“The swag is this,” said Jeff Barker, Bank of America Corp.’s New York City market president, opening his arms to encompass all the pleasures at opening night of “Into the Woods,” the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical.
For Barker, standing outside Gate 2 of the Delacorte Theater in Central Park last night, those pleasures included digesting the meal of roast chicken he’d just had with Sondheim and a small group of other arts patrons, and the anticipation of seeing Amy Adams as the Baker’s Wife. The sight of the ticket takers reminded Barker of his high school job, as an usher at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven.
Bank of America has been the lead sponsor of the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park season for six years, and not for the opportunity to pass out logoed seat cushions or baseball caps.
“It’s the interaction of people at the event that’s most important,” Barker said. “We believe a vibrant economy needs the arts. Our giving focuses on access.”
As he spoke some 1,800 people filed in, about to experience free theater.
Nearby, the Public’s Young Partners group, for patrons in their 20s and 30s, gathered in a roped-off area in front of the bathrooms.
Nate Pinsley, a senior strategist at Purpose, which creates platforms for mass digital participation, talked about becoming involved with the group almost straight out of Dartmouth.
“I was a young professional looking for something to save my soul,” Pinsley, 27, said.
He’d grown up on the Upper West Side and remembered waiting on line for free tickets to productions.
“I thought it would be cool to help make that possible for thousands of others,” he said.
Inside the theater, the front rows filled with patrons including former Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette banker Ted Shen and his wife, Mary Jo Shen, and textile industry executive Marty Granoff and his wife, Perry Granoff. The Granoffs sat with Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, the architects of the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown University.
The next three hours passed quickly, with the audience hollering for Donna Murphy’s Witch.
That would have been enough fun, but there was more on what the artistic director of the Public, Oskar Eustis, called “a fantastic night”: a cast party at Belvedere Castle.
Amy Adams, dressed in Lanvin, explained why she decided to take on the role of the Baker’s Wife.
“It’s the ‘Be careful what you wish’ part,” she said. “Since having a child, I’m really aware that we’re all under a social responsibility to understand the consequences of our actions.”
Sarah Stiles, who plays Little Red Riding Hood, said the moral of her character is “Don’t be afraid. She’s the only one who goes into the woods without fear. That’s where she learns about danger, and she’s able to grow up because of it.”
As for her excellent bike helmet/kneepads/cowboy boots costume, Stiles said it was inspired by an “Avril Lavigne punk girl.” She left it behind for the cast party, where she wore a Naeem Khan red lace dress and red lipstick.
Jack Broderick, 12, who played the narrator, said the opening night performance was “awesome, the theater was electrified,” an observation that proved his worth as a reliable narrator of real life too.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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