A host of stage luminaries including Vanessa Redgrave and Liev Schreiber were on hand to help The Public Theater reveal the results of the $40 million revitalization to its Astor Place home at a ceremony held on Thursday, October 4. The unveiling caps off four years of renovations to the interior and exterior of the historic building, which was originally constructed in 1853 as the Astor Library.
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg joined artistic director Oskar Eustis and executive director Patrick Willingham to welcome the assembled crowd, as did Luis A. Ubiñas, the President of the Ford Foundation, for which the newly upgraded lobby will be named.
The ceremony featured Redgrave, Schreiber, Public Theater favorites Colman Domingo, Mandy Patinkin, Jay O. Sanders, Stew, David Henry Hwang, Suzan-Lori Parks, Diana Son, and others including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer reading off lines of Shakespeare to christen the restored home. Cast members from the Public's production of Hair led the crowd in a rendition of "Let The Sunshine In."
In rejuvenating the downtown theater mecca, Ennead Architects LLP added a new glass and steel canopy to the entrance, restored the building's brownstone facade, added a grand staircase and ramps for added accessibility, as well as restored the ceilings and archways within the building. They also added a new centrally located box office, a new entrance to Joe's Pub, ADA-accessible restroom facilities, and a public mezzanine and balcony with seating area.
Other additions include the installation of Shakespeare Machine, a work designed by Ben Rubin that features 37 LED displays on which fragments of Shakespeare's plays will appear, along with the creation of The Library at the Public, a cocktail lounge full-service bar on the mezzanine level, designed by David Rockwell of Rockwell Group.
To commemorate the occasion, the Public will hold a block party on Saturday, October 13 which will invite audience members to preview upcoming productions, sample the new cuisine, and explore the building.
An eight-week series of events, featuring talks and film-showings, will kick off on October 10.