Continued from page 1

Eustis has run the Public since 2005 and has seen many memorable things at the Delacorte, including Streep and the cast of “Mother Courage and Her Children” wrapping up their microphones to keep performing during a rainstorm.

His own personal highlight came four years ago when “Hair” was onstage and he was celebrating his 50th birthday. At one point, the cast came down into the seats, picked him up and led the audience in singing “Happy Birthday.”

“I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” he says, laughing. “The only problem with it is that it was the happiest moment of my life and I know I will never be happier.”


Jonathan Groff was in that company of “Hair,” but has a different unforgettable memory. It was threatening rain on opening night, but the cast managed to stay dry until the final scene.

Groff, the Tony-nominated star of “Spring Awakening,” was playing Claude. The show ends with Claude’s corpse lying on an American flag, having been killed in Vietnam. The rest of the cast files out, leaving Claude alone, face-up.

“As the music was going out, I could feel drip, drip, DRIP on my forehead and my hand. I was like, `Uh, oh,’” Groff recalls.

After the curtain call, the show ends with a massive dance party in which the audience is invited onstage to boogie with the cast while belting out “Let the Sun Shine In.”

“Almost on cue, the clouds opened up and torrential rain pours down during the dance party. Everyone _ the audience included _ was onstage, jumping up and down, soaking wet, singing `Let the Sun Shine In.’ It was incredible,” he says.

“And then, again almost as if on cue, the music stopped, the rain stopped, the stars came out and we had our opening night party on the top of Belvedere Castle as planned. It was as if something aligned in the universe for that performance. It was one of the most magical nights I’ve ever had in the theater.”

Groff returned the next summer for “The Bacchae” and wants to come back. “I would go back every summer, for both shows, for the rest of my life if I could,” he says. One reason is the audience itself.

“If you’re seeing something at the Delacorte, it is because through blood, sweat and tears they’ve gotten a pair of tickets,” he says. “You can feel it when you’re acting onstage there. It’s palpable.”


The Delacorte may be a jewel, but the city around it hasn’t always been so pretty. Just ask Sam Waterston, the former “Law & Order” prosecutor who has played 10 shows at the Delacorte, including his acting breakthrough in 1972 as Benedict in “Much Ado About Nothing.”

He recalls playing the Danish prince in “Hamlet” in the summer of 1975, an era in New York that was much grittier than today. Central Park was not a place to hang around in at night. It was downright scary.

Story Continues →