The Delacorte Theater – History and Famous Plays

The Delacorte Theater is an open-air venue situated in Central Park, New York City. The theater has a capacity of 1800 seats. It is closed during the winter because of the cold weather, but it opens in the summer and it is most famous for hosting the Public Theater’s free annual productions of Shakespeare in the Park.


The venue is named after Valerie and George Delacorte. In 1958 Joseph Papp (an American theatrical producer and director) who was touring New York’s parks to present the Shakespeare Workshop decided that it was important to establish a theater in the heart of Central Park. He wanted this open-air venue to offer free theatrical performances so all people could visit them. So, Valerie and George Delacorte donated money for the foundation of the venue and that is why the theater bears their name now. The Delacorte Theater was officially opened on the 18th of June 1962.

The first presented production was The Merchant of Venice starring George C. Scott and James Earl Jones. It is a play written by Shakespeare in the 16th century.


Almost all of the presented at the Delacorte Theater productions are written by Shakespeare. Here are some of the exceptions:

The Delacorte Theater: Electra

Electra is a Greek tragedy that was performed on the stage of the Delacorte Theater in 1964. The original play is written by Sophocles and it tells the story of Electra and her brother Orestes who seek revenge for their father’s death. The director of the version of Electra played in 1964 was Gerald Freedman and in the role of Electra was the famous Greek American actress Olympia Dukakis. 

The Delacorte Theater: The Seagull

The Seagull is a Russian play written by the famous dramatist Anton Chekhov in 1895. It was first produced in 1896 in Alexandrinsky Theater, St. Petersburg, Russia. The plot is about the romantic and artistic conflicts between four characters – a story writer, an actress, an inventor, and a dramatist. 

In 2001 the play was presented on the stage of the Delacorte Theater. It was directed by Mike Nichols. The production starred famous actors like Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep, and Debra Monk. 

The Delacorte Theater: Into the Woods

Into the Woods is a musical with a libretto written by James Lapine and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The production is about the possible consequences of some of the wishes that the characters from the fairytales “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella” have made. Into the Woods has premiered on Broadway in November 1987 and it has won several Tony Awards. It has been a part of the Shakespeare in the Park in 2012 but with an American cast and director.