Joseph Papp Biography (1921-1991)

Born Joseph Papirofsky, June 22, 1921, in Brooklyn, NY; died of prostate cancer, October 31, 1991, in New York, NY; funeral held at the Public Theater; son of Samuel (a trunkmaker) and Yetta (a seamstress; maiden name, Miritch) Papirofsky; married third wife, Peggy Marie Bennion, November 27, 1951 (divorced); married fourth wife, Gail Bovard Merrifield, January 18, 1976; children: Miranda Papp Odani, Barbara Mosser, Susan Lippman, Michael Faulkner, Anthony.Addresses: Office--New York Shakespeare Festival, 425 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10003.

Joseph Papp, called "one of the most influential men in American theater today" in a 1985 New York Times feature, built the New York Shakespeare Festivalinto the largest theatrical institution in the United States. The Festival staged numerous productions of Shakespeare's plays in the Delacorte Theatre inCentral Park in its early years, but in the mid-1960s Papp moved the companyinto the old Astor Library, renaming the facility the Public Theater. When the Festival was beset by financial troubles, Papp convinced the city of New York to enter into an innovative agreement that transferred ownership of the theater to the city, which then leased the facility to the Festival for one dollar a year. This pioneering agreement has since been used across the countryto help keep local theatrical companies in business. Papp used the Public Theater, which grew to contain six separate stages (the Anspacher, LuEsther, Martinson, Newman, Other Stage, and Shiva theaters), as a forum for advancing the works of modern playwrights, though the Festival also continued to stage plays by Shakespeare. The Public's first production was Hair, and in the following years Papp's Festival staged the works of such notable playwrights as David Mamet, Samuel Beckett, Ntozake Shange, Vaclav Havel, David Rabe, Caryl Churchill and many, many others.

Birth Details
June 22, 1921
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Death Details
October 31, 1991
New York, New York, United States

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