Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Public Theater

The Public Theater in New York City is a theater that has several branches in New York. The Shakespeare in the Park branch performs free Shakespeare in the outdoors, and the Public Theater keeps ticket costs low through donations and patrons. In a sort of mission statement, the Public Theater says this about what they do: "Fifty years ago, Joseph Papp founded The Public Theater with the belief that Shakespeare belonged to the people. From that simple vision grew a vibrant theater where all of the world's voices, rhythms, and cultures converge. The Public is dedicated to embracing the complexities of contemporary society and nurturing both artists and audiences through productions that reflect the city it serves-diverse, brilliant, raw, and alive. As a community of artists, The Public stays true to Joseph Papp's legacy by continually recreating itself and evolving within its mission to always be a place of inclusion and a forum for ideas." Another mission statement reads this way: "As the nation's foremost theatrical producer of Shakespeare and new work, The Public Theater is dedicated to achieving artistic excellence while developing an American theater that is accessible and relevant to all people through productions of challenging new plays, musicals and innovative stagings of the classics."
Currently the Public seems to be mostly producing new plays, with its current season full of world premiers such as "The Brother/Sister Plays Part 1 & Part 2", "Idiot Savant", and "The Book of Grace" to name a few. The Shakespeare in the Park branch is doing a rotating repertoire this season, performing The Merchant of Venice and The Winter's Tale on alternating nights.
The Public theater fosters a constant commitment to new and emerging talent in actors and technicians alike. Encouraging new artists has been a part of their philosophy from the very start. They encourage young actors to send unsolicited headshots and resumes, and promise that every one will be hand evaluated and considered for current and future castings. This commitment to young talent is what inspires and draws me to this particular theater. Also, the Public offers a Shakespeare Lab, which is a tuition free professional development program for actors who already have professional credits. It offers the opportunity for an actor in the professional world to learn and grow by studying classically under some of the most respected authorities in classical acting- and they get to do it for free. This program and the fact that it is available tuition free shows a real commitment to the art and to the artists. The theater engages in multiple community outreach programs, committed to bringing Shakespeare and theater to the schools' students. It brings free performances of Shakespeare to students, as well as exciting opportunities to interact with the performers and learn about the theater and acting.
The theater was originally founded as the Shakespeare Workshop by Joseph Papp. It is currently under the artistic direction of Oskar Eustis and the executive direction of Andrew D. Hamingson. The Public has won a total of 42 Tonys, 149 Obies, 40 Drama Desk Awards, 24 Lucille Lortel Awards and 4 Pulitzer Prizes. In 2005, the theater won a special Drama Desk award in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

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