Founded by Joseph Papp in 1954 as The Shakespeare Workshop, The Public’s original focus stays much the same as it was when it first started- to bring to audiences the works of writers and the talents of performers who were new, innovative, and unique. The theatre was renamed after Papp’s death in 1991, and it is now called The Joseph Papp Public Theatre. It is located at 425 Lafayette Street in New York’s East Village
The Public quickly became known as the producer of new, cutting edge works. The theatre at 425 Lafayette Street opened in 1967 with the world premiere of the musical Hair, which is considered to be the first rock musical. Another work of note that were developed at The Public include A Chorus Line, which, after transferring to Broadway, ran for 15 sold out years.
Plays that started at the theatre and found their way to Broadway include Sticks and Bones; That Championship Season; For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf; Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk; The Wild Party; The Ride Down Mt. Morgan; Topdog/Underdog; Take Me Out; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson; and The Normal Heart. Recent shows that are about to appear on Broadway include the musicals Fun Home and Hamilton.
A Social Conscience
Papp developed a theatre that had a true social conscience and that was dedicated to the development or both audiences and artists. The theatre showcases artists through various series and offerings, and along with having a strong reputation for helping to create new works, it is also known for mounting innovative productions of classics, especially Shakespeare’s works.
Training programs for theatre artists, theatre and playwright labs, and public lectures, forums, and discussions are all a part of the theatre’s programming. They also produce the annual Shakespeare in the Park series, which, since 1957, has run each summer in Central Park
The Delacorte Theatre
In 1962, the Delacorte Theatre opened its doors. Famous for offering free shows in the summer, the venue is operated by The Public Theatre. Each summer The Public produces two shows at the Delacorte, with one often being a play by Shakespeare. Modern classics are also produced such as Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull and Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children. In order for someone to get a ticket to one of these shows, they must stand in line the day of the performance.
A Theatrical Gem
The Joseph Papp Public Theatre is a true theatrical gem, as it offers an array of quality programs, productions, and services. The Public was one person’s dream that not only became a reality, but the continues to endure, embracing Papp’s vision and channeling his energy. The present production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip hop musical Hamilton, which sold out its run and will transfer to Broadway this summer, it one of many testaments to the vitality of this organization. The Public Theater has won 42 Tony Awards, 151 Obies, 41 Drama Desk Awards and produced four Pulitzer Prize winning shows.