×

Gala Celebrates Women of New York’s Public Theater

For Tony nominee Leigh Silverman, directing the production at the heart of the Public Theater’s Women of the Public gala felt like a homecoming. “I saw so many incredible plays at the Public as a fan,” she told Variety before the performance at the Delacorate Theater on Monday night. She vividly recalls seeing Diana Son’s “Stop Kiss” in 1998, first as an usher and twice more as an audience member. “I just sat there feeling like, ‘If all I ever do is give programs out here, that will be fine, because I love it so much.’ But when you think about a life in New York, all you can think about is working at the Public Theater.”

That dream came true in 2004, when Lisa Kron’s “Well” premiered on the Martinson stage with Silverman at the helm. And the relationship has only deepened in the years since; with seven shows there under her belt and three more in development, “It’s become a real artistic home for me,” Silverman said.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks feels the same way. When asked what the Public meant to her, she pointed to a bird’s nest in the rafters of the Delacorte. “That’s like me. I’m like, ‘This is my nest,’” she said, laughing. “When I think of the Public Theater, I think of home. I’ve been doing plays there since 1994 – and I’ve been to a lot of wonderful theaters around the world, but I feel like this is my spot. They’ve supported me through all kinds of different artistic expressions.”

Suzan-Lori Parks and Christian KonopkaLadies Unite at Women of the Public Gala, New York, USA - 03 Jun 2019
CREDIT: Broadway World/Shutterstock

The women who came before her – and eventually worked alongside her – were key to that sense of freedom and possibility. “Gail Papp is the First Woman of the Public Theater to my mind,” Parks said, citing Ntozake Shange, Adrienne Kennedy and Jo Bonney as similarly instrumental. “I’m just following in the footsteps!”

Artistic director Oskar Eustis also paid tribute to Papp as a pioneer. “Gail Papp is the keeper of the flame in terms of the values of the place,” he told Variety. “She founded the Literary Department and the New Work Department. She was the first dramaturg that we had here, and she’s still on the board serving actively. She’s been the spirit of this organization since 1965.”

While her story is a remarkable one, Papp is just one of the many women who’ve been integral to the institution throughout its history – and as Eustis noted later in the evening, the theater’s ethos reflects that. “We’re celebrating the women of the Public tonight, but every day of the year is the day of the woman at the Public Theater. Women are indispensable to everything we do. I’m keeping this chair warm for a woman who will succeed me!” he added, laughing. “It’s not something confined to one night — it’s something we all know is our lifelong task.”

Gala performersLadies Unite at Women of the Public Gala, New York, USA - 03 Jun 2019
CREDIT: Broadway World/Shutterstock

Popular on Variety

More Legit

  • Mark Rylance Oscars 2016

    'Bridge of Spies' Actor Mark Rylance Leads Union Drive for Coronavirus Relief Donations

    U.K. entertainment industry union Equity has pledged £1 million ($1.2 million) to support its members who have been affected by the pandemic-induced industry shutdown. Equity is asking for more donations, stating that the vast majority of its 47,000 members earn modest sums and do not have savings as a fall-back option. The appeal for further [...]

  • Directors Coronavirus

    Economic Package For Freelancers Elicits Mixed Response From U.K. Industry

    The long-awaited economic measures for the self-employed revealed by U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Thursday have elicited mixed response from the film and TV industry’s predominantly freelance workforce. Self-employed individuals can claim 80% of their average income over the last three years up to £2,500 ($3,000) a month, which is taxable. To [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    Critic’s Notebook: The Night Before Broadway Went Dark

    Let me preface this by saying the story I’m about to tell is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Two weeks ago, I rushed to New York City to catch “The Inheritance” before it closed on Broadway. I’d been tracking the play by Matthew Lopez — a multigenerational, six-and-a-half-hour monument that resurrects E.M. Forster [...]

  • Mark Blum dead

    Mark Blum, 'Desperately Seeking Susan' Star, Dies From Coronavirus Complications

    Actor Mark Blum, who appeared in “Desperately Seeking Susan,” “Crocodile Dundee” and the TV series “You,” has died due to complications from coronavirus. He was 69. The Playwrights Horizons theater group and SAG-AFTRA executive vice president Rebecca Damon confirmed the news on Thursday. It is with such deep sorrow that I’m writing to share the news [...]

  • U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi

    U.K. Chancellor Announces Emergency Measures for Freelancers

    The U.K. has finally announced an economic relief package for freelancers not in employment after much of the country’s creative industries shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a new self-employed income support scheme on Thursday. Self-employed individuals can claim 80% of their average income over the last three [...]

  • Celia Keenan-Bolger73rd Annual Tony Awards, Show,

    Tony Awards Postponed Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

    The Tony Awards are the latest industry event to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The American Theatre Wing, which backs the show, announced on Wednesday that the 74th edition of the annual celebration of the best of theater will be pushed back indefinitely. The ceremony was originally scheduled to air live on CBS, [...]

  • Debra Messing Golden Globes

    'Caroline, Or Change,' 'Birthday Candles' Postpone Broadway Runs Due to Coronavirus

    Roundabout Theatre Company is moving its hotly anticipated revival of “Caroline, Or Change” to the fall, as well as its upcoming production of “Birthday Candles” with Debra Messing. The shifts are an acknowledgment of a painful reality. Theaters in New York City have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and with the rate of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content