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A $1 Million Thank You Gift: Meryl Streep Gives Back To The Iconic New York Theatre Where She Got He
October 6, 2012
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Do you ever get those calls from your alma mater asking you for a donation? Have you ever done it?

Don't let this guilt you into it, but one of the world's most recognized actors has decided to make a sizeable donation to the theatre company in New York that gave her her first big break.

Meryl Streep, she of the most Oscar acting nominations ever, has given 'one meellion dollars' (Dr. Evil is still in, right?) to the Public Theater, the legendary space that gave birth to such stage hits as 'Hair', 'A Chorus Line', and 'Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk'.

Streep started there back in the mid-1970s. In fact, after abandoning the stage while she went to Hollywood, she chose the Public as the home for her comeback, appearing in Chekhov's 'The Seagull' in the summer of 2001.

Clearly, she considers the organization a major part of her life, and she seems happy for the opportunity to pay them back. Earlier this summer, she also lent her name to a major fundraising event for the theatre, appearing in a one-night-only reading of 'Romeo and Juliet' opposite Kevin Kline, who also got his start at the Public.

She announced the gift at a rededication ceremony at the theatre in honour of two people: her occasional collaborator, Nora Ephron, and "my friend and mentor, Joseph Papp."

Joe Papp is the visionary behind the Public. He founded 'Shakespeare in the Park', which began its annual tradition 50 years ago of providing top-quality productions of the Bard for free in Central Park. These productions feature some of the most famous names in acting, often performing on their summers off, or getting their first break in these shows.

Based on the success of his summer Shakespeare plays, Papp opened the Public in 1967, mounting the first production of 'Hair', the controversial rock musical co-written by Montrealer and McGill alumnus, Galt MacDermot. The building Papp used was formerly the home of the Astor Library, the first public library in NYC.

anne-hathaway-small.jpgBut today, the structure, built 158 years ago, badly needed repairs - an expensive proposition for any non-profit theatre company, even a recognized juggernaut like the Public.

So, the current artistic director, Oskar Eustis, launched a four-year, $40 million campaign, using public and private money, which culminated in this week's star-studded reveal. (The City paid for two-thirds of the cost.)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg recited some Shakespeare for the occasion, which was attended by such boldface alumni as Mandy Patinkin, Liev Schreiber, and Vanessa Redgrave.

Part of the renovation included restoring the exterior, creating a new bar and lounge area, and giving the lobby a huge makeover - including the installation of 37 LED screens, each one showcasing lines from each of Shakespeare's 37 plays.

Several other stars are rallying behind the cause. Anne Hathaway recently announced she would star in a one-night concert to be held in the Public's cabaret space, Joe's Pub. Tickets start at only $100, which seems like a bargain compared to Streep's generosity.

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