Joseph Papp

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate May 2001

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Many people associate New York with its wonderful Broadway productions, but New York can also be associated with its magnificent Shakespearean productions as well.

Joseph Papp, born in 1921, was an individual who helped to bring the writings of Shakespeare alive to New York audiences. He always had a dream of producing free "Shakespeare in the Park." In 1954, Papp founded the New York Shakespeare Festival.

His dream had expanded into the largest arts institution in the United States. For 37 years, Papp put his artistic leadership into his creation until his death on October 31, 1991. His Public Theater was a nonprofit theater in which Shakespeare was combined with contemporary theater. Papp performed in his own theater, as well as in New York City parks and schools.

In 1957, Joseph Papp had a mobile theater which he took to Central Park. He invited audiences in for free entertainment.

By 1962, the Delacorte Theater opened in Central Park. The Delacorte is an open-air amphitheater, which presents free performances during the months of June, July, and August. Each season, at least one Shakespearean production takes place in the Delacorte. This traditional theater has become one of New York City's most popular and familiar sights to tourists and New Yorkers.

Papp produced approximately 450 plays, directing over 40 of them. He is also noted for having given aspiring actors and actresses, such as James Earl Jones, Al Pacino, Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, George C. Scott, and Colleen Dewhurst an opportunity to perform. He also fostered some of the greatest playwriting talents, including Vaclav Havel, David Mamet, David Rabe, David Henry Hwang, John Guare, and Tina Howe.

Jospeh Papp managed to produce and direct the majority of the shows himself and worked with little or no pay. Papp was definitely one of...