Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, presented by The Drilling Company and Hamilton Clancy, TDC’s founder and current producing artistic director, is a summer New York institution offering free Shakespeare productions. It began in a municipal parking lot at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Streets in Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Seats are available on a first come first serve basis, with audience members often arriving early to secure a place. You are encouraged and welcome to bring your own chair. Once seats are gone, blankets are spread out. "We've never turned anyone away and there's never a wait for tickets!" brags Clancy.
Shakespeare in the Parking Lot was begun in 1995 by Expanded Arts under the artistic direction of Jennifer Spahr. When Ms. Spahr retired in 2000, an organization known as Ludlow Ten was formed under the direction of Leonard McKenzie. The Drilling Company began co-producing SITPL with Ludlow Ten in 2001. After Mr. McKenzie's retirement in 2005, The Drilling Company was asked to continue the great tradition of Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.
We estimate that since 1995, Shakespeare's plays have been presented there for over 40,000 patrons.
Why a parking lot? "It is a tremendously accessible gathering place in the heart of the city. Like most companies that do Shakespeare, we are following the spirit of Joseph Papp. But putting our own spin on it by placing it in a parking lot, making an urban wrinkle," says Clancy. Shows are offered while the lot is in use. The action sometimes happens around a parked car which drives away during a performance. At such times, the players stop and the audience moves its chairs, pausing the performance the same way a show would stop for rain uptown in Central Park. It's all part of the fun.
The productions are typically intrepid, bare-boned and often gloriously ingenious adaptations of the classics. For example, in 2010, Hamilton Clancy staged "Julius Caesar" as a battle for control of an urban school system, with women playing Antony, Brutus and Cassius.
The concept of free Shakespeare in a parking lot, presented with a "poor theater" aesthetic, is now widely imitated around the US and around the world, with productions as far away as New Zealand.
A New Lot
In 2015, The Drilling Company's Shakespeare in the Parking Lot found a new home in the Parking Lot behind The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center (CSV), 114 Norfolk located on the east side of Norfolk Street between Delancey and Rivington Streets, just three blocks from the parking lot where the gritty cultural attraction started in 1995.
Our former venue venue was located in the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, which is now giving way to Essex Crossing, a giant mixed-used development. The city laid the groundwork for the megaproject by demolishing the tenement homes of 1,800 Lower East Side families in 1964 and the parking lot was the City's use for the vacant area there. Construction is now beginning for the next stage of development on that site.
In 2014, after losing its space in the Municipal Parking lot at Ludlow and Broome Streets, the company engaged in a nine-month search for a new location to continue the 20 year tradition, presenting free Shakespeare for a generation on the Lower East Side. It took the company nine months to find a new parking space for these productions. Read about it an article last summer in the Wall Street Journal online.
Productions of The Drilling Company include Brad and Melisaa Coolidge Foundation, the Department for Cultural Affairs and the the New York State Council on the Arts.