About JOSEPH Papp
A Pragmatic Radical Touched with Public Genius
Joe Papp in his office at The Public Theater
Photo: © Estate of Barbra Walz
Joseph Papp (born Joseph Papirofsky; June 22, 1921 – October 31, 1991) was the American theatrical producer and director who founded The Public Theater in what had been the Astor Library Building in lower Manhattan. There, Papp created a year-round producing home to focus on new plays and musicals from voices not being heard. The Public Theater’s first production was Hair, which went on to be the first rock musical to play on Broadway.
Joe and Gail in 1978 Photo: Adam Scully/PHOTOlink/MediaPunch
“While memory holds a seat”
Theater doesn’t exist independently of life. In my world, there’s always a connection between the front page and the theater page.
There’s a very specific reference in Hamlet that I’ve always taken to heart and that is when Hamlet meets the Ghost of his father and the Ghost says, “Remember me.”
And Hamlet says, “While memory holds a seat in this distracted globe”—-that’s how long he’ll remember him.
Now that’s a triple metaphor.
“This distracted globe” was Shakespeare’s Globe Playhouse where all the distracted audiences gathered; the “distracted globe” was the world; and the “distracted globe” was Hamlet’s head, the more literal meaning of the line.
I believe in that: my head, the theater and the world. The interconnection has to be constant.