“Our family has long enjoyed the inspiring work of the superb Public Theater,” said Bernard Spitzer. “Shakespeare in the Park, one of The Public’s consistently engaging and enlightening presentations, has become a rite of summer for us and so many New Yorkers and visitors. We are proud and privileged to help sustain the availability of these treasures for the people of New York.”
The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park was conceived by founder Joe Papp more than 50 years ago as a way to make great theater accessible to all and continues to be the bedrock of the Company’s mission to increase access. Since the opening of the Delacorte Theater in Central Park in 1962, more than five million people have enjoyed more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals at the Delacorte Theater. This summer marks the 50th Anniversary of The Public’s Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte. Without ticket revenue, The Public must rely on individual and corporate donations to support these productions. Shakespeare in the Park is one of The Public’s most expensive programming initiatives.
This October, The Public Theater will celebrate completing a $40 million revitalization of the Company’s downtown home at Astor Place. 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, the project is a physical manifestation of the theater’s core mission of sparking new dialogues and increasing accessibility for artists 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 the new Library, a lounge designed by the Rockwell Group that will serve food and drinks before and after performances; expansion and remodeling of restroom facilities; and comprehensive exterior restoration, ensuring stability of the landmark façade.
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.
The Bernard and Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust is a long-time supporter of the intellectual, educational and cultural values of the City. Beneficiaries have included the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at City College (Mr. Spitzer is an alumnus of City College), the Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History, an endowed Chair in Political Science at City College, and a stem cell research project at Columbia University. Bernard Spitzer is the Principal of Spitzer Engineering which has developed and owns residential and commercial property in New York City as well as commercial property in Washington, D.C. and Bethesda, Maryland. Anne Spitzer is an adjunct professor of English Literature at Hunter College. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Their daughter Emily, an attorney, is executive director of the National Health Law Program, their son Daniel is a neurosurgeon and their son Eliot, the former Governor of the State of New York, is the host of Current TV’s “Viewpoint.”
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ABOUT THE PUBLIC THEATER (Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director; Patrick Willingham, Executive Director)
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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