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Making Shakespeare in the Park

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All the world's a stage. And in the case of this summer's Shakespeare in the Park, there are two stages to choose from.

The Public Theater's annual season of free performances opens Wednesday at the Delacorte Theater. This season, The Merchant of Venice, directed by Daniel Sullivan, and The Winter’s Tale, directed by Michael Greif, are in repertory for eight weeks straight. While most of the actors stay the same each night, the plays rotate, with a few nights of one alternating with a few of the other.

The sets, costumes and props all get swapped out. A tempest, if you will, for remembering lines and what-goes-where-what-night.

"The biggest challenge is figuring out where everything goes," says John Frasco, production manager for The Public. "In Winter's Tale, everything comes out of the floor and in Merchant of Venice, everything is on top of the floor. So it's basically the difference between trap doors and tracking scenery and props."

Mark Wendland designed the stage to be versatile enough for elements of both shows.

The crew spent about four weeks analyzing blueprints, then about seven more to build out the stages fully.

The bucolic setting in Central Park only complicates the production, and not exclusively because of weather concerns. "We don't have an address,” says Frasco. “There's a fair amount of labor that goes into shipping the stuff to the theater downtown." The crew then had to truck everything uptown into the park.

The company tries to keep most of the materials in the Delacorte to avoid the constant back-and-forth. They built extra platforms and sheds backstage to accommodate the double production load.

This isn't The Public Theater’s first foray into rotating repertory. Henry IV, Parts One and Two were performed in rep in the Newman Theater in 1991.

Tickets to the shows are free, and tickets can be obtained in person or virtually.

The 2010 season ends on August 1.