Joe Papp

American Masters “Joe Papp in Five Acts”

Premieres Friday, June 3 at 8 p.m.

American Masters: Joe Papp in Five Acts tells the story of this indomitable, street-wise champion of the arts. As founder of The Public Theater, Free Shakespeare in the Park and producer of groundbreaking plays like Hair, A Chorus Line and for colored girls…, Papp believed great art was for everyone, not just a privileged few. A cultural change agent for more than fifty years, Papp’s stages held up a mirror to society with work that reflected the reality of people’s lives.

More than perhaps any other cultural figure in recent history, Papp worked to expand public access to the arts. “We have public libraries,” he would argue, “Why not public theaters?” Papp recognized the role artists could play in building a more democratic, inclusive society. At a time when theatre was largely the domain of white men, he was convinced that women, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC and other marginalized communities, denied power elsewhere in society, could develop it on the stage. His goal was a “theater of inclusion” on-stage, backstage, and in the audience.

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