Slave Play Tony nominee Ato Blankson-Wood will star in the title role of Hamlet for the 61st season of Free Shakespeare in the Park at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
Directed by Tony winner Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun), the nine-week engagement will begin previews June 8 prior to an official opening June 28. Performances will continue at the outdoor venue through August 6. Additional casting and creative team members for Shakespeare's classic drama of family and betrayal will be announced at a later date.
“Hamlet is arguably the greatest play in the Western canon, and I am thrilled that Kenny Leon will be helming this summer's production. As he demonstrated with his brilliant production of Much Ado About Nothing, Kenny has an expert way of making Shakespeare come alive in a contemporary American context, illuminating these great works while also reimagining them for our times and our country,” says Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “Hamlet will be a beautiful salute to the city as we head into a season where we will be renewing and renovating our beautiful home, The Delacorte Theater.”
Leon, who directed the 2019 Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado, adds, “I’m so happy to be at The Delacorte once again and to share something that binds us to one another. A 500-year-old play exploring the need for a strong foundation of family, with music and words, Shakespeare’s Hamlet has much to say about humanity and the importance of our connectedness to each other. We set this production in 2021, filled with all of the challenges we face as Americans as we explore our need to love more profoundly both nature and its people.”
The summer production will also feature scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Jessica Jahn, lighting design by Allen Lee Hughes, sound design by Justin Ellington, video design by Jeff Sugg, music composition by Jason Michael Webb, and hair, wig, and makeup design by Earon Chew Nealey. Karyn Meek serves as production stage manager.
Hamlet has been previously staged at The Delacorte four times. It was last seen 15 years ago in a 2008 production featuring Michael Stuhlbarg in the title role and Lauren Ambrose as Ophelia, Andre Braugher as Claudius, and David Harbour as Laertes, directed by Artistic Director Eustis. Michael Rudman directed Sam Waterston as Hamlet in 1975, also featuring Ruby Dee as Gertrude and John Lithgow at Laertes. In 1972, the production was directed by Gerald Freedman, featuring Stacy Keach as Hamlet, James Earl Jones as Claudius, Sam Waterston as Laertes, Raul Julia as Osric, and Colleen Dewhurst as Gertrude. In 1964, two years after The Delacorte opened, Public Theater Founder Joseph Papp directed a production featuring Alfred Ryder in the title role, with Howard Da Silva as Claudius and Julie Harris as Ophelia.
Since 1962, over six million people have enjoyed more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals in The Public’s home in Central Park.
Free tickets will be distributed in a variety of ways across all five boroughs with distribution details and locations to be announced.
The Public Theater’s Annual Gala, including dinner and performance, will be presented June 12 on the lawn at The Delacorte honoring Darren Walker, president, and Ford Foundation for their philanthropic impact in the arts.