Allen's Blog

James Earl Jones at Shakespeare in the Park

New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park has been a summer tradition for more than 50 years. The performances — which can be enjoyed free of charge, if you manage to queue up early enough — have starred many great actors. In August 1973, I was assigned by Saturday Review (no longer published, but for decades, one of America’s best cultural magazines) to photograph James Earl Jones, who was starring in the title role of King Lear.

This was one of those really rare occasions where the picture just gave itself to me, with no heavy lifting required. On a fine August afternoon, Jones, then 42, was rehearsing, alone, on the stage of the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. No need for additional lighting, no makeup or wardrobe assistance — only a superb actor framed by the pattern of the boards.

James Earl Jones seated at the Shakespeare in the Park festival, where he performed the title role in King Lear

I do remember that after finishing the pictures, I sat at the edge of the stage, listening and watching, an audience of one. Today being another fine August day (almost 40 years later), I thought it a good time to share the image.