1921-91, American director and producer; b. Brooklyn, N.Y., as Yosl Papirofsky. A theatrical innovator, he made
fine plays available to large and varied audiences through his New York Shakespeare Festival and the
Public Theater (since 1992, Joseph Papp Public Theater) in New York City, using income from commercial
successes, such as A Chorus Line (1975; Tony Award), to support the production of works by lesser-known
playwrights (at the time), directors and composers, including David Mamet, Sam Shepard, Thomas Babe, David Hare, Carson Kievman,
George C. Wolfe, Elizabeth Swados, Andre Serban, Robert Alan Ackerman and Wallace Shawn. Papp
also supported influencial theatrical groups such as the Mabou Mines, and musical events like Pierre Boulez and his infamous
"Rug Concerts" of the New York Philarmonic Orchestra. A tireless promoter of interdisciplinary arts and artistic freedom led
him into a major battle against the forces of extreme conservatism and censurship against any controversial art. These
negative forces, as personified by Sen. Jessie Helms, were the target of Joe Papp's endless resolve to restore open
government funding to the arts without any form of censorship. That battle lasting over 10 tumultous years, appears to be
coming to a succesful end. But we can thank Joseph Papp for leading the way with his courageous refusal to accept
government funds while censureship attachements were made. This came at a time when his theater was struggling to
survive financially since funds from A Chorus Line were beginning to dwindle and fundraising had become a problem.
Carson Kievman's innovative production of "Wake Up, It's Time To Go To Bed!" and Multinationals & The heavens, was
premiered at Papp's Public Theater. Other major productions included Hair (1967), Sticks and Bones (1971; Tony
Award), Fathers and Sons (1978) and The Pirates of Penzance (1980; Tony Award). One of Joseph Papp's last project
was to commission and work with composer Carson Kievman in order to create a multi-media/opera version of William
Shakespeare's Hamlet (Papp's favorite play). The collaboration continued from 1987 until Papp's tragic death (from
cancer) in 1991. The resulting unfinished work is both compelling and powerful according to many who attended the only
reading at the Public Theater in April 1990.
b. Yosl Papirofsky, 22 June 1921, New York City, New York, USA, d. 31 October 1991, New York City, New York, USA. Papp became one of the most admired and respected figures in New York?s theatrical community. He founded the non-profit New York Shakespeare Festival in 1954 and from 1957 presented free productions in the city?s Central Park. Innovative, enthusiastic and open-minded, Papp produced musical versions of William Shakespeare?s Two Gentlemen Of Verona (1971) and Much Ado About Nothing (1972), both of which later transferred to Broadway. In 1967 he also founded the Public Theater, using space in the building of the Astor Library. Following his death the theatre became known as the Joseph Papp Public Theater. A Public Theatre production A Chorus Line (1975) also moved on to Broadway, where it enjoyed great success and garnered multiple awards. Indeed, many of Papp?s Festival and Public Theatre productions were award winners during their Broadway afterlife.
Papp built a reputation not only for producing shows that were successful on Broadway but also for ploughing back the money they made into subsidizing shows by and featuring unknown writers and artists. Among many of those whose careers benefited from Papp's support are David Hare, Carson Kievman, David Mamet, Wallace Shawn and Sam Shepard. Other shows he produced were Hair (1967), Sticks And Bones (1971), Fathers And Sons (1978), The Pirates Of Penzance (1980) and Kievman's multi-media version of Shakespeare?s Hamlet. The latter was still a work-in-progress when Papp died, although it had been given a reading at the Public Theater in April 1990. Papp was tireless in his efforts to extract government funding for the arts that was unencumbered by the imposition of censorship, eventually succeeding despite heavyweight opposition in Washington, D.C. ALLROVI.COM