By Michael Gioia
and Kenneth Jones
24 May 2012
Four-time Tony nominee Esparza, most recently seen on Broadway in the Tony-nominated musical Leap of Faith, Martin (The Merchant of Venice, Rent, The Government Inspector), Stiller (The Three Sisters, Much Ado About Nothing, The Ritz), Tony nominees Walken (A Behanding in Spokane, James Joyce's The Dead, Othello) and Waterston (Abe Lincoln in Illinois, As You Like It, A Walk in the Woods) and Tony winner Wright (Angels in America, Topdog / Underdog, Julius Caesar) join previously announced Academy Award winners Kevin Kline and Meryl Steep — both veterans of New York Shakespeare Festival — who will star as the play's respective title characters.
The cast will be joined on stage by live musicians playing original music by award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori.
Daniel Sullivan will direct the performance that celebrates to the day The Public Theater's 50-year anniversary of producing Shakespeare in the outdoor venue. This is the Public's annual fundraising gala.
Al Pacino, who starred in Sullivan's The Merchant of Venice at the Delacorte in 2010 (the production moved to Broadway), will be honored for his body of work with The Public Theater in the special evening, which includes dinner, the Shakespeare performance and a post-show party. Pacino's work with The Public Theater goes back to the early 1970s.
Ticket prices start at $1,500. A limited number of free stand-by line tickets will be available on the day of the gala at the Delacorte Theater. For information about tickets for The Public Theater's Anniversary Gala, call (212) 539-8547 or visit shakespeareinthepark.org.
The benefit event is being chaired by Public Theater board members Arielle Tepper Madover and Alexandra Shiva.
The Delacorte Theater in Central Park officially opened on June 18, 1962, with a production of The Merchant of Venice, directed by Public Theater founder Joe Papp and Gladys Vaughn and featuring George C. Scott and James Earl Jones.
Conceived by Papp as a way to make great theatre accessible to all, over the past 50 years more than five million people have attended more than 100 free productions of Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals at the Delacorte.
Kline is the Academy Award and Tony Award-winning actor who last appeared at the Delacorte in Mother Courage and Her Children in 2006. His other Public Theater credits include The Seagull; The Wars of the Roses cycle; Pirates of Penzance, which also transferred to Broadway earning him a Tony Award; Richard III; Henry V; Much Ado About Nothing; Hamlet; and Measure for Measure.
Streep last appeared on the Delacorte stage in 2006 in Mother Courage and Her Children. Her other Public Theater credits include the critically acclaimed production of The Seagull directed by Mike Nichols; Trelawny of the Wells; Henry V; Measure for Measure; The Cherry Orchard; The Taming of the Shrew; Taken in Marriage; and Alice at the Palace. Streep has been nominated for the Academy Award 17 times, and has won it three times, most recently for her role in "The Iron Lady."
Sullivan won the Tony Award for his direction of Proof. His current Broadway project is David Auburn's The Columnist.
The Public Theater is under the leadership of artistic director Oskar Eustis and executive director Patrick Willingham. Read more about The Public Theater's presence on Broadway in the Playbill Vault, the most comprehensive Broadway database on the internet.