The New York Shakespeare Festival, now known as the Public Theater, was founded in 1954 by legendary producer Joseph Papp in a church basement on the Lower East Side. Today the Public Theater's activities include productions at the Joseph Papp Public Theater, free Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater, live music and solo performers in Joe's Pub and intermittent Broadway productions, tours and television and film projects.
The Public has won numerous Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards, Obie and Drama Desk Awards, and many of its shows have gone on to Broadway, most notably the long-running A Chorus Line. The theater building—an historic landmark and former site of the Astor Library (now part of the New York Public Library)—was saved from the wrecker's ball by Papp who transformed it the present six-theater venue. Over the years it has been the site of some of the best original drama and comedy in the city. Original productions include Hair, The Normal Heart and That Championship Season, among many others, many of which went on to Broadway and successful national tours.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Executive Director Andrew D. Hamingson, the Public is dedicated to nurturing both artists and audiences.
Each season the Public makes several student matinees available (including a production of Shakespeare) and offers student group discounts of up to 70 percent off regular ticket prices. Supplemental educational support is also available and may include study guides, post-show discussions with artists or tours of the theater. Teachers may preview most scripts upon request.