The Public Theater’s annual gala Tuesday night kicked off with early dinner served on the grassy lawn outside the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The event felt a bit like a gathering of kin, as guests included Steven Soderbergh, Sandra Oh, Jonathan Groff and the playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, all of whom have worked with the Public Theater (if not, as in Groff’s case, performed on the stage of the Delacorte). Mid-entrees, Daveed Diggs, a star of the acclaimed “Hamilton” (soon moving to Broadway) rapped his way through an incitation for attendees to donate with lines like “Git money money, git money, money, money” and “The show must go on at all cost and the show must be for all or it’s a loss.”
The evening doubled as an honorary ceremony for Bernard and Anne Spitzer (explaining the presence of Eliot Spitzer) and the Public’s Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and his wife Laurie. And so, before a special performance of “The Tempest,” currently on the Delacorte’s stage as part of the annual, free Shakespeare in the Park program, the Spitzers were toasted for their deep devotion to the Public (not to mention the $4 million they gave to the institution). Tony Kushner gave a particularly enthusiastic paean to Oskar and Laurie. “My husband told me to be sure not to rush my speech. And also, you’re holding up the show,” quipped Kushner before launching into a verbal hurricane. A surprise announcement was then made of the creation of a new Eustis Artistic Fund of $1 million and a noticeably touched Oskar took to the podium with Laurie and their daughter, Kyle. “This is the most ephemeral [art form],” he said of the theater. “And life is ephemeral… but it lives on in love.” And so the show went on.