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A beloved New York City tradition for more than 60 years, Free Shakespeare in the Park has provided free performances of world class theater to more than five million people. Located at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park, Free Shakespeare in the Park is the manifestation of founder Joe Papp's vision of a theater that is of, by, and for all people.
Free Shakespeare in the Park is performed at The Delacorte Theater, an 1800 seat outdoor theater in Central Park, located just off West 81st Street and Central Park West, adjacent to Belvedere Castle and Turtle Pond.
Conceived by founder Joseph Papp as a way to make great theater accessible to all, the Delacorte Theater officially opened in Central Park on June 18, 1962, with THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, directed by Papp and Gladys Vaughan and featuring George C. Scott as Shylock. THE MERCHANT OF VENICE was followed that summer by a production of THE TEMPEST, directed by Gerald Freedman and featuring Paul Stevens as Prospero and James Earl Jones as Caliban. The first Delacorte summer season concluded with KING LEAR, directed by Papp and Vaughan and featuring Frank Silvera as Lear.