The Public Theater (Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director and Patrick Willingham, Executive Director) and Elevator Repair Service (John Collins, Artistic Director) will kick off The Public’s 55th anniversary season with the New York premiere production of BALDWIN AND BUCKLEY AT CAMBRIDGE conceived by Greig Sargeant with Elevator Repair Service and directed by Elevator Repair Service (ERS)’s Artistic Director John Collins. BALDWIN AND BUCKLEY AT CAMBRIDGE will begin performances in the Anspacher Theater with a Joseph Papp Free Performance on Saturday, September 24. The production will run through Sunday, October 16 with an official press opening on Sunday, October 2.

In 1965, two of America’s intellectual giants were invited to debate whether “the American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro,” bringing into sharp focus our country’s deepest divisions. The renowned theater company Elevator Repair Service returns to The Public with BALDWIN AND BUCKLEY AT CAMBRIDGE, a profoundly relevant presentation of the legendary debate between virtuosic writer James Baldwin and father of American conservatism William F. Buckley, Jr. The production concludes with an imagined scene between Baldwin and his close friend Lorraine Hansberry, researched and written by long-time ERS company members April Matthis and Greig Sargeant. Heralded by the New York Times as “one of the city’s few truly essential theater companies,” Elevator Repair Service applies their trademark approach of verbatim textual exploration and intensive collaboration to re-create Baldwin and Buckley’s blistering dissection of race, racism, and human worth.

The cast of the New York premiere of BALDWIN AND BUCKLEY AT CAMBRIDGE will feature Daphne Gaines (Lorraine Hansberry), Gavin Price (Mr. Heycock), Greig Sargeant (James Baldwin), Christopher-Rashee Stevenson (Mr. Burford), and Ben Jalosa Williams (William F. Buckley, Jr.).

“With The Public Theater’s strong commitment to social justice, its supportive community, and its engaged and adventurous audiences, I cannot imagine a better home for this piece,” said conceiver and performer Greig Sargeant. “Recreating such a powerful debate for a modern audience is deeply fulfilling for me personally, and I am both thrilled and humbled to give voice to the words of Mr. James Baldwin.”

The production will feature costume design by Jessica Jahn, lighting design by Alan C. Edwards, sound design by Ben Jalosa Williams, and scenic consulting by dots. ERS Associate Artistic Director Maurina Lioce will serve as production stage manager.

“The words of James Baldwin are as urgent and moving today as they have ever been,” said director and Elevator Repair Service Artistic Director John Collins. “This debate staged for a live audience not only delivers those powerful ideas, but also reminds us of the all-too-familiar counterarguments of William F. Buckley, arguments that still find sympathy among today’s conservatives.”

The Public Theater and Elevator Repair Service have a long-standing history of creative collaboration. Their partnerships on Gatz (2010), Arguendo (2013), and The Sound and the Fury (2015) reimagined literary and found texts by bringing them to life onstage. The Public celebrates ERS’ commitment to both honoring the integrity of these source texts while also revitalizing them through the company’s unique devising process.

Following BALDWIN AND BUCKLEY AT CAMBRIDGE, The Public’s 55th anniversary season at Astor Place will continue with Lorraine Hansberry’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN, directed by Robert O’Hara, marking the legendary playwright’s Public Theater debut and only the second time that this classic has been produced Off-Broadway. In October, WHERE WE BELONG begins in the LuEsther Hall—an intimate and exhilarating solo piece written and performed by Madeline Sayet and directed by Mei Ann Teo, co-produced with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in association with Folger Shakespeare Library. Sayet’s story is a celebration of the indigenous community and an in-depth exploration of colonialism that asks us what it means to belong in an increasingly globalized world. The Public will close out the fall in Joe’s Pub with the World Premiere of Suzan-Lori Parks’ PLAYS FOR THE PLAGUE YEAR, both a personal story of one family’s daily lives, as well as a sweeping account of all we faced as a city, a nation, and a global community. Working in collaboration with Niegel Smith as director, Parks’ groundbreaking new work is brimming with humanity, bears witness to what we’ve experienced, and offers inspiration as we look ahead.

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