Bloomberg Helps Unveil Public Theater’s $40 Million Face-Lift

publicDana Varinsky The ceremony today.

Mayor Bloomberg showed off his Shakespeare this morning as the Public Theater celebrated the completion of a four-year, $40 million renovation.

Addressing a crowd of city officials, theater big-ups, and community members in the redesigned lobby, Mayor Bloomberg requested a round of applause for the taxpayers who helped make the renovations possible. “This public-private partnership is really putting the public in The Public,” he said, referring to the city funding that footed over two thirds of the project. “It takes a village, if you pardon the pun, and this one certainly did.” he said, adding that the community is still being repaid in free renditions of the classics.

The Public has presented Shakespeare in the Park since 1962. Joe Papp opened the theater in 1967, paying $1 a year to take over the building that once housed New York’s first public library.

“This building has always served a public purpose,” Oskar Eustis, the theater’s artistic director, told this morning’s crowd, adding, “The greatest art belongs to everybody and it is made greater when it belongs to everybody.”

photo(366)Dana Varinsky Mandy Patinkin

The Public’s renovation included a new front stairway with glass canopy, restoration of the building’s facade, and a re-configuration of the staircases inside for better traffic flow. There is also an expanded central lobby bar and a new mezzanine floor with a cocktail lounge. Mayor Bloomberg noted as well that the Port-A-Potties used during the refurbishment were finally a thing of the past, prompting a round of applause.

In the lobby, a hanging art installation called “Shakespeare Machine” consists of 37 narrow LED screens that display changing text from each of Shakespeare’s plays.

At the ceremony, lines from the Bard’s work were recited by Mayor Bloomberg as well as elected officials Christine Quinn and Scott M. Stringer, actors Liev Schreiber, Mandy Patinkin, and Colman Domingo, and others.

The re-dedication concluded with a rendition of “Let the Sun Shine,” sung from the mezzanine by the revival cast of “Hair” – the show that launched the Public Theater’s programming in 1967.

The Public’s celebration isn’t over: this is the first of eight weeks of events. Saturday, Oct. 13, The Public will host a block party on Lafayette Street with performances, food, and tours of the new space.

This post was revised on Oct. 4, 2012 to reflect a correction. The Public Theater pays $1 per year in rent, not $1 per month.