A new documentary premiering this weekend from PBS’s American Masters is “Joe Papp in Five Acts”, which celebrates the founder of New York’s Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park and producer of groundbreaking plays including A Chorus Line, for girls of color… and Hair.
Papp’s mission, said American Masters, was to increase public access to the arts.
He said he would argue, “We have public libraries. Why not public theatres?
“Papp recognized the role artists could play in building a more democratic and inclusive society,” explained American Masters, adding, “At a time when theater was largely the domain of white men, it was convinced that women, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC and other marginalized communities, disempowered elsewhere in society, could develop it on stage.His goal was a “theatre of inclusion” on stage, backstage and in the audience. »
The documentary features film footage from the 1950s to 1991, when Papp died, as well as scenes from his plays.
Among those he has worked with who are interviewed are actors James Earl Jones, Kevin Kline, Mandy Patinkin, Martin Sheen, Meryl Streep and Christopher Walken; playwright Larry Kramer; and director George C. Wolfe, former artistic director of the Public Theater.
One of the film’s goals, American Masters said, is to “keep alive the legacy of this larger-than-life visionary.” He also hopes the film will “ignite a national conversation about what it means to be American and the role of art in a democracy for a new generation.”