Early today, while most of the city was still asleep, Brooklyn was hit by a tornado.
The storm was the most powerful to strike the borough since the National Weather Service began keeping reliable records. With wind speeds reaching 135 mph, the tornado tore through Bay Ridge and Sunset Park, downing power lines, ripping up trees, shattering windows, tearing roofs from buildings and crushing trucks and cars.
The storm dumped three inches of rain on the city in just about an hour, overwhelming the sewer system, flooding streets, tunnels and subways and disabling the subways, trains and busses.
As hundreds of thousands of people tried to go to work, a spokesman for the Transit Authority, interviewed on a local television station, said, “The entire subway system is virtually shut down. If you can stay home, do it.” Unfortunately, the people who most needed to hear that messsage were already en route. Outraged commuters were stranded, the transit authority’s Web site crashed and chaos ensued.
Fortunately, the worst of the tornado’s ferocity bypassed my neighborhood and by the end of the day, most of the city’s transportation system was running with limited service. It was definitely time for something light and entertaining.
Shakespeare in the Park is a longstanding, beloved tradition in New York City. More than 50 years ago, Joseph Papp (who was subsequently accused of un-American activities), began to stage free productions of Shakespeare’s plays in at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.
Today, the shows are still free, but entrance to the famed open-air theater comes at a price.
Approximately 1,500 seats are available for each performance. Tickets are distributed on the day of the show on a first-come, first-served basis and limited to two per person. It is not unusual for people to camp out in the park overnight in order to obtain a pair, a feat that has been described by the New York Times as an “endurance test” requiring determination, patience and fortitude.
All tickets are for reserved seats and are non-exchangeable. If a performance is rained out, the ticketholder is simply out of luck. The well-heeled, of course, avoid the long queues by either hiring others to wait for them (the going rate is about $100) or by donating money to Shakespeare in the Park (a $150 donation earns one reserved seat).
When a friend offered me the opportunity to attend a run-through of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the show will officially open on August 23), I headed straight for the soggy subways.
Thanks to the storm, it took me about two hours longer than usual to reach Central Park, but it was well worth the trip. Those who braved the muddy fields and branch-strewn paths were transported from the chaotic, storm-torn city and treated to a calm, clear night, a first-rate company and more than a little much-needed magic on a midsummer night.
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
— A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 2
Daily News: Brooklyn becomes Tornado Alley!
Newsday: Tornado, storm wreaks havoc in NYC
Gothamist: Wild Wednesday Weather
NY Times: Free Theater, But the Lines? Unspeakable
NY Times: It’s Free Theater, but With a Price
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Public Theatre: Shakespeare in the Park
Public Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Central Park Conservancy: Delacorte Theater
CentralPark.com: Delacorte Theater
NYC Department of Parks & Recreation: Central Park