Twelfth Night Premieres in Park; Theater Crowd Kvells for Its Summer Darling

On Thursday, June 25th, celebrities basked in the early evening sunshine at the opening night of Twelfth Night at Shakespeare in the Park. Playwrights Tony Kushner, David Hare and Suzan-Lori Parks; actors Candace Bergen and Patricia Clarkson; comedians Steve Martin and Martin Short; and broadcaster Diane Sawyer were just a few of the stars who showed up to the pre-performance dinner in support of one of New York City’s most beloved summer institutions.

 “This whole experience is just a wonderful experience from beginning to end,” said.Law and Order’s Sam Waterston, who has performed at the Delacorte in Much Ado about Nothing and in two productions of Hamlet. ” To be a member of the audience, to be in the shows, to have the sun go down, to have the whole city concentrated around this ‘O’ here”–he indicated the round theater–“is just a wonderful experience. Whether you’re up there or out here, it’s just great.”

Actor Liev Schreiber offered a different opinion. “It’s much more fun to be in it. Any time I go to a show that I’m not in, I feel a little bit like I’m intruding. Especially here. And I get envious. To have a night when it’s not raining and it’s not hot, the gala’s going well, you know at 8 oclock, you’re almost positive it’s not going to rain, you’ve got a keyed up audience. There’s nothing quite like the gala night. The audience is completely keyed up. I’m jealous.”

Ms. Parks, who excitedly proclaimed, “It’s a beautiful day! Yay!” said that her favorite part of Shakespeare in the Park is “That it’s free! And they say the best things in life are free, so there you go. This must be one of the best things in life because it’s free.”

Jane Krakowski, meanwhile, recalled her childhood experiences as an audience member, saying “Since I was a little kid–I grew up in New Jersey–I’ve been coming in with my parents and waiting in line all day and having a picnic and finally getting your tickets and watching the show, there’s something so romantic about being out on a New York summer and looking over at the castle and over the pond, and it’s just one of those great New York experiences.”

Mr. Schreiber recalled another aspect of performing at the outdoor Delacorte theater, one that’s been causing the current company a bit of mischief. “I had a raccoon wander up on stage in the middle of a soliloquy in Cymbeline. And he just kind of stared at me as if I was a hack actor. He almost looked like he had his arms folded. He was watching me … totally unimpressed.”

Mr. Kushner says the raccoons are one of his favorite parts of the Shakespeare in the Park experience. “I love the raccoons on the stage! They’re very tough [critics].”

Alas, no raccoons made it on stage during the performance, but Anne Hathaway as a cross-dressed Viola and Raul Esparza as Orsino sizzled next to Audra McDonald, who played one lusty Olivia. 

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  Twelfth Night Premieres in Park; Theater Crowd Kvells for Its Summer Darling