The Public Theater's Artistic Director Oskar Eustis released a statement today on Hurricane Sandy.
"Hurricane Sandy dealt our entire region a huge blow this past week, and it will require effort and collaboration from all of us to support those who are suffering the most," he wrote. "I know your thoughts, like mine, are with those of our citizens in the Rockaways and Hoboken, in Staten Island and New Jersey, who are still without power, heat, or homes."
Eustis went on to detail The Public Theater's efforts at Astor Place to use the space as a collection site over the next few weeks for material aid, such as water, work gloves, batteries, flashlights, face masks, thick black garbage bags, tarps, cleaning fluids and supplies, band-aids, Advil, Tylenol, baby wipes and diapers and more. A collection bin is located in the main lobby.
"Here at The Public Theater, we were shut down for almost a week, from last Sunday afternoon to this past Saturday morning," Eustis continued. "We had six wonderful men from our Operations department who lived in our building in shifts (Ishmael (Izee) Figueroa, Melvin Barney, Timothy Gayle, Ryan Moore, Harry Colon, Winston Hamington) to protect our historic building. We are immensely grateful for the care they took of our wonderful home. We were incredibly fortunate-- our basement stayed bone-dry, and with the exception of a few small leaks in the roof (easily patched), the building was completely unscathed.
"We had five shows in various stages of performance, preview or tech when Hurricane Sandy hit-- and all five shows continued rehearsing, meeting further uptown where Manhattan still had power, working in temporary rehearsal spaces that were made available to us thanks to the extraordinary support of the theatrical community. We want to especially thank The Pearl Theatre, Siti Company, Second Stage Theatre, Lincoln Center Theater, A.R.T. NY, Signature Theatre, 52ND St. Project, Playroom Theater and Prospect Theater. It was deeply gratifying to know that in a crisis, we could count on the solidarity of our community to hold us up.
"I spent the week on my bike (it is always the most reliable form of transportation in the city-- this last week, it was the only alternative), coming in from my Brooklyn home over the Brooklyn Bridge, driving through the eerily dark and quiet streets of lower Manhattan, heading to midtown where our shows were in rehearsal, travelling from rehearsal room to rehearsal room, and visiting the artists who were continuing their work in these difficult times. Every time I walked into a room I was struck by the passion and dedication of our artists: their determination to cherish the work they were making, to support one another, and to come together to renew their feeling of being part of a community larger than any one of us. Those were great and inspiring visits, and I am tremendously proud of them all.
"The lights came on at 4:58 PM last Friday, and by Saturday we were up and running: six shows on Saturday, seven on Sunday, the newly revitalized lobby full of life and vitality all weekend long, from morning to evening. We gave away all our remaining tickets for free (something we're pretty good at, we practice all summer), and there was a palpable sense of downtown coming back to life around us. On Sunday night we had a Public Forum in Joe's Pub at The Public where Anna Deavere Smith and David Simon (creator of “The Wire” and “Treme”) had an inspiring and profound discussion about what responding to a crisis, and specifically responding to a hurricane, can do for a community.
"David made a point about New Orleans I loved: he said that after the onslaught of Katrina, almost everything in New Orleans had been broken, washed away, or destroyed: the infrastructure, the banks, the housing. But the one thing that was completely intact was the culture, and nobody who loved New Orleans was willing to let that die. It was the art, the culture that inspired and required all the rebuilding that needed to be done.