Joseph Papp, 1921–91, American theatrical director and producer, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. as Joseph Papirofsky. Papp, a major influence in American theater, founded the nonprofit New York Shakespeare Festival (now called Shakespeare in the Park) in 1954. He sought to make Shakespeare's works and other plays available to the public. In 1957 the city granted him a site in Central Park for free productions of Shakespeare, and a permanent theater for the project opened in 1962. Persevering and energetic, Papp also obtained (1967) from the city the Astor Library Building, where he produced plays, movies, and experimental works by new artists in the Public Theater (since 1992, the Joseph Papp Public Theater). Several of his productions, such as Hair (1967) and A Chorus Line (1975, Tony Award), moved to Broadway; the profits helped finance the Public Theater for many years. A strong advocate of creative freedom, Papp was an important promoter of off-Broadway theater and also did much to advance the careers of many fine actors and playwrights.
See oral history by K. Turan and J. Papp (2009); biographies by S. Little (1974) and H. Epstein (1994).
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