The Delacorte Theater in Central Park officially opened on June 18, 1962 with a production of The Merchant of Venice, directed by Public Theater founder Joe Papp and Gladys Vaughn and featuring the then-unknown actors George C. Scott and James Earl Jones. Conceived by Papp as a way to make great theater accessible to all, over the past 50 years more than five million people have enjoyed more than 100 free productions of Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals at the Delacorte.
At The Public Theater’s Anniversary Gala on June 18, Tony Award winner Al Pacino will be honored for his body of work with The Public Theater, going back to the early 1970s and including his acclaimed performance as Shylock in the Shakespeare in the Park production of The Merchant of Venice in 2010. The unforgettable evening in Central Park will include dinner al fresco, the staged reading of ROMEO AND JULIET, and a party immediately following the performance. The benefit event is being chaired by Public Theater Board Members Arielle Tepper Madover and Alexandra Shiva.
“For 50 years the Delacorte Theater has been home to the greatest American actors, who have been able to hone their artistry in the most beautiful, democratic theater in the world. Romeo and Juliet will be a celebration of those actors, a joyous love letter to the Delacorte, to Central Park and to New York City,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “Meryl is the greatest actress of our age, and Kevin is America’s preeminent Shakespearean. Their partnership, which has stretched over 30 years, has provided some of the most incandescent moments in our dramatic history. This unforgettable evening will be a spectacular addition to that history and a perfect way to celebrate 50 years of Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte. It will also give us the breathtaking chance to see Meryl and Kevin play the Balcony scene.”
ROMEO AND JULIET is one of the great love stories of all time. The tragic story of two young romantics star-crossed by family pressures and a society that values status above all else, ROMEO AND JULIET’s passion and sweep make it the perfect play for a moonlit Central Park night. The Public Theater has produced this beloved play only twice before at the Delacorte (1968 and 2007). Now Meryl Streep, who has performed five times at the Delacorte since 1976, and Kevin Kline, who has performed nine times since 1970, will assay these roles for the first time in their careers and celebrate the priceless gift of Shakespeare in the Park to the people of New York.
THE DELACORTE THEATER officially opened in Central Park on June 18, 1962 with The Merchant of Venice, directed by Joseph Papp and Gladys Vaughan and featuring George C. Scott as Shylock. The Merchant of Venice was followed that summer by a production of The Tempest, directed by Gerald Freedman and featuring Paul Stevens as Prospero and James Earl Jones as Caliban. The first Delacorte summer season concluded with King Lear, directed by Joseph Papp and Gladys Vaughan and featuring Frank Silvera as Lear. Since that time more than 100 productions have been presented for free at the Delacorte Theater. Highlights of past productions include Othello in 1964 with James Earl Jones; Hamlet in 1975 with Sam Waterston; The Taming of the Shrew in 1978 with Raul Julia and Meryl Streep; The Pirates of Penzance in 1980 with Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt; Henry V in 1984 with Kevin Kline; Much Ado About Nothing in 1988 with Kevin Kline and Blythe Danner; Richard III in 1990with Denzel Washington; Othello in 1991with Raul Julia and Christopher Walken; The Tempest in 1995 with Patrick Stewart; The Seagull in 2001 with Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Philip Seymour Hoffman; Mother Courage in 2006 with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline; Macbeth in 2006 with Liev Schreiber; HAIR in 2008 with Jonathan Groff and Will Swenson; Twelfth Night in 2009 with Anne Hathaway; The Merchant of Venice in 2010 with Al Pacino and Lily Rabe; and most recently last summer’s acclaimed productions of All’s Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure.
KEVIN KLINE (Romeo) is an Academy Award and Tony Award-winning actor who last appeared at the Delacorte in Mother Courage and Her Children in 2006. His other Public Theater credits include The Seagull; The Wars of the Roses cycle; Pirates of Penzance, which also transferred to Broadway earning him a Tony Award; Richard III; Henry V; Much Ado About Nothing; Hamlet; and Measure for Measure. His Broadway credits include Three Sisters, Ivanov, Arms and the Man, On the Twentieth Century (Tony), and Loose Ends. His additional Off-Broadway credits include The Lower Depths, and The School for Scandal. His extensive film and television credits include Sophie’s Choice, The Big Chill, Silverado, Cry Freedom, A Fish Called Wanda (Oscar), Soapdish, Grand Canyon, Dave, French Kiss, The Ice Storm, In and Out, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Life as a House, The Emperor’s Club, De-Lovely, A Prairie Home Companion, No Strings Attached, Darling Companion and Hamlet on PBS.
