Arts, Central New York, Community, Things to do

Shakespeare in the Park Returns to Syracuse

Photo by Jude Allume. Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ is playing at Thornden Park. (c) 2017 Jude Allume


By Jude Allume, SYRACUSE, NY (NCC News) — 

The Shakespeare In The Park Festival is returning to Syracuse this August. The annual event is being held at the Amphitheater in Thornden Park featuring the live play ‘As You Like It’.

Ronnie Bell, the plays executive director, is the driving force behind the show. The idea first took shape 16 years ago when he first moved to Syracuse. While passing through Thornden Park, Bell saw the Amphitheater and the thought came to him about putting on a show at the venue.

While having lunch with his wife and another couple before watching a show at The Syracuse Stage, Bell’s idea blossomed as the couples discussed dedicating shows to honor Shakespeare’s plays. They then began working towards their first show.

“So we took time to do it. We didn’t do it that year, we did it the next year” said Bell. “We planned for 15 months in advance to put on the first production. We enlisted the cooperation of the city, who gave us money the first year and did the sound, the parks department and the community and the first weekend of the first show, which we only did three performances, we had two thousand people”.

The event is going on for the fifteenth consecutive year. It was originally funded by city official, but it was decided three years ago to no longer fund the show. The Amphitheater is still provided for the festival at no cost which Bell says is a big factor in continuing to put on the show. The show now receives funds from Central New York Arts Council through the project support grant they apply for each year. They also receive money from sponsor such as Geddes Federal Saving and Gannon’s Isle Ice Cream among other. There is no mandatory charge for the event, but the audience can donate to the show if they would like and there are premium seats which can be purchased for $20.

Bell sees the event as a positive for the community and attending families.

“Well it certainly brings the community together” said Bell. “Far as I know, we’re the only show that provides a kids area at the show. So kids ten and under, we make a semicircular area where the grass meets the center ring and we have a tent and we have bubbles and beach balls and prizes for the kids and they can play there during the show. We’re a family friendly place.”

The event provides music before the show and during intermission with local musicians. Food can also be purchased at concession stands. The show takes place from Fridays through Sundays in August.

Click here to listen to the full interview with Ronnie Bell.


Amphitheater stage. Photo by Jude Allume

Gates to Thorden park Amphitheater. Photo by Jude Allume.

Seating area in the Amphitheater. Photo by Jude Allume

Side view of Amphitheater stage. Photo by Jude Allume