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Celebrating Yosl – Joe Papp at 100

NEW YORK, New York – He revolutionized theater as we know it today and now the late Joe Papp, born ‘Yosl Papirofsky,’ will be the subject of a major memorial commemoration on what would have been his centennial birthday on June 22. The tribute will be presented by YI Love Jewish (a division of Yiddishkayt Initiative).

“Celebrating Yosl – Joe Papp at 100” will be hosted by YI founder and CEO, world renowned actor and Jewish cultural activist Avi Hoffman, who was mentored by Joe Papp in the 1980’s. The full day of events will feature live, virtual and pre-recorded performances starting at 11 a.m. and continuing into the evening. In the spirit of Papp’s visionary free-Shakespeare in the Park, most of the day’s events will be free of charge, with the exception of an exclusive, celebrity-filled gala and reception, at 7 p.m. 

“Joe Papp did more to revolutionize the world of theater than any impresario in the world,” said Hoffman. Hoffman and his mother, retired author, journalist and Columbia University Professor Miriam Hoffman, became friends and colleagues of Papp in NYC in the 1980s, when they launched the Joseph Papp Yiddish Theatre. 

Papp’s vision led him in 1957 to establish free Shakespeare in Central Park. Ten years later, he created The Public Theater in the building that was formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a haven for newly arrived refugees. The building was saved from demolition through Papp’s efforts, after a long negotiation with the City of New York. It became the permanent home of the New York Shakespeare Festival/Joseph Papp Public Theatre (The Public) and is currently designated as a New York City Historical Landmark. 

At the Public, an innovative model was used for creating a new dynamic way of producing plays in a workshop-style manner that had never been tried before. The most famous Broadway shows to evolve from these workshops include the original productions of “Hair,” “A Chorus Line,” and “Runaways,” among the over 700 shows that Joe Papp produced and developed, as well as modern blockbusters like “Hamilton.” 

Papp also helped to develop other off-Broadway experimental theaters, worked to preserve the historic Broadway Theatre District and was considered one of the most philanthropic providers of inner city access to the arts.

During the 1980s, the Hoffmans told Papp they’d like to create a Yiddish theater with him. His response: “Let’s create a Joseph Papp Yiddish Theatre and transform the Yiddish theatre world.” 

The Hoffmans did a small production of a groundbreaking Yiddish/English musical at the Riverdale Y in The Bronx called “Songs of Paradise” (Lieder fun Gan Eydn). Papp came to opening night, loved the show, and opened it a month later at his theater in Manhattan. It became one of the longest running shows in the history of the Public Theater. 

For ticket information and a full schedule of celebration events, visit: www.yilovejewish.org/papp100.

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