Delacorte Theater

Coordinates: 40°46′48.36″N 73°58′7.56″W / 40.7801000°N 73.9687667°W / 40.7801000; -73.9687667
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Delacorte Theater
The theater in 2021
AddressCentral Park
Manhattan, New York
United States
Coordinates40°46′48.36″N 73°58′7.56″W / 40.7801000°N 73.9687667°W / 40.7801000; -73.9687667
OwnerCity of New York
OperatorPublic Theater
OpenedJune 18, 1962[1]
Shakespeare in the Park

The Delacorte Theater is a 1,800-seat open-air theater in Central Park, in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is home to the Public Theater's free Shakespeare in the Park productions. As of September 2023, it has been closed for renovations that are expected to complete in spring 2025.

Over five million people have attended more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals at the Delacorte Theater since its opening in 1962.[2]


Joseph Papp ran a Shakespeare festival starting in 1954. Papp's group had been touring New York's boroughs on temporary staging, including presenting at Central Park. Papp's group was well-regarded, and he started seeking funds in 1958 for a permanent outdoor amphitheater in Central Park, with the aid of Helen Hayes. Parks Commissioner Robert Moses was opposed to the project. However, Moses was replaced by Newbold Morris in 1960, who was much more positive toward the creation of a theater. The city government decided to go forward with the project, and the Board of Estimate approved $250,000 in funds for construction, with Park Department architects designing the original theater. The theater had been planned to open in 1961. However, the funds ran dry with the theater unfinished. Morris talked with his friend George T. Delacorte Jr., president of the Dell Publishing company. Delacorte, a fan of Shakespeare, agreed to fund the remaining $150,000 to finish construction of the theater, which was named in honor of him and his wife Valerie in gratitude.[3]

Delays from changes in design, a construction strike, as well as procuring the required funds from Delacorte pushed the opening back to 1962. The first production at the theater was in June 1962 with The Merchant of Venice, starring George C. Scott and James Earl Jones.[4] The theater originally had 2,300 seats;[3] at some point, the number of seats was reduced to make the experience less overcrowded for the audience.

In 2012 the Public celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Delacorte with a gala and a one-night only reading of Romeo and Juliet starring numerous past performers. Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline read the lead roles.[5]

Planned renovation[edit]

In 2018, the Public announced plans for the first major renovation of the Delacorte.[6] They cited several goals for the renovation: better accessibility for disabled patrons and performers, improved backstage flow and operations, a new exterior façade, replacement of the stage floor due to exposure and weather damage to the original deck, and better lighting. Ennead Architects is handling the architectural work.[7] The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the plans in January 2022.[8][9]

The Delacorte closed for renovation in September 2023[10] after the final show of the summer 2023 season, a musical version of The Tempest, closed.[11] The renovation is expected to take around 18 months, with the theater planned to reopen in time for Summer 2025.[10][12]


  1. ^ Gardner, Paul (June 19, 1962). "Central Park's Shakespeare Amphitheatre Dedicated; Name Honors G.T. Delacorte, Donor of $150,000". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
  2. ^ "Public Theater – Home". Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Kandel, Myron (May 27, 1962). "The Bard's New Home in the Park; Recollections". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
  4. ^ Central Park Conservancy Archived July 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 21, 2013.
  5. ^ Morris, Bob (June 20, 2012). "A Bronx Guy Talks Trippingly". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
  6. ^ Pogrebin, Robin (November 1, 2018). "A Restoration for Shakespeare's Home in Central Park". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
  7. ^ "Revitalizing the Delacorte".
  8. ^ Cohen, Michelle (December 8, 2021). "Landmarks approves design for $77M renovation of Delacorte Theater in Central Park". 6sqft. Retrieved May 22, 2022.
  9. ^ Yakas, Ben (January 26, 2022). "Central Park's Delacorte Theater Approved For Renovations After Pandemic Delays". Gothamist. Retrieved May 22, 2022.
  10. ^ a b Hickey, Magee (September 4, 2023). "Delacorte Theater closes for renovations". PIX11. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
  11. ^ Green, Jesse (August 31, 2023). "Review: In Central Park, 'The Tempest' Sings Farewell to Magic". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "Delacorte Theater closing for $77 million renovations". NBC New York. August 30, 2023. Retrieved September 7, 2023.

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