McDonald, Hoffman, Schreiber, Benanti Attend Public's Groundbreaking; Renovation Details Announced

By Adam Hetrick
10 Mar 2010

Liev Schreiber and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Liev Schreiber and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Photo by Anita and Steve Shevett

The Public Theater announced complete details for renovations of its Lafayette Street home following a groundbreaking ceremony attended by a host of theatre luminaries March 9.

As previously reported, the theatrical institution will begin a $35 million renovation of the 158-year-old Astor Library, which has served as its residence since 1967. In attendance for the groundbreaking ceremony were Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Laura Benanti, Michael Cerveris, Audra McDonald, Will Swenson, Gloria Reuben, Nilo Cruz, Christopher Durang, David Henry Hwang, Richard Nelson, Richard Foreman, John Weidman, Suzan-Lori Parks, Jay O. Sanders, Chay Yew, Daniel Sullivan, Michael Greif, Liev Schreiber and Sam Waterston.

"This renovation of The Public is about the public," artistic director Oskar Eustis said in a statement. "It is about celebrating this theatre as a community gathering point, the mothership of downtown theatres, where artists and audiences rub shoulders and experience themselves as part of one magnificent, democratic city."

The primary focus of the renovations will be the lobby and entryway of the building, including a new mezzanine lounge (able to accommodate 150 people) that will overlook the current lobby area and an increase the size of the lobby by an additional 468 square feet. The redesign will feature a new centrally located box office, glass enclosures around the staircases leading into the lobby. As construction on the new box office begins, the Public will relocate its current ticket hub to the Shiva Theater on the ground level.

The Public's historic fašade, which will be completely restored, will feature a new glass canopied granite veranda, including an outer staircase and two ramps flanking the building to provide easier access for disabled patrons. The plans for the expanded entryway encroach on the current Lafayette Street sidewalk, so the Public and its architects have also revealed an expanded sidewalk to allow for pedestrian traffic. New poster boxes and lighting will be installed on street level as well.



Internal renovations will include increased restrooms, as well as upgrades to the heating and air-conditioning systems. Ben Rubin's art installation, "Shakespeare Machine," a continuous cycle of the Bard's text, will be on display in the lobby. The Public has already raised $28 million for the project that is funded through a capital campaign, comprised of public and private funds.

Throughout the renovations, the Public will continue full programming in the Newman and Martinson Theaters, while production in the Anspacher will be slightly reduced. Joe's Pub will also close temporarily in order to build a new entrance and expanded kitchen for the nightlife venue.

A date of completion for the project has not been set.