Hannah Lepow finds out what it takes to get tickets to one of New York’s most famous productions. You can find the print version of The Blue and White around campus or on Bwog.

The only people crazy enough to brave the outskirts of Central Park before the summer sunrise generally fall into two categories: homeless people and people who decide to leave their perfectly nice homes at 2 a.m. in a desperate attempt to get tickets to Shakespeare in the Park.

But occasionally, the two categories overlap, a lesson this reporter learned on her very first SiP jaunt. Armed with a sleeping bag, a Scrabble board, and two fellow Columbians, she decided to brave “The Line”–a human caterpillar that crawls along Central Park West, awaiting a new dawn and the chance to get free tickets to this summer’s Al Pacino-starring production of The Merchant of Venice.

Enduring The Line required only two virtues: patience and the ability to sit anywhere — on the ground, on the grass, on the sidewalk, and in front of a what appeared to be a homeless man sound asleep on a park bench. When the man awoke, he seemed less indigent than indignant; he had actually been waiting in The Line and was furious we had cut ahead of him. We were bewildered as he screamed “What’s good?” at us repeatedly, but a nearby member of The Line reassured us. “It’s okay,” she said, after the man stopped yelling. “He does that to everyone.”

Aside from these occasional dramatic outbursts, life on The Line is quiet, stationary, and highly regimented. You are not allowed to leave The Line. You may not have someone take your place on The Line. You may not be joined by anyone in The Line. It is comparable to a voluntary, temporary, and highly literate prison. Only questions from solicitors–who, guaranteed a trapped audience, turn out in abundance–“Are you registered to vote in New York?” “Would you like to take this psych test?”–or from curious passers-by–“What’s this line for?”–break the monotony.

When Central Park finally opens at 6 a.m. and The Line is ushered into the park, we are over 900 strong. The first got there at 10:30 p.m. the night before; the last surely will not get tickets, which are distributed at 1 p.m. Still, The Line is worth it. While us denizens will return to our normal lives slightly sleep deprived and with sore backs, it’s a small price to pay to see Shakespeare under the stars–and Al Pacino in a red velvet cape.

Illustration by Grant D’Avino