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The Public Theater

Sandy Kills the Lights, but Not the Spirit

The Public LogoIn the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, The Public Theater at Astor Place will serve as a collection site for material aid to help those without homes and those in need of immediate assistance.

“We're told that water is most urgently needed, in addition to work gloves, batteries, flashlights, face masks, thick black garbage bags, tarps, cleaning fluids and supplies, band-aids, Advil, Tylenol, baby wipes and diapers,” Artistic Director Oskar Eustis wrote in an e-mail to patrons. “If you bring your items to The Public, either on your way to work, to a show, or any other time during the day, we will make sure your much-needed contributions are distributed quickly and efficiently. A collection bin is located right in our main lobby.”

The Public Theater was shut down for almost a week, from Sunday afternoon as the storm approached to Saturday morning. Six members of the operations department—Ishmael (Izee) Figueroa, Melvin Barney, Timothy Gayle, Ryan Moore, Harry Colon, and Winston Hamington—lived in the building in shifts. “We are immensely grateful for the care they took of our wonderful home,” Eustis wrote. Except for some small leaks in the roof, the building was completely unscathed.

Five shows were in various stages of performance, preview, or tech when Hurricane Sandy hit. All five shows continued rehearsing, meeting further uptown where Manhattan still had power, working in temporary rehearsal spaces that were made available thanks to the support of the theatrical community, including The Pearl Theatre, SITI Company, Second Stage Theatre, Lincoln Center Theater, A.R.T. NY, Signature Theatre, 52nd St. Project, Playroom Theater, and Prospect Theater. “It was deeply gratifying to know that in a crisis, we could count on the solidarity of our community to hold us up,” Eustis wrote.

After the lights came back on at 4:58 p.m. Friday, the theater had six shows running on Saturday and seven on Sunday. “The newly revitalized lobby was full of life and vitality all weekend long, from morning to evening,” Eustis wrote. “We gave away all our remaining tickets for free (something we're pretty good at; we practice all summer), and there was a palpable sense of downtown coming back to life around us.”

On Sunday night, the Public Forum in Joe's Pub at The Public featured Anna Deavere Smith and David Simon (creator of The Wire and Treme), who gave “an inspiring and profound discussion about what responding to a crisis, and specifically responding to a hurricane, can do for a community,” Eustis wrote. “David made a point about New Orleans I loved. He said that after the onslaught of Katrina, almost everything in New Orleans had been broken, washed away, or destroyed: the infrastructure, the banks, the housing. But the one thing that was completely intact was the culture, and nobody who loved New Orleans was willing to let that die. It was the art, the culture that inspired and required all the rebuilding that needed to be done.

“As I walked through our lobby this weekend, I was reminded of everything I love about New York, and I was proud that The Public could be at the center of this amazing, unstoppable city.”

Anybody who missed performances due to the storm can get in touch with The Public at 212-967-7555 to rebook their tickets.

November 9, 2012

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