The Delacorte Theater in Central Park will undergo its first major upgrade since opening its doors in 1962. The revitalization, announced on The Public Theater's website, will allow for better accessibility, expanded facilities, greater protection against the outdoor elements, and increased comfort and resources backstage and for audiences.
The Delacorte was built in the late 1950s and for the last 56 years has been the home of The Public's free Shakespeare in the Park. During that time, the theatre has had only minor upgrades, and according to The Public, has "outgrown its existing infrastructure in almost every measurable way."
The revitalization of the theatre will be overseen by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, with construction scheduled to begin in the fall of 2020. The goal of the project, explains the Public, is two-fold:
First: to expand access to the outdoor summer season—not by adding more seats or expanding the theatre's footprint in Central Park, but by streamlining operations and improving efficiencies to shorten the amount of time between productions. This will allow for additional performances of Shakespeare in the Park.
Second: to address critical infrastructure and accessibility challenges and provide a better, more comfortable experience for audiences, artists, and staff. Those include improving the theatre's ramps, rails, and key access points which don’t meet current accessibility standards; an overhaul of the theatre's backstage areas (custom-built backstage spaces for dressing rooms, equipment rooms, storage spaces, audience services, and rehearsal); additional and improved restrooms and gender neutral facilities; improved lighting and sound technology; and greater protection against exposure to the elements.
Conceived by The Public's founder Joseph Papp as a way to make theatre accessible to all, the Delacorte Theater officially opened in Central Park on June 18, 1962, with The Merchant of Venice.