September 5-7, free, 8:00
The Public Theater’s high-profile outdoor summer season might have come to a close when King Lear starring John Lithgow and Annette Bening ended its run on August 17 (following on the heels of Hamish Linklater and Lily Rabe in Much Ado About Nothing), but there’s more free Shakespeare to be had this weekend when the Public Works community initiative program brings The Winter’s Tale to the Delacorte. Last year, the project was initiated with a musical version of The Tempest, directed by Lear deBessonet, choreographed by Chase Brock, and with music and lyrics by Todd Almond; that same trio is back with the Bard’s mysterious romance, featuring a wide-ranging cast that combines professional actors with members of community organizations from all five boroughs. “We believe that theater has a specific role to play; it always has,” Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis says in the above promotional video. “It’s a democratizing impulse, it’s an empowering impulse, it’s a participatory impulse, and what we’re trying to do is spread the glory of that so that everybody in the city has the chance to have that experience.” The musical, which will have some two hundred people onstage in total, stars Almond (Girlfriend, Melancholy Play) as Antigonus, Christopher Fitzgerald (Wicked, Young Frankenstein) as Autolycus, Isaiah Johnson (Peter and the Starcatcher, The Merchant of Venice) as Leontes, Lindsay Mendez (Wicked, Dogfight) as Hermione, and David Turner (Arcadia, Sunday in the Park with George) as the Clown, along with men, women, and children from the Children’s Aid Society, the DreamYard Project, the Fortune Society, the Brownsville Recreation Center, and Domestic Workers United. In addition, there will be group cameos by Sesame Street, the New York Theatre Ballet, DanceBrazil, Rosie’s Theater Kids, the Shinbone Alley Stilt Band, the Staten Island Lions, and AATMA Performing Arts. The show runs September 5-7, and free tickets are available the same day in Central Park and through the Public’s online virtual ticketing lottery or by advance donation of $75.