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The Public Theater to unveil revitalized downtown home this fall
The exterior of The Public Theater's revitalized downtown home, rendering.

NEW YORK, NY.- This fall The Public Theater will unveil its revitalized downtown home as the Company celebrates a milestone year that includes the 50th anniversary of its Shakespeare in the Park performances at the Delacorte Theater. The revitalization project will physically manifest the Company’s core mission of sparking new dialogues and increasing accessibility for artists and audiences by dramatically opening up its landmark building to the street and community, and transforming the lobby into a public piazza for artists, students, and audiences.

Founded nearly 60 years ago by Joe Papp as one of the nation’s first nonprofit theaters, The Public has been an advocate for theater as an essential cultural force and forum for dialogue about issues of the day. As the only theater in New York producing Shakespeare and the classics, musicals, contemporary and experimental works in equal measure, The Public continues its long tradition of engaging a wide range of audiences and artists. An unprecedented number of works that have been developed at The Public have gone on to presentations by nonprofit theaters across the country and on Broadway, extending its impact nationally and internationally.

“The Public Theater is, and always has been, for the people. The revitalization of our downtown home will make the building more welcoming, vibrant and accessible for all New Yorkers,” noted Oskar Eustis, The Public Theater’s Artistic Director. “This is the moment for us to rededicate ourselves to Joe Papp’s vision: that art belongs to everybody, that theater should speak to the crucial issues of our times, and that a great theater is the surest expression of a great democracy.”

With The Public’s founding, Joe Papp sparked the national nonprofit theater movement, and the Company continues to serve as a leader in the theater community. The influence of The Public extends to Broadway, where the Company has introduced new voices and formats to large audiences. Its multicultural Shakespearean productions are presented with a contemporary, American outlook that speaks to issues of the day.

The Public Theater’s programming reaches all corners of the City, serving a broad and diverse audience. The beloved Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater offers productions every summer free of charge; now in its 50th year, more than 5 million people have attended performances at the Delacorte. The Public’s Mobile Shakespeare Unit tours professional Shakespearean productions throughout the five boroughs, providing free access to underserved constituencies—including those at homeless shelters, prisons and centers for at-risk youth.

The Public also fosters the next generation of theater artists with professional development programs at no cost to the artists—including the Shakespeare Lab, which provides training for mid-career actors in the art of performing Shakespeare, and the Emerging Writers Group. The Public also organizes the Public Forum, a popular series of lectures, debates and conversations that showcase leading voices in the arts, politics and media exploring social issues raised in the theater’s productions.

"The Public Theater holds a unique place in the theatrical landscape of New York providing a home for diverse artistic endeavors ranging from Shakespeare and new works by often underrepresented artists to cabaret performances," said Warren Spector, Chairman of the Public Theater's Board of Trustees. "As we celebrate this milestone year, we look forward to increasing access for our audiences, artists and the entire New York community."

The revitalization of The Public’s downtown home in the former Astor Library has been designed by Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership). It encompasses enhancements to the building’s interior and exterior while preserving the historic structure—creating a dynamic dialogue between The Public and the street and transforming the lobby into a public piazza and gathering space. The Public’s revitalized lobby will also encourage the cross-pollination of audiences from the five theaters and Joe’s Pub.

The project has been undertaken in phases so The Public could continue to serve audiences at its downtown location throughout the four-year process. Renovations to Joe’s Pub, a venue for emerging and established musical artists, have already been completed—creating improved sightlines and seating for audiences as well as expanded menu offerings, available this fall.

Key elements of the design include infrastructure updates to the 158-year old building, as well as the following:

• Construction of new exterior entry stair and glass canopy, creating a bridge between the theater and the community and providing an outdoor gathering space
• Installation of ramps for improved accessibility
• Expanded and refurbished lobby, with inclusion of Joe’s Pub entrance and consolidation of box office services
• Addition of mezzanine level with a new lounge, designed by the Rockwell Group
• Re-configured interior staircases, ensuring more direct audience traffic flow
• Expansion and remodeling of restroom facilities
• Comprehensive exterior restoration, ensuring stability of landmark façade
• Installation of exterior lighting to emphasize building architecture
• Installation of street-level poster boxes, highlighting The Public’s breadth of programming

The $40 million project is funded through a public-private partnership, with more than 95% raised to date. Individuals, foundations, corporations, as well as state and local government have all contributed to the project, including an initial $27.5 million provided by the City of New York.

"Since renting the former Astor library to Joe Papp for $1 in 1967, the City of New York has supported the Public's mission of championing challenging new plays, musicals and innovative stagings of the classics," said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin. "Today we are thrilled to continue our public-private partnership through this important renovation project, which modernizes spaces for artists and audiences and makes this landmark facility even more inviting and accessible to all New Yorkers."

A large-scale multimedia sculpture, "Shakespeare Machine," has been commissioned from Ben Rubin for The Public's lobby. Suspended from the ceiling and serving as the lobby's chandelier, the work features 37 display screens on which fragments of Shakespeare's plays appear and dance, creating an unfolding kaleidoscope of language in motion. The installation is part of New York City's Percent for Art initiative, which ensures that a portion of construction project budgets are dedicated to site-specific artworks.

“Designed in a modern aesthetic, this exciting project recreates the building’s original sense of procession by reclaiming the building’s original connection to the streetscape and recreating a sense of outreach to the people of New York,” states Stephen Chu, Associate Partner, Ennead Architects. “It graciously leads them into the newly renovated lobby which has been designed to encourage greater interaction between The Public’s many patrons and to increase the sense of connection to the various venues within the building. This careful blend of modern and historic elements echoes the acclaimed work for which The Public is renowned, both traditional and cutting edge.”

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