The Public Theater (Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis; Executive Director, Patrick Willingham) has announced that FORWARD. TOGETHER. A virtual event to support The Public Theater, will take place on Tuesday, October 20 at 8 p.m. ET, directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon, with music direction by Ted Sperling. Free and open to all from coast to coast and around the world, the one-night-only event will be livestreamed on The Public’s website, YouTube channel, and Facebook page.
In light of the national and long overdue reckoning around racism in the country and in the theater community, the virtual event originally scheduled for June 1 has been reimagined into FORWARD. TOGETHER., an exciting evening featuring stories from Public Theater alumni, songs from Public Theater musicals including a performance by Jelani Alladin of a brand new song written just for Public Works’ production of Hercules, and a preview of Say Their Names: a visual installation to be projected on the facade of The Public Theater building dedicated to the Black lives lost to police brutality and white violence.
“Before the world was stilled, we were set to celebrate the institution of theater as we knew it. What we now know is that we have much to learn and much to do to earn our sacred place in our community,” said director Kenny Leon. “We take this time to celebrate our artists, and as we move forward with our virtual event, we understand that these are precious moments. We must strive to build institutions worthy of the beauty of our artists, and we will meet the moment with the seriousness and attention it deserves.”
FORWARD. TOGETHER. will feature special performances and appearances by Jelani Alladin, Jacqueline Antaramian, Antonio Banderas, Laura Benanti, Kim Blanck, Ally Bonino, Danielle Brooks, Jenn Colella, Elvis Costello, Daniel Craig, Alysha Deslorieux, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Holly Gould, Danai Gurira, Stephanie Hsu, David Henry Hwang, Oscar Isaac, Nikki M. James, Alicia Keys, John Leguizamo, John Lithgow, Audra McDonald, Grace McLean, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kelli O’Hara, Mia Pak, Suzan-Lori Parks, David Hyde Pierce, Phylicia Rashad, Liev Schreiber, Martin Sheen, Phillipa Soo, Meryl Streep, Sting & Trudie Styler, Will Swenson, Shaina Taub, Kuhoo Verma, Ada Westfall, Kate Wetherhead, and more, along with a star-studded special tribute to this year’s honorees Sam Waterston and Audrey & Zygi Wilf. Anne McPherson will serve as a production stage manager.
Honorees Audrey & Zygi Wilf are valued members of The Public Theater community whose commitment to arts and culture, education, and humanitarian causes have created a lasting impact in New York City and beyond. Actor, advocate, and active member of the Board of Trustees Sam Waterston will be the artistic honoree. His longstanding support and partnership with The Public is unmatched, performing in 13 productions since 1963, including Much Ado About Nothing (1972), Measure for Measure featuring Meryl Streep (1976), King Lear (2011), The Tempest (2015), and more. The evening will be hosted by Co-Chairs Kwame Anthony Appiah, Candia Fisher, Joanna Fisher, Laure Sudreau, and Lynne Wheat.
Proceeds from FORWARD. TOGETHER. will contribute vital support to solidify the future of The Public Theater, and our commitment to produce and amplify stories that center on change and empowerment, while strengthening our mission to support artists, staff, and share art with our audiences for free. In recognition of the shared needs of our community partners, 25% of the proceeds will be distributed via grants to the nine 501(c)(3) partner organizations that participate in our Public Works and Public Shakespeare initiatives. These include Public Works partners: Brownsville Recreation Center, Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education, Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, Children’s Aid, Domestic Workers United, DreamYard, The Fortune Society, and Military Resilience Foundation; as well as Hunts Point Alliance for Children, a partner of Public Shakespeare Initiative.
The October 20 event is free for all, but there are many ways to support and receive access to pre-show benefits. FORWARD. TOGETHER. will be complemented by an online auction which will open one week before the event, on October 13, and will close on October 21. Exclusive auction packages available for bidding include passes to the premiere of Lee Daniels’ upcoming film The United States vs. Billie Holiday, a virtual one-on-one meet and greet with Liev Schreiber and David Hyde Pierce, and an original signed and framed sketch of the Hamilton set by David Korins. Details on auction packages and bidding information is available at publictheater.org.
With theaters closed and in-person programming on pause, The Public Theater continues to navigate the immense challenges created by the pandemic, including an operating budget that has contracted significantly, substantial furloughs among full-time staff, and a lack of employment opportunities to offer the freelance artistic community. The Public continues to rely on its community of loyal supporters who stand alongside the organization as it upholds its mission during this uncertain time. With the generous contributions of supporters as the only current source of revenue, The Public continues to reimagine theater for the digital space, support a range of artistic voices in making new work, and share it with a growing global audience.
Adriana Chavez is the editor for Vacancy. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org