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Actors, Elected Officials Help Rededicate Public Theater

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The acclaimed Public Theater in the NoHo section of Manhattan reopened Thursday following a four-year, $40 million renovation. NY1's Frank DiLella filed the following report.

With Shakespeare and song, the theater community, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others christened the newly-revamped Public Theater on Thursday morning.

The $40 million project added a restaurant and improved the theater's exterior, lobby, restrooms and more. It took four years to complete.

"That's what this renovation was all about, was trying to make the public spaces of the public as welcome as possible," said Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater.

Joseph Papp saved the former library building from the wrecking ball in 1967, renting it from the city for $1 a year and transforming it into the groundbreaking theater it remains today.

"My grandfather came here when it was The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. I began my career here. Joe Papp signed my wedding catuaba," said actor Mandy Patinkin. "I've worked with Oskar in wonderful works that I've been privileged to be a part of and now we have this newly renovated lobby with lots of bathrooms."

Thursday's program began with remarks from Eustis and Executive Director Patrick Willingham. Then, theater artists and elected officials read off lines from various Shakespeare plays.

To close out the ceremony, the cast of the 2009 revival of HAIR reunited to perform the finale of the show, a tribute to the first production ever staged at the Public Theater.

"To be in a public library that is now a public theater, wow," said actor Vanessa Redgrave. "Your head just starts to spin. As you can gather, everyone's very thrilled to be here."

"Something like this is so important to New York," said acter Liev Schreiber. "It just makes me feel so good."

The festivities for The Public Theater are not over. The not-for-profit is set to host a number of free events from now through December to help celebrate the new and improved space.

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