AL PACINO (Gala Honoree) recently appeared in the critically acclaimed 2010 Shakespeare in the Park production of The Merchant of Venice, directed by Daniel Sullivan, which transferred to Broadway and earned him a Tony Award nomination. His other Public Theater credits include Marcus Antoinus in Julius Caesar in 1988. He has also appeared on Broadway in Salome; Hughie, which he appeared in and directed; Chinese Coffee; American Buffalo; Richard III; The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, and Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? both earning him a Tony Award; and Camino Real. His additional Off-Broadway credits include The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui; The Indian wants the Bronx, earning him an Obie and Theatre World Award; The Connection; Tiger at the Gates; The Local Stigmatic; Hello; Out There; and Orphans. Pacino is an Academy Award and two-time Emmy winner who has appeared in more than 35 films. He also received the NEA National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama earlier this year.
MERYL STREEP (Juliet) last appeared on the Delacorte stage in 2006 in Mother Courage and Her Children. Her other Public Theater credits include the critically acclaimed production of The Seagull directed by Mike Nichols; Trelawny of the Wells; Henry V; Measure for Measure; The Cherry Orchard; The Taming of the Shrew; Taken in Marriage; and Alice at the Palace. Streep has been nominated for the Academy Award seventeen times, and has won it three times, most recently for her role in The Iron Lady. Her first film role was in the 1977 film Julia, and the following year she was nominated for her first Oscar for her role in The Deer Hunter. She went on to win the Academy Award for her performances in Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie's Choice. Her additional film credits include Silkwood, Out of Africa, Ironweed, A Cry in the Dark, Postcards from the Edge, Death Becomes Her, The House of the Spirits, The River Wild, The Bridges of Madison County, Before and After, Marvin's Room, One True Thing, Dancing at Lughnasa, Music of the Heart, The Hours, Angels in America, The Manchurian Candidate, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Prime, A Prairie Home Companion, The Devil Wears Prada, Dark Matter, Rendition, Mamma Mia!, Doubt, Julie & Julia, Fantastic Mr. Fox, It’s Complicated, and the upcoming film Hope Springs.
DANIEL SULLIVAN (Romeo and Juliet Director). In addition to directing As You Like It at the Delacorte this summer, for The Public Theater, Sullivan directed All’s Well That Ends Well, The Merchant of Venice (Broadway/Shakespeare in the Park), Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Stuff Happens, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Among his Broadway credits are The Columnist, Good People, Time Stands Still, Accent on Youth, The Homecoming, Prelude to a Kiss, Rabbit Hole, After the Night and the Music, Julius Caesar, Brooklyn Boy, Sight Unseen, I’m Not Rappaport, Morning’s at Seven, Proof, the 2000 production of A Moon for the Misbegotten, Ah, Wilderness!, The Sisters Rosensweig, Conversations With My Father, and The Heidi Chronicles. Among his Off-Broadway credits are Intimate Apparel, Far East, Spinning into Butter, Third at Lincoln Center, Dinner With Friends, and The Substance of Fire. From 1981 to 1997, he served as Artistic Director of Seattle Repertory Theatre. Sullivan is the Swanlund Professor of Theatre at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
ABOUT THE PUBLIC THEATER’S DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION
The revitalization of The Public Theater’s downtown home 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. Designed by Ennead Architects, the project encompasses enhancements to the building’s interior and exterior while preserving the historic structure. Key elements of the design include infrastructure updates to the 158-year old building, as well as construction of new exterior entry stair and glass canopy; installation of ramps for improved accessibility; an expanded and refurbished lobby; the addition of a mezzanine level with a new lounge, designed by the Rockwell Group; expansion and remodeling of restroom facilities; and comprehensive exterior restoration, ensuring stability of the landmark façade.
ABOUT THE PUBLIC THEATER
The only theater in New York that produces Shakespeare and the classics, musicals, contemporary and experimental pieces in equal measure, The Public continues the work of its visionary founder, Joe Papp, by acting as an advocate for the theater as an essential cultural force, and leading and framing dialogue on some of the most important issues of our day. Creating theater for one of the largest and most diverse audience bases in New York City for nearly 60 years, today the Company engages audiences in a variety of venues—including its landmark downtown home, which houses five theaters and Joe’s Pub; the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, home to the beloved, free Shakespeare in the Park; and the Mobile Shakespeare Unit, which tours Shakespearean productions for underserved audiences throughout New York City’s five boroughs. The Public’s wide range of programming includes free Shakespeare in the Park, the bedrock of the Company’s dedication to making theater accessible to all, new and experimental stagings at its downtown home, and a range of artist and audience development initiatives including its Public Forum series, which brings together theater artists and professionals from a variety of disciplines for discussions that shed light on social issues explored in Public productions. The Public Theater receives annual support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. www.publictheater.org
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