Audiences attending the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater's summer season at Central Park's Delacorte Theater will see more than just Shakespeare and Moliere: Part of a $4.35 million Delacorte facelift will be evident to ticketholders at The Taming of the Shrew and Moliere's Tartuffe.
Walkways will be less congested, concession areas will be streamlined and new cedar siding and fences will greet fans of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, June 17-July 11, and Moliere's Tartuffe, Aug. 10-Sept. 5.
Other changes, to make the stage and production areas more modern and efficient, will be mostly evident to artistic personnel, although keen-eyed patrons will note the added traps in the stage when actors or set pieces rise from the floor.
Among improvements made, including some work done in 1998:
* Cedar siding on the entire exterior.
* Fencing at Gates 1 & 4.
* Refurbished canopy.
* Handicap ramp.
* Assisted hearing system.
* New bleachers and seating.
* Emergency lighting system.
* Paving in east and west "yards" and all public walkways and vomitories.
* Three concession stands built into the theater (rather than freestanding).
* Complete site drainage.
* Production and operations support rooms built under the seating area.
* Newly created usher area and locker rooms.
* Concession prep and storage rooms.
* Re-built walkways under the seating for the actors.
* Passageway between the understage and the dressing room areas.
* New workroom under the stage.
* New stage deck (slightly higher than before) with increased "trap" capacity.
* Extensive electrical power distribution upgrade.
* Audio system upgrade.
* Production "shack" upgrade. The Delacorte renovations received major financial support from the City of New York. In addition, The Delacorte Fund has made a significant gift, managed by the New York Community Trust, the interest from which will be used for annual maintenance of the of the Delacorte Theater and the surrounding grounds.
The other major capital improvement projects for the Public Theater are the creation of Joe's Pub and future upgrades to the various theatre spaces within the Lafayette Street complex.
Allison Janney and Jay O. Sanders will spar as Kate and Petruchio in the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater production of The Taming of the Shrew in Central Park June 17-July 11.
Lending comic support are Mario Cantone (Love! Valour! Compassion!) as Grumio and Max Wright (Lincoln Center's Ivanov and Twelfth Night) as Christopher Sly. Erika Alexander (TV's "Living Single") will play Bianca.
Mel Shapiro directs. Designers are Karl Eigsti (sets), Marina Draghici (costumes) and Brian MacDevitt (lights). Original music is by composer Mark Bennett.
Casting for Moliere's classic comedy, Tartuffe, the second NYSF/Public Theater production at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park (Aug. 10-Sept. 5), has not been announced. Mark Brokaw will pilot the Moliere comedy.
Shrew's Allison Janney is known for her performances in Broadway's Present Laughter and A View From the Bridge, as well as Off-Broadway's Blue Window. Sanders appeared in King John with the NYSF at the Delacorte and in National Actors Theatre's St. Joan.
The Public Theater mounted the play at the Delacorte in 1990, in a production which starred Morgan Freeman and Tracey Ullman.
Tartuffe concerns a venal and libidinous religious hypocrite who holds a household under his thrall until being exposed for what he is. When first presented in 1664 France, the sharp satire created such a furor that the pious of Paris suppressed the play. It was not performed for another three years, and then in an altered version.
Tartuffe will mark a change of pace for Brokaw, who is best known in New York for his work on contemporary plays such as The Dying Gaul, This Is Our Youth and 2.5 Minute Ride. Regionally, Brokaw has recently mounted productions of The Glass Menagerie and A Month in the Country.
In recent seasons, the Public has scheduled works other than Shakespeare's for the park season. In 1998, for instance, saw a revival of Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth. In 1997, George C. Wolfe mounted the musical On the Town, later bringing it to Broadway in a revised form.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson