There is a short street in the East Village which goes two-ways but is at its heart a one-way street. 425 Lafayette Street, formerly the Astor Library, was saved from demolition, and gained landmark status, when Joseph Papp turned it into The Public Theater.
A part of the theater’s mission statement says “THE PUBLIC is theater of, by, and for the people. Artist-driven, radically inclusive, and fundamentally democratic, The Public continues the work of its visionary founder Joe Papp as a civic institution engaging, both on-stage and off, with some of the most important ideas and social issues of today.” The Public began life in 1954 as the New York Shakespeare Festival, but moved into 425 Lafayette in 1967. Fittingly, the opening production was the innovative and “radically inclusive” Hair, a musical that has had many revivals over time, including the one in 2011 at the St James Theatre in Times Square.
In honor of the 50 year anniversary of the Public, Lafayette at Astor Place will be co-named Joseph Papp Way on December 1 at 8:30a.m. The Public’s Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis will be at the ceremony along with Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Rosie Mendez, District 2 City Councilwoman, and Gail Papp, Public Theater Board Member. Gail Papp will unveil the commemorative sign, while Eustis will make a few remarks on the occasion.
The recent history of The Public has given us the 11 Tony winning Hamilton, which transferred to the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 2015. This year, John Leguizamo brought his downtown show, Latin History for Morons, to Broadway’s Studio 54. In addition to its free Shakespeare in the Park programs, The Public is also a recipient of countless awards and honors for its productions, which are represented not only on Broadway but on stages across the country and worldwide.
“Joe Papp changed the life of New Yorkers forever, creating a beloved institution devoted to making the life of our culture inclusive,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “It is thrilling that the city of New York will recognize him forever by co-naming this street for him.”