Established by Joe Papp as the Shakespeare Workshop in the mid-’50s, the re-christened Public Theater moved into the former Astor Library in the East Village in 1967 and introduced the world to Hair and, a few years later, A Chorus Line. Those shows continue to be regarded as the musical theater’s most authentic responses to the ’60s and ’70s, respectively, and the Public struck the zeitgeist again in 1995 with the explosive tap/rap exploration of black history, Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk.
Though it hasn’t had that kind of blockbuster success since, the Public has maintained its status as downtown’s most adventurous theater by regularly producing off-beat, multicultural, and multimedia theater pieces, fresh productions of classics, new plays by cult favorites, and plenty of work by new and often underrepresented voices. Some of its most recent hits include: the theatrical autobiography Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, Richard Greenberg’s exploration of homosexuality in The Big Leagues, Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s Civil Rights era musical Caroline or Change, and the coming-of-age rock odyssey Passing Strange.
The Public produces on no fewer than five different stages in its home on Lafayette Street, which host not only its regular productions, but also the New Work Now! play reading series and the Under the Radar Festival.
And then, of course, there’s the wonderful adjoining performance space Joe’s Pub, a cross between a hip lounge and a cabaret, which has some of the most innovative and eclectic programming of any live music venue in New York.
Public Theater Information
- Public Transportation: Excellent (convenient to subway lines N and R at 8th Street/NYU; the 6 at Astor Place; and buses M1–M3, M5, M8, M101–M103)
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Performances/Programs: Performance schedule is generally Tuesday–Sunday
- Ticket Prices: Tickets usually $50, student tickets $25, Rush tickets $20, discounts for groups of 15 or more
- Subscriptions: Six-Play Package $255, Five-Play Package $227.50, Three-Play Package $142.50, Preview Pak $200 (Preview Pak holders do not receive all the benefits of regular memberships). Subscriber benefits include ticket exchanges, discounts on additional tickets, invites to special events, and discount offers for shows and local restaurants.