Monday, July 13, 2009

Rushing 12 Nights in Advance: The State of the Rush

I love Anne Hathaway. Like, love her. So when I heard she was doing Shakespeare in the Park's Twelfth Night this summer with Raul Esparza, my other favorite actor, I couldn't contain my excitement. In fact, I tweeted on April 15 "Raul Esparza has been cast in Twelfth Night, which is already starring Anne Hathaway. I'm getting in line NOW!" Little did I know I should have followed through with that tweet.

On Sunday, I was shut out from getting tickets to the performance. Unfortunately, it was the production's final show. I know, I should have planned to do the famed Central Park rush earlier in the run, but due to scheduling conflicts, this is the way it worked out. But I took precautions. I arrived at 5:45 a.m.—a time I thought might even be over ambitious. But as the eternally long line of ticket hopefuls moved from Central Park West into the park (Central Park is technically not open to the public before 6 a.m.), line monitors of the Public Theater cut off the line when it reached a certain point, allowing no one else to join. There were already more people than there were tickets available, they said. After asking people who just made the cut off what time they arrived, I learned that on this particular day, unless you arrived at 4 a.m., you were out of luck. 4 a.m.! Even the people who were on the tail end of the line weren't safe. Far from it, actually. The line attendant told them, "Your chances of getting tickets are pretty close to zero. Well, they are zero. But you can wait on line for standby tickets, which aren't distributed until 8 p.m. and try your luck at that." How comforting.

I walked out of Central Park, tail between my legs, with my hopes dashed of ever seeing Anne and Raul lock lips.

But in addition to that thought, it also occurred to me how inaccessible this rush was. True, I'm a young guy who could have camped out all night for a ticket if I had gotten off my high-maintenance rear. But what about older people (and I'm not even talking about senior citizens) who wanted to see this performance? My mom couldn't (and wouldn't) sit on line from midnight to 1 p.m. the next day for a ticket. But she would wait on a line from say about 8 a.m.

According to the web site, "The Public Theater is dedicated to achieving artistic excellence while developing an American theater that is accessible and relevant to all people." The only people this line became accessible to were young theatergoers with time to spend on the street.

This insanity of camping out for tickets is extreme. One woman I spoke to said she was on line at 9:30 p.m. the night before (and she was not at the front). As it is, "rush" policies mean "day of" the performance. The problem is some rushers set the bar so high that rushing eventually becomes nearly impossible.

What do you think, Stage Rushers? Are rushes becoming impossible endeavors? Do you feel this is unfair to people who can't give up their entire day or sleep on the street? Was this an isolated incident, due to the fact that it was Twelfth Night's final performance? Or am I just sour grapes because I didn't get tickets? Sound off in the comments below!

Play: Supposedly fantastic / Rush: Epic fail


  1. I agree, I'd like to see them move more towards the lottery than the wake up ridiculously early thing...

    But--why did you wait till so late in the run?

  2. Since I was with Jesse when we were denied our tickets...

    the run of this show was outrageously short...less than a month, really. We all work 5 to 6 days a week...that cuts out all of those days. The few Saturdays and Sundays we had we were all away on vacation, and since we all wanted to see the show together this was the only day. When we rushed shows in the past, 7:30 AM used to be considered too early. So we thought for sure we were safe at 530. But some people just have more time on their hands I well as tents/air mattresses that they didn't mind sleeping on in the pouring rain.

    Well anyway, I'm sure it was a nice show, but rush is becoming a little too ambitious. -Kym

  3. I'm very sorry you didn't see the show, but don't feel too badly, while it was a very good production with a wonderful cast, it wasn't so mind blowing to warrant this craziness. It was fairly easy to get tickets until reviews came out, then it kept getting more and more ridiculous and by closing weekend, if you didn't camp out, you didn't get a ticket, which is a shame for people who couldn't see it until then. I think the lines being this crazy were a combination of the reviews and the cast, so I don't think it will be like this for all Shakespeare in the Park productions. The security guards were saying that they haven't seen lines like that in 10 years. Just in case, try to see The Bacchae early in the run, since it's an even shorter run.

  4. Obviously not everyone can camp out for hours -- due to age, disability, or a dozen other reasons. That's why they also run an online lottery, so even if you can't wait at all you still have a chance (albeit a small one) to get tickets. Check out their website.


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