Al Pacino said he keeps Shakespeare “all over the place” in his home.
Mike Nichols said he keeps his in the bedroom, “because Shakespeare is hot.”
Pacino was honoree, Nichols one of 1,100 guests who gathered in Central Park last night for a gala supper celebrating the 50th anniversary of Shakespeare in the Park’s home, the Delacorte Theater.
Others included KKR & Co. LP partner Erik Falk, Centerbridge Partners LP managing principal Mark Gallogly and Jeff Barker, Bank of America New York City market president. Bank of America is a sponsor of Shakespeare in the Park.
The program, run by the Public Theater, has given more than 2,500 free performances at the Delacorte Theater to over five million people since its inception.
The current production there is “As You Like It,” for which Steve Martin wrote the music. Martin, standing next to scientist Paul Roossin, noted that he read a synopsis of the play to write the music. “I’ve seen it 100 times,” he added.
Over a meal of roast chicken, a bouquet of hydrangeas and lilies sprucing up their table, Laura Linney and Julianna Margulies talked of the bard.
“I was Lady Capulet in high school,” said Linney.
“The Shakespeare I have at home is a set my father gave to me for my 13th birthday,” Margulies said. “It’s leather bound and it never leaves my study.”
Peter Blair Henry, the dean of New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, has a budding Shakespearean in the family. His 12-year-old son, Langston, participates in the “No Fear Shakespeare” program at Grace Church School.
After dinner guests headed into the Delacorte for a reading of “Romeo and Juliet” in front of a grove of trees.
“Psst...Romeo,” Meryl Streep said to Kevin Kline, both transformed into sweet teenagers.
Christine Baranski was a live-wire conspirator as Juliet’s nurse. Jerry Stiller earned guffaws as a Capulet messenger. (Where was that party he was talking about? “There,” Stiller said pointing in the direction of the audience.)
Christopher Walken as Mercutio was his edgy and enunciating self.
“Flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified,” he teased Romeo for being softened by love.
And there were kisses.
“Let lips do what hands do; they pray,” Romeo said.
“Give me my sin again,” Juliet demanded.
It was a cool night, and with intermission at 10, a long night that required fortification.
Chelsea Clinton, who had earlier dined with Tony Kushner, ate a green apple she purchased at the concession for $1. Bob Balaban had Twizzlers.
Warren Spector, the chairman of the Public Theater and a director at the InSolve Global Credit Fund LP, anticipated hot chocolate as the cast took their final bows.
The after party offered sandwiches and cake pops under a pinkish sky and strings of lights. The music included Whitney Houston and the Bee Gees.
Actor John Cullum, who’d played Capulet in the reading, arrived with Rebecca Faulkenberry, who plays Mary Jane Watson in “Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark.”
Cullum recalled graduating from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, never having played Shakespeare. He came to New York and auditioned for “Hamlet” using a $1 version of the play he had bought at the Strand.
These days he has about 25 small volumes of Shakespeare on his shelf as well as about five different sets of the complete works.
Guests departed with a copy of “Romeo and Juliet” in their goody bags.
The event raised $2.1 million, guided by event co-chairwomen Alexandra Shiva, a documentary filmmaker, and theater producer Arielle Tepper Madover, who said her husband’s company Ouchies is making an “Annie”-themed adhesive bandage in honor of her bringing the musical to Broadway this autumn.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)