Shaina Taub (as Feste). They will be joined by five Equity actors and two rotating ensembles of community members, stemming from all five boroughs of New York City.

This musical version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night was originally conceived by Shaina Taub and Kwame Kwei-Armah, with Ms. Taub also providing music and lyrics for the production. Mr. Kwei-Armah and Oskar Eustis will direct this summer's re-staging.

Synopsis: "Shakespeare's enchanting comedy Twelfth Night follows Viola, a young heroine who washes up on the shores of Illyria, disguises herself as a man, is sent to court a countess, and falls in love with a Duke. This unforgettable musical adaptation explores love in all its many disguises."


Nikki M. James & Jose Llana in Twelfth Night in 2016.
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

Conceived by Public Theater founder Joseph Papp in 1962, over five million patrons have attended more than 150 free Shakespeare in the Park productions at the Delacorte Theater in the heart of Central Park.