Perhaps appropriately for a play that opens with a storm, the opening night of Shakespeare in Delaware Park shut down just before the second act of "The Tempest," as the rain and wind rolled in.
The roiling skies had hung over Shakespeare Hill all day, as people waited for the event to open at the new 7:15 p.m. start time. There was a crowd, perhaps less than usual, with a weather forecast that called for rain to be followed by a couple of nice days. Summer opens Friday with a nice night forecast on the schedule for one of Shakespeare's late plays.
Executive Managing Director Lisa Ludwig said this is the 44th year of free Shakespeare and the stage will look different this year.
"We did a capital campaign for the stage a few years ago and the unique thing about the stage, it's almost like Lincoln Logs, Erector sets," Ludwig said. "We can kind of change the look of how the setup is every year and this year is the first year we're using the Globe stage setup, so the way the structure is is like the Globe."
Shakespeare wrote most of his plays for the Globe Theatre on London's South Bank, a theater recreated a few years ago. The original burned down when cannons for "Henry VIII" ignited a thatched roof.
The second show of the season, "Love's Labour's Lost," opens July 25.
"Sometimes it's people's first opportunity to see live theater, because we're free and accessible to everyone and anybody," said Ludwig. "A large family can bring their kids here and have a picnic. They're not paying for a babysitter and dinner out. So at 44 years, I see people who came as children themselves who are now bringing their grandchildren or their children."
The collection at the intermission remains key to keeping the performances free.