Shakespeare in the Park has been an essential part of my New York summers since it began in 1954. Unless we were abroad, we went every summer, and we saw most of the great plays outdoors. We took our kids to the productions as soon as they were old enough to sit quietly, and they loved them or they slept. All three of them have since become Shakespeare aficionados, and I attribute their passion in part to the outdoor theater.
     After seeing “Twelfth Night” there two years ago, and not seeing the crossed garters on the yellow stockings, I mourned that my vision had become so poor. Last summer, Al Pacino’s talent made my poor vision insignificant. This summer, of course, my vision is much worse, and I gave up the idea of outdoor Shakespeare. But my daughter Perri discovered that the Theater Development Fund makes special provisions for the visually handicapped: at select performances, headsets are available which offer running commentary describing the plot and the action.
     I recently had the opportunity to attend one. Monday, July 25th had a desolate beginning. After several blasting hot days it was cooler but muggy and gray, with rain on and off. Alas, I despaired. That was our night; we had the two precious tickets to “All’s Well that Ends Well” at the open air Delacorte theater in Central Park. In the early evening we had still not determined whether we would try to attend. It was an unsettling day. The sky was gloomy and the rain was intermittent. We’d been soaked earlier in the day. But the tickets were so precious, it was impossible for us to sacrifice them.
     About 6 PM, we screwed our courage to the sticking point, taking whatever outer garments we had on hand. I was in Perri’s poncho, and Perri bravely assured me she would be OK. We took a taxi from the East Village uptown. A luxury! The rain was coming down, and during the ride we noted glumly several times that it was probably crazy. But nonetheless we proceeded.
     When we arrived at the theater, it was raining lightly. Perri forthwith bought a Shakespeare poncho for herself—a capacious white garbage bag with the name Shakespeare repeatedly printed on it. We noted fairly large groups of people waiting around on the various ticket lines. This made us feel less foolish. When the theater opened we took our seats, which were in the second row on the right. One of the privileges of the handicapped tickets is apparently to be very close to the stage. We watched as the theater slowly filled.   Fellow audience members were veterans of the rain apparently, because many carried huge plastic sheets which they stretched along their sitting areas. Our immediate neighbors were the visually handicapped and their escorts. Next to me sat an older woman whose gigantic German Shepherd immediately made himself comfortable under her seat where he rested happily for the entire performance. He was obviously used to attending the theater. The rain came and went.
     A huge, graceful balcony had been erected onstage, and it was gorgeous against the sky, extending the theater into the heavens. Soon after the play started, the rain stopped and the skies cleared beautifully. The production was a delight. The commentary on the headset was enormously helpful, though it petered out halfway through the play, a technical glitch. But by then I was oriented so I could follow without trouble. From the second row, I could hear, and see and understand the action on the stage, even with impaired vision. The play itself was great fun, and I thought it was beautifully cast. So we have a comedy with a “happy” ending, in which Bertram, the unworthy hero (a cad), gets both the girl, Helena, and their baby. Do they live happily ever after? Of course. Shakespeare would have wanted us to believe that. He would not deceive us—after all, he called it “All’s Well that Ends Well.”
     We folded the Shakespeare poncho and put it away carefully. Who knows. Maybe we’ll use it again next year.


About blogginggrandma

I'm 86. Legally blind. But a force to be reckoned with!
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1 Response to DRY PONCHOS

  1. What a great review – wish I had stayed for the play! And I wish you had taken a photo of Perri in the Shakespeare poncho – we could have used that in some nefarious way, I am sure. So glad NYC makes such wonderful accommodation! We’re in Chicago this weekend with Nathan and Sarah. I keep reminding Sarah that she has already seen the aquarium twice – at 3 months and again at 5 years – both times with Anatole. This time there are jellyfish. Hope it’s getting a little cooler in NYC!
    Love, Martha

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