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Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity

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The weekly digital lottery will begin accepting entries Tuesday, June 29.

The Public Theater 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.

Check out rehearsal photos below!

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; 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 gala@publictheater.org.

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
Shola Adewusi

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
Jacob Ming-Trent and Susan Kelechi Watson in

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
Jacob Ming-Trent and the company

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
The company

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
Jennifer Mogbock, choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie, and Jacob Ming-Trent

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
Shola Adewusi

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
Michael Thurber and director Saheem Ali

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
The Company

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
Jocelyn Bioh

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
Jocelyn Bioh and Saheem Ali

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
Pascale Armand and Susan Kelechi Watson

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
Jennifer Mogbock and the

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
Pascale Armand and Saheem Ali

Photos: Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park's MERRY WIVES; Increased Audience Capacity
Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Pascale Armand


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