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History

Continuing the work of its visionary founder, Joseph Papp, The Public Theater is dedicated to developing an American theater that is accessible and relevant to all people. Creating theater for one of the largest and most diverse audience bases in New York City for nearly 60 years, today The Public engages audiences in a variety of venues – beginning with Free Shakespeare in the Park.

More than five million people have visited the Delacorte Theater for free performances, making it one of New York City’s most beloved summer traditions. At its landmark downtown home at Astor Place, housing five theaters and Joe’s Pub, The Public advocates for the theater as an essential cultural force through productions of new plays, musicals, and Shakespeare that lead and frame dialogue on some of the most important issues of our day. The Public’s programming also includes a range of artist and audience development initiatives including its Public Forum series, which brings together theater artists and professionals from a variety of disciplines for discussions that shed light on social issues explored in Public productions, and the Mobile Unit, which tours Shakespearean productions for underserved audiences throughout New York City’s five boroughs.


Highlights include:

  • OTHELLO with James Earl Jones (1964)
  • HAMLET with Sam Waterston (1975)
  • THE TAMING OF THE SHREW with Raul Julia and Meryl Streep (1978)
  • THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE with Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt (1980)
  • HENRY V with Kevin Kline (1984)
  • MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING with Kevin Kline and Blythe Danner (1988)
  • RICHARD III with Denzel Washington (1990)
  • OTHELLO with Raul Julia and Christopher Walken (1991)
  • THE TEMPEST with Patrick Stewart (1995)
  • THE SEAGULL with Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Philip Seymour Hoffman (2001)
  • MOTHER COURAGE with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline (2006)
  • MACBETH with Liev Schreiber (2006)
  • HAIR with Jonathan Groff and Will Swenson (2008)
  • TWELFTH NIGHT in 2009 with Anne Hathaway (2009)
  • THE MERCHANT OF VENICE with Al Pacino and Lily Rabe (2010)
  • AS YOU LIKE IT with Lily Rabe (2012)
  • Stephen Sondheim’s INTO THE WOODS with Amy Adams, Denis O’Hare, and Donna Murphy (2012)
  • LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST, a world premiere musical adaptation by Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman (2013)
  • KING LEAR with John Lithgow (2014)
  • THE TEMPEST with Sam Waterston (2015)
  • THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, with Phyllida Lloyd directing an all-female cast (2016)