Public Theater Executive Director Patrick Willingham announced last night from the Delacorte Theater stage that the Bernard and Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust has generously donated $4 million to The Public Theater to support free Shakespeare in the Park and the capital campaign for the revitalization of its landmark Astor Place building, which includes five theaters and Joe's Pub. Members of the Spitzer family were in the audience on Wednesday evening to enjoy the free Shakespeare in the Park production of Into the Woods. The Spitzers' first gift to the theater will be gratefully acknowledged with a plaque at the Delacorte Theater.
"The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park plays a vital role in the New York cultural landscape, and free, accessible tickets are at the core of our democratic mission. We are grateful to Bernard and Anne Spitzer for their extraordinary gift, which will ensure free productions at the Delacorte for all New Yorkers for years to come," said Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis.
"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."