The New York City theater world is maybe, just maybe, creeping back toward larger-scale in-person performances. Today, the Public Theater announced plans to bring back its famed free Shakespeare in the Park program at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park later this summer. The theater company plans to stage Merry Wives, an adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor by School Girls’s Jocelyn Bioh to be directed by Saheem Ali, from July 5 to August 29. The Public canceled its plans for Shakespeare in the Park last summer and laid off much of its staff amid the spread of coronavirus. This summer, the company is betting that vaccinations, and the fact that the theater is outdoors — far safer than indoors, in terms of the spread of the virus — will make the program’s return possible. They plan to announce further details, including ticket protocols and, presumably, how many people may sit in the 1,800 seat theater, in coordination with health and safety experts and theatrical unions next week.
Earlier this month, New York State introduced plans to reopen some performance spaces at limited capacity in conjunction with “NY PopsUp,” an event series designed to kickstart culture in the city and state. The requirements for those reopenings are still very strict, with venues limited to 33 percent capacity and limits of up to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors starting April 2, though they will likely be more relaxed by July. Other theatrical companies are also exploring outdoor performances in the nearer future, including Lincoln Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. On the large, poorly ventilated, and very much indoor side of the spectrum, Broadway performances, meanwhile, aren’t expected to return until this fall.