Founded by Joseph Papp as the Shakespeare Workshop and now one of the nation’s preeminent cultural institutions, The Public is an American theater in which all of the country’s voices, rhythms, and cultures converge. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Executive Director Patrick Willingham, The Public is dedicated to embracing the complexities of contemporary society and nurturing both artists and audiences, as it continues Joseph Papp's legacy of creating a place of inclusion and a forum for ideas and dialogue on important issues of our day.
For more than 50 years, The Public has presented free Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Since the opening of the Delacorte in 1962, more than 5 million people have enjoyed the free performances. The Public Theater produces new plays, musicals, productions of Shakespeare and other classics in its downtown home at Astor Place. The landmark building was New York City’s first public library, and was saved from demolition when Joe Papp opened it as The Public Theater in 1967 with the world premiere of the musical Hair. The Public also presents new work and intimate performances by musicians, spoken-word artists, and solo performers in Joe's Pub, an additional venue in the Astor Place building. In addition to its theatrical programming, The Public also presents New Work Now!, a play reading series that has become a nationally recognized showcase for emerging writers and established artists, allowing audiences an opportunity to experience new work in a series of free readings open to the public. The Public also presents Under the Radar, an annual festival of new theater from around the world. The Public Forum is a high-profile series of lectures, debates, and conversations exploring issues framed in The Public’s stage productions. Now in its second season, the Forum features leading voices in politics, media, and the arts. Alec Baldwin, Anne Hathaway, Cynthia Nixon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Sam Waterston, and NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman have hosted its programs, which have featured the insights of Kurt Andersen, Carl Bernstein, David Brooks, Arianna Huffington, Bill Irwin, Tony Kushner, Suzan-Lori Parks, Francine Prose, Stephen Sondheim, and young veterans of the war in Afghanistan. The Public Theater is also in the process of launching Public Works, a program that develops new works of theater by bringing professional artists from The Public Theater to community-based organizations around the New York City area. The Public Theater’s mandate to create a theater for all New Yorkers continues to this day on stage and through extensive outreach and education programs. Each year, more than 250,000 people attend Public Theater-related productions and events at six downtown stages, including Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, and free Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte.