On The Avenue

The Public: Good

by Ben Diamond Photographed by Simon Luethi and Sean Smith
Friday, June 15, 2018
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On Monday, supporters of the Public Theater gathered at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park for the storied performance space’s annual gala. “I have one little word to say about the weather this evening,” said executive director Patrick Willingham. “You’re welcome!”


Yes, on this balmy, late-spring evening, the best place in the city to be was Central Park. Many in attendance had fond memories of times at the Delacorte. “Twenty-one summers ago I got my equity card at the Delacorte,” said Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, to cheers and applause. “…I was 21, too.”


“It’s one of the great New York theatrical institutions,” Glenn Close , who will be appearing in her first Public production next season, told AVENUE. “It has an amazing history of inclusion and education sendign theater out into the boroughs. That was the vision of Joe Papp and it’s still going strong. I think [Public Theater Artistic Director] Oskar Eustis has done an amazing job, and it’s thrilling what’s come out of the Public. I’m very honored to be working there this fall.”


But the real draw of the evening was not the celebrities, but the child actors performing in a special, two-night only revival of the theater’s 1978 musical Runaways. A mostly-plotless, sung-through production, Runaways tells the story of runaway children on the streets of New York. “Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to see an incredible amount of talent, and it’s not a coincidence that these are young people,” Eustis said before the performance’s start.


What followed was a wonderful performance, one that updated the production for our own era while keeping a few winkingly dated references to Patty Hearst and Aly Khan.


The production’s high point, though, came toward the end, as the children broke the fourth wall to talk about their own identities and concerns. After speaking of the importance of listening to other perspectives, they introduced their surprise guests for the evening: the drama students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who came on stage to sing “We Have to Find the Wizards in Ourselves,” a never-before heard song from the screenplay of the never-produced Runaways film.


The evening then closed out with the original Runaways cast on stage with their younger counterparts, reprising some of the musical’s most toe-tapping numbers.


Also in attendance were Ethan Hawke, Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy, Mandy Patinkin and Robert De Niro.


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