Lyndsey Matthews

For this celebrated actor, there’s no better stage than Central Park’s Delacorte Theater.

Dani Shapiro
May 20, 2010

“The first time I visited the Delacorte, I was with my mother, and we saw Raul Julia in Othello. I must have been twelve years old. At one point during the performance a giant white egret took flight. The image was stunning—for the play, of course, with Desdemona dying, but it was also just so insanely beautiful to be in the glow of the city, in the warm summer air, with that magnificent bird rising against the evening sky.

Since that first visit, I’ve been on the Delacorte stage many times doing Shakespeare in the Park. Once, during a particularly sinister monologue in Cymbeline, the audience started laughing, and I had no idea why. Then I looked to the side and saw a raccoon on the set just staring at me, as if he was watching the show.

I live in New York City because it’s a cultural epicenter—and at the heart of the city is Central Park, and in the heart of that park is the Delacorte. It’s one of the greatest things in the world that something so professional and expensively produced is free and offered to all New Yorkers. To me, it seems that the theater is a gift from New York to itself.”

Liev Schreiber stars in Ang Lee’s film Taking Woodstock, out this month. The Bacchae, starring Jonathan Groff, is being performed at the Delacorte Theater August 11–30 (publictheater.org; free tickets available on the day of the show).

“When I was performing in Cymbeline, I took a bike ride each day from my apartment in Nolita to Central Park. I love to ride up along the Hudson River from Houston Street to West 79th, beneath the High Line and past the Boat Basin.” The Alliance for Downtown New York offers free bike rentals through September 30 (for reservations, go to downtownny.com/bikearound).”

“Casts and crew always have an opening-night party at Belvedere Castle (mid-park at W. 81st St.; 212/772-0210; centralparknyc.org), behind the Delacorte. It’s open to the public during the day, and from there you can see most of Central Park. It’s just magical.”

12 Chairs (56 MacDougal St.; 212/254-8640) is a little Israeli-owned restaurant where I like to have breakfast. They serve delicious Middle Eastern food—baked egg dishes; good, strong coffee—and there are exhibitions of work by young photographers.”

“The Drama Book Shop (250 W. 40th St.; 212/944-0595) is one of the best places to go for theater books, and Shakespeare & Co. (716 Broadway; 212/529-1330) is my neighborhood shop. It’s so important to support independent bookstores.”

Belvedere Castle

In Italian, “belvedere” means beautiful view, which is indeed what the balconies of this 19th-century fairytale-style castle in the middle of Central Park offer visitors. Seated on Vista Rock, Belvedere Castle is surrounded by trees and shrubbery and overlooks the Great Lawn, Turtle Pond, Delacourt Theater, and Ramble. Since 1919, the National Weather Service has used Belvedere Castle for wind and rainfall measurements. In 1983, the Central Park Conservancy restored the structure and created the Henry Luce Nature Observatory. Inside you’ll find natural-history specimens, telescopes and microscopes, and field packs for exploring Central Park. Community programs are offered year-round.

12 Chairs

A modest exterior (the red awning is as flashy as it gets) makes it easy to look past this unique little McDougal Street eatery, which has had SoHo buzzing since its mid '90s debut. 12 Chairs is a welcome departure for diners seeking " a quick, casual something" that isn't pizza or burgers. Initially, the tidy takeout place made a name for itself by serving homemade traditional Middle Eastern favorites like hummus, falafel, and babaganoush plates, but the present menu has expanded significantly to now include Eastern European staples like schnitzel and jachnun, which is a rolled dough that is buttered and baked slowly. If it’s a nice day, enjoy a café latte or iced coffee at one of the bistro tables outside.

Drama Book Shop

Located in New York City’s Theater District on West 40th, the Drama Book Shop is a great resource for anyone who works in or simply loves theater and film. A rectangular sign extends above the glass storefront and the display behind it like a flag, signifying patrons' successful arrival at this shop, which has been catering to the Big Apple's performing arts crowd since 1917. The shelves contain musical scores, screenplays, and scripts in addition to instructional books on subject matter ranging from film and theater general knowledge to more specific topics like acting, directing, and stage design. Chairs are set about for skimming through the materials – the staff won’t mind.

Shakespeare & Co.

Those who prefer the coziness and atmosphere of independent bookstores over the “big box” ones should check out Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers at 716 Broadway, a brownstone storefront whose name is emblazoned in glided capital letters. The shop's extensive selections of contemporary and classic authors are clearly organized on wall shelves and aisle displays, making it easy to find sought-after books. Shakespeare & Co.'s three locations also cater to students of several NYC-based colleges and universities by renting and selling current textbooks and reading list titles.

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