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Shakespeare and Central Park: Shakespeare Under (and With) the Stars

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Abstract

This article explores the ways in which outdoor Shakespeare in America can be seen by audiences, performers and producers as a particularly American form of theatre. It focuses on one particular outdoor venue: the Delacorte Theater in New York City's Central Park, the home of the Public Theater's annual Shakespeare in the Park. The association of Shakespeare with Americana is achieved not only by performing Shakespeare outdoors in the centre of America's greatest metropolis, but also through the particular way in which Shakespeare in the Park uses massively popular stars but avoids excessively publicising their involvement so as to situate the festival as populist and democratic, while still affirming the individualism of the “American dream” emblematised by the presence of these stars. The essay begins with a brief history of the company, then examines the stars who have appeared in Shakespearean productions at the Delacorte. It concludes with a more theoretical analysis of the complicated interaction between celebrity, elitism and populism in relation to the “American-ness” of Shakespeare in the Park.

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