Man on a Wire, 40 Years On

At LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton
Philippe Petit has his feet firmly on the ground in Springs. Mark Segal

Philippe Petit, the French high-wire artist who captured the world’s imagination in 1973 with his walk between the two 110-story towers of the World Trade Center, will repeat his elevated stroll at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton at 6 p.m. next Thursday, the 40th anniversary of his historic feat.

Titled “Look Up,” his performance will use the same wire, tensioning device, and balancing pole and will cover the same distance, but at a height of 20 feet instead of almost 1,400.

“A year ago I thought I needed to do something to celebrate the anniversary,” Mr. Petit said during a conversation on Monday at the Springs house of Kathy O’Donnell, the event’s producer. “I needed to be on a wire.”

He discussed his desire to do a performance with Ted Hartley, a friend and executive producer of the program. “ ‘Come and see LongHouse Reserve,’ ”  Mr. Hartley said. “We visited a few other places, but the minute I saw LongHouse, I fell in love with it.”

The site dictated the height of the wire. “The pond was so beautiful I wanted to walk over it,” Mr. Petit said, “and to one side was a majestic oak with a fork in it at 20 feet, which was perfect for my departure.” Since there was no tree on the other side of the pond, a simple X-like construction will be the arrival point.

“In 1971 I was a dot in the sky,” Mr. Petit said. “This time people will be able to see my face and movements. It will be almost like a little garden party, very simple, but I have developed a theatrical presentation.” The walk will be accompanied by dramatic readings by Melissa Leo, an Academy Award-winning actress, from Mr. Petit’s book “To Reach the Clouds,” and Paul Winter, a seven-time Grammy winner, on the soprano saxophone. Mr. Petit hopes to have Mr. Winter floating on the pond in a little raft.

Though the World Trade Center walk is his most famous, he does not consider it the most important thing he has accomplished. “What I do is never a stunt or trying to break a record. To me, a small, beautifully done performance is equal in artistic quality to the highest towers.” His first major illegal walk was between the towers of Notre Dame in Paris, and it occupies a special place in his heart.

Asked if he would do an illegal walk at this point in his life, he said, “My heart has not changed. I still don’t believe in knocking on the door of the administration to do something beautiful and exciting. When the door is locked, my heart still imagines me doing more illegal walks. But now, if I’m on a rooftop in the moonlight, I would probably be shot.”

The gardens will open at 4:30 p.m., and the program will begin at 5. Tickets range in price from $125 for pond-side seating to $500 for lawn seating and a champagne supper at a private home with Mr. Petit, Ms. Leo, and Mr. Winter. Tickets at $1,000 also include a signed copy of Mr. Petit’s book and a poster, as well as V.I.P. seating. The $40 lawn tickets are sold out. Information and tickets are available at longhouse.org.

Mr. Petit will also give a lecture on his new book, “Creativity: The Perfect Crime,” at the Maidstone Club in East Hampton on Sunday at 6 p.m. A book signing will follow the talk.