WNY's All Time Greatest Theater: Shakespeare in Delaware Park
Photo by Chris Scinta
After New York City, Shakespeare in Delaware Park is the second largest free Shakespeare festival in the country. That’s a pretty big deal, because SIDP earns that place without benefit of population (by that measure, NYC is the nation’s largest city while Buffalo doesn’t even rank in the top fifty), nationally recognized names, or tourists. Such an accomplishment in a city this size confirms that what SIDP offers is both worthwhile and appreciated. For many, summer isn’t summer until they’ve taken a seat on the Hill to partake in a ritual that was established in 1976.
Despite the casual, picnic basket atmosphere, this isn’t backyard theater: it’s a showcase of professional actors, designers, and directors in a performance that could easily command upwards of $40 a ticket—but doesn’t. The resulting accessibility means that SIDP is often a child’s—or even an adult’s—first professional theater experience, a fact that feeds into an important cultural mission to grow new generations of theatergoers. In the off-season, when the stage has been dismantled and the Hill is covered in snow, SIDP continues its work in high schools with workshops, shows, and intensives; high school interns are also part of each SIDP production.
Surviving—and thriving—for thirty-seven years in a competitive theater town like Buffalo certainly grants Shakespeare in Delaware Park bragging rights, but it takes more than seniority to be the best. SIDP is an icon, a reflection of Buffalo’s culture, a portrait of a community that cares about it and, of course, a consistent quality product that keeps people—more than 40,000 per summer—coming back for more.
Donna Hoke is editor of Buffalo Spree Home.