Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep has gifted New York’s Public Theater with $1 million. The donation -- in honor of her mentor and Public Theater’s founder, Joseph Papp, as well as writer-director Nora Ephron -- was announced Thursday evening at a private reception celebrating the completion of Public Theater’s newly renovated (to the tune of $40 million) Astor Place home.
Streep is a longtime alumna of Public Theater, which produces Shakespeare and the classics as well as musicals and contemporary and experimental theater. She also has performed at the company’s Delacorte Theater uptown in Central Park. Her early performances included “Trelawny of the Wells” in 1975 and “Henry V” in 1976. This past June, Streep performed a reading, opposite Kevin Kline, of “Romeo and Juliet” at the Public Theater’s 50th anniversary gala.
The actress was also close friends with the late Ephron, who directed some of Streep’s enduring roles. They worked together on “Silkwood” (1983), “Heartburn” (1986) and “Julie and Julia” (2009), Ephron’s last movie before she died in June.
“Meryl is as great a citizen as she is an actor,” Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis said. “Joe Papp founded the Public in the belief that great theater belonged to all the people. It means an enormous amount to us that the greatest actor of our time supports that mission.”
Part of Public Theater’s mission with the new downtown renovation is to turn its 158-year-old lobby into a public piazza of sorts, for the artistic community. As such, the company is planning a monthlong series of free events.