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Major Celebrities And Theater Industry Leaders Line Up To Honor Joe Papp, Creator Of New York Shakespeare Festival And The Public Theater, At His 100th Birthday Commemoration

PLSN Staff • News • June 3, 2021

CORAL SPRINGS, FL/NEW YORK, NY – Actor/Singer Mandy Patinkin, Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Papp biographer Helen Epstein will be among the many celebrities and theater industry leaders confirmed for the 100th birthday commemoration of legendary theatre producer Joe Papp on June 22, 2021.

Born “Yosl Papirofsky,” Papp will be the subject of Celebrating ‘Yosl’ – Joe Papp at 100, hosted by YI Love Jewish and featuring a full day of events, including virtual and in-person celebrity broadcasts. The schedule will include musical performances, plays, monologues, scenes, lectures and testimonials culminating in the celebrity-studded signature Gala event and Exclusive VIP Reception, celebrating the life of the renowned producer who created “Shakespeare in the Park” and The Public Theater in New York City.

“YI Love Jewish is proud to confirm the participation of many celebrities and entertainment professionals who want to honor the man who gave so much to enhance their lives and careers,” said Avi Hoffman, YI Love Jewish Founder and CEO, world renowned actor and Jewish cultural activist who was mentored by Joe Papp in the 1980’s.

Participants will be joining the festivities to varying degrees, from short video testimonials to videotaped interviews to in-person virtual participation.

A few of the currently confirmed participants include:

  • Superstar actors/social media celebrities: Mandy Patinkin and his wife Kathryn Grody
  • Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theater
  • Playwright David Henry Hwang
  • Stage and Screen star Rex Smith
  • Author and Joe Papp biographer Helen Epstein
  • Actress, Producer and Director Morgan Jenness
  • Actor and Director Mark Linn Baker
  • Chair of the Public Theatre Board of Trustees Arielle Tepper

“Joe Papp did more to revolutionize the world of theater than any impresario in the world,” said Hoffman, himself an internationally recognized entertainer and founder of YI, a global provider of Jewish cultural programming. 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.

After Papp’s death, they continued a close association with Joe’s widow, Gail Merrifield-Papp, and his daughter Susan Papp-Lippman, who will both be serving as Honorary Chairs of the Centennial commemoration.

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 Mr. 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 concept involved bringing writers, directors, designers and actors together in one place to brainstorm and create the foundations for new and groundbreaking productions.

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.”  He championed the cause of multi-ethinic casting and socially relevant topics. Papp was a social activist who 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, believing that “if public libraries were free, public theatre should be free as well. “

The Hoffmans became affiliated with Papp when Miriam Hoffman, a journalist at the time for The Jewish Daily Forward, did an interview with the theatre icon in 1985. Both she and Joe bonded  quickly over their mutual love for Jewish culture and the Yiddish language, an identity that Papp kept private for much of his career.

During the 1980s, the Hoffmans were working on several Jewish and Yiddish productions in NYC. At one point, a conversation between Hoffman, his mother and Papp occurred, where they said “Joe, we want to do Yiddish theater and we want to create it with you.” Papp’s response was, “Let’s create a Joseph Papp Yiddish Theatre and transform the Yiddish theatre world.” Avi and his mother were able to do 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. That production became one of the longest running shows in the history of the Public Theater.

Fast forward to 2016 when Joe’s daughter Susan shared with Avi an audio recording of her father’s 1978 concert series at a venue in SoHo entitled: “Joe Papp at the Ballroom.”

“I was blown away because I never knew that Joe had a flare for singing. Included in the one-man show were personal stories of his life and career interspersed with his favorite tunes of the day.  It was the only concert series that Joe had ever performed,” said Avi Hoffman.

One of the signature events will feature Avi’s re-creation of the Joe Papp at the Ballroom performance, based on the transcript including added dialogue, quotes, and additional material from the Papp Archives. He will also be sharing personal recollections of his relationship with Papp.

Celebrating ‘Yosl’: Joe Papp at 100 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 LIVE and VIRTUAL Gala and Reception, starting at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $36 for the Virtual Gala at 7 p.m.; $100 for the Virtual Gala at 7 p.m. AND an Exclusive Celebrity Virtual VIP Reception at 9 p.m. (A very limited number of the $100 in-person tickets may be made available due to CDC Guidelines.)


11:00am EST – The Miracle of Joe Papp – A Lecture

1:00 pm EST – Avi Hoffman in “Joe Papp at the Ballroom”

5:00 pm EST – CELEBRATING ‘YOSL’: The Legacy of Joe Papp: A Musical Celebration


Live Broadcast featuring celebrity performances and testimonials in honor of ‘Yosl’

9:00 pm EST – EXCLUSIVE VIP Virtual Reception

To sponsor these events or make a tribute in our virtual tribute book, please visit:

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