Universal Press Department
January 5, 1983
On November 19, 1954, Joseph Papp, the head of a penniless off-off Broadway troupe, was ranted a provisional charter by the Board of Regents on behalf of the Education Department of the State of New York.
By this official act, the existence of the Shakespeare Workshop, in residence at a small 100-year-old church on the lower East Side of New York City, was officially confirmed. Contained in this early document was the charge: "Encourage and cultivate interest in the works of William Shakespeare by establishing an annual summer Shakespeare Festival!!"
Armed with a tax-exempt status and a group of talented actors, Papp went on to fulfill his agreement with the state.
The New York Shakespeare Festival has produced Free Shakespeare in the parks since 1956, and settled in 1957 in Central Park on the site where the Delacorte Theater was built in 1962. In 1964 a Mobile Theater was added to tour city parks and playgrounds. The Festival created a year-round home when it converted the landmark Astor Library into the Public Theater, which opened with the original production of Hair in 1967.
Since then the NYSF has produced over 100 new plays, among them: No Place To Be Somebody, Two Gentlemen Of Verona, Sticks And Bones, That Championship Season, Streamers, A Chorus Line, Miss Margarida's Way, For Colored Girls..., and I'm Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road. Among The Festival's awards are six Drama Critic's Awards, four Tony awards (for best play or best musical) and three Pulitzer Prizes.
For television the Festival has produced "Much Ado About Nothing," "Sticks And Bones" and "Wedding Band." From 1973 to 1977 the NYSF served as theater constituent at Lincoln Center where productions included The Threepenny Opera, The Cherry Orchard and Streamers (all honored with Tony nominations).
The NYSF's centennial production of The Pirates Of Penzance, like Two Gentlemen Of Verona and Much Ado About Nothing, began as "Free Shakespeare in the Park" before moving to Broadway... and now to the cinema screen.
After establishing himself as perhaps America's leading theatrical producer, Papp now makes his debut as a motion picture producer. He has just reached 60, and before this year had managed to avoid all commercial contact with the cinema. He feels that his job is to produce plays in Manhattan.
Papp always has several items on the launching pad ready to take off and that is one of the reasons he has kept clear of the film business. He parcels out his time with parsimony and feels that he can set up 10 plays in the span it would take to make one movie.
Joseph Papp, having got the pirate ship under way, returned to New York to prepare his new television show called The Lost Art Of Conversation. It will go out live with the help of a little video, at midnight on Saturdays, the timing being chosen by Papp so that the chat may become somewhat broader than might have been acceptable earlier in the evening.
Edward R. Pressman presents A Joseph Papp Production, "The Pirates Of Penzance," starring Kevin Kline, Angela Lansbury, Linda Ronstadt, George Rose and Rex Smith. It is directed and has a screenplay by Wilford Leach, and Joseph Papp is the producer. A Universal Release, the executive producer is Edward R. Pressman, and the co-producer is Timothy Burrill.