Free for All by Kenneth Turan

Free for All

Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan takes you behind the scenes at the Public Theater and tells the amazing story of how Joe Papp made American theatrical and cultural history.Free for All is the irresistible oral history of the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theater-two institutions that under the inspired leadership of Joseph Papp have been a premier source of revolutionary and enduring American theater. To tell this fasci...

Details Free for All

TitleFree for All
Release DateNov 3rd, 2009
GenreNonfiction, Plays, Theatre, Biography, New York, Drama

Reviews Free for All

  • Theo Chen
    An excellent review of The Public Theater's major productions, providing the most interesting format for a biographical book. History is given new life through the many stories told in the book. The book is told through first hand accounts by people involved in the history, and because of this the book is an illuminating tale of theatre.
  • Lois
    For anyone who loves the theater, this is such a treat. An oral history was the perfect vehicle - all of these actors, directors, playwrights, etc. are so articulate and marvelous storytellers. Joe Papp was larger than life, and his passion for theater that would be available for everyone changed that world. In the 1980s he contracted with Kenneth Turan to write the history of the NY Shakespeare Festival and Public Theater, but cancelled after re...
  • Timothy Childs
    The Greatest (Theater) Story Ever ToldJoe [Papp:] has been the entrepreneur par excellence, the voodoo man, the magic man, the medicine man who went and found all the people, who played the drum and brought all the folks in from the wilderness and gave them a fire to gather around.….LINDA HUNT (actress, Aunt Dan and Lemon).If a man can love a man as a brother, I love Joe. But he has complications on top of complications in him; he has the same ...
  • Daniel
    I’m biased because of my time working there, but this book is a thrilling journey through the founding and development of one of the most important theatrical institutions ever made. Insightful, exciting, with some fun gossip and intriguing works I was introduced to. Highly recommend for those interested in professional theater.
  • Neil
    A good book about Joe Papp and the work he did in creating and maintaining the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater. It's a long book, consisting of oral history interviews with Papp and dozens of other recognizable playwrights, directors, and actors, for the most part grouped by the events surrounding particular productions. I thought the book had the most momentum when it was addressing the origins of the Shakespeare Festival, because t...
  • Dara
    Everything about this book is perfection.
  • Brian Willis
    Quite simply one of the very best books I have read on the production of theater. Endlessly fascinating, it tells the story of what it takes to create and maintain theater as a vital and compelling interest in public. Joe Papp created a FREE theater experience for New Yorkers, making it accessible for those who never believed themselves to be interested in the theatrical experience, let alone Shakespeare played in Central Park. In doing so, he la...
  • Susan
    Growing up in NYC, going to Shakespeare in the Park - as conceived and produced by Joe Papp - was a highlight of every summer for my dad and me. We saw all the great American actors there and it was free! When Joe Papp also produced the cutting edge plays at the Public Theater, I saw For Colored Girls and the original Chorus Line. Joe Papp was an amazing force of nature, and he was New York theater. Papp was always looking for ways to make theate...
  • Rebecca
    It was painful to leave this book at home when I returned to school after winter break having read only about half of it, but I'm so happy I did--had I read even a page of it during the semester, I doubt I would have put it down to do anything else! Free for All is an incredible chronicle of a theatrical organization with a social and artistic mission, and a fascinating portrait of the charismatic, complex, principled man at the center of it all....
  • Dyan
    A sometimes fascinating read about Joe Papp, founder of the free NY Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater and one-time Theater Director of the Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center. An amazing person, whose energy and vision created memorable dramatic experiences, he championed new playwrights and theater content that related to the social milieu. Turan interviewed over 160 people who had worked with Papp, so the book is a somewhat disjointed chronolo...
  • Kelly Nolan
    This book was given to me for Christmas a few years ago. I was just starting my interest and discovery with theatre past the general theatre goer. I think they gave this to me to help broaden my horizon past just musicals. It did help. But more than just my love of theatre, this book opened my eyes to a whole new genre/world of books; the biography. I used to think they'd be boring facts for chapters on end. This was the book that changed that pe...
  • Hank Lin
    I'm not sure if it's the quality of the book or the subject itself, but as the development of Shakespeare in the Park and the Public continue, the individual productions seem smaller, less impacting, and of less anecdotal merit. Talks of backstage intrigue, love affairs, and people striking the kindling of their love for the theater become increasingly remote, leaving way for backstabbing, fiscal reports, and a general smallness - not of the stag...
  • Chas
    It's always exciting to stumble onto a book at just the right time. I've had this on my shelf for about a year, and finally got around to it, and I'm glad I did. While it drags a bit towards the end, with very detailed summations of some of the work produced by Papp at the Public in the late '70s and '80s, the early days and the Shakespeare Festival's evolution from scrappy D.I.Y. oddity to full-fledged cultural institution is fascinating. The ch...
  • Kristin
    Definitely a MUST READ for anybody interested in the NY theater scene's recent history (which of course has influenced it's current state). Joe Papp & the Public... I have no words, this book was a great lesson but also an affirmation of all the things I believe theater can and should be and what I want my place in it to be. In closing, WHY is this not required reading for my BA in Theater?! I firmly believe my education would have been incomplet...
  • Pete Smith
    No book on theater or the world of entertainment has so inspired me as Free For All. Joe Papp began with nothing but proletariat grit and an inexplicable love of Shakespeare to create a theater renaissance in New York unequalled in any era before or since. This book provided true inspiration in my nascent forays into the role of entertainment producer, and I envision myself returning to it in years to come when a 'booster shot' of inspiration is ...
  • Nicole
    If you want as close to a comprehensive history of not just the Public but also of contemporary theatre, this book is the way to go. Some gems in this book are from the mouth of Papp himself and others are from his contemporaries when speaking of Papp. If you want a clear understanding of contemporary theatre history this is the book that must be not only on your shelf, but read in depth and internalized.
  • Michael Rogerson
    Only complaint is I wish there was more of it. By nature of it's tumultuous production (not unlike the tumultuous productions describes in the book itself), the book ends pretty abruptly. This is really invigorating and inspiring stuff, especially as someone beginning to think about going about self-producing and creating work. It's kind of crazy I was so unfamiliar with so much of this history, which is so fundamental to everything I want to do.
  • Drew
    An absolute must-read for anyone who wants to create theater. Joe Papp was the greatest impressario to ever live - we won't see his like again. He was lucky to live in the time that he did, because he could create the game instead of just try to play it. It has been corrupted since his heyday and he'd probably hate the State of the Art today... but goddamn times were good. If this book doesn't inspire the artist in you, you shouldn't be making ar...
  • Allyson
    Potentially the most important book I've ever read about theater- acting, producing, directing, writing, etc. The story of Joe Papp and the Public I've come to realize is very aspirational, gritty, and "controversial." As this is an oral history, it was amazing to hear from some of the most important theater professionals of the 20th and 21st centuries, and see how their memories or historical recollection conflicted. To all my theater friends, t...
  • Pamela
    A wonderful oral history of Joseph Papp and the founding, development, and maturity of the Public Theater in New York City. I find many oral-history books limp and superficial, but Kenneth Turan must have a deep gift for interviewing, and he has assembled his accounts to excellent effect. An exciting and moving story of risk-taking theater in our country.
  • Jim Kelsh
    This is a terrific book. Originally intended to to be theater impresario Joe Papp's autobiography until he died, then taken up by Kenneth Turan; this is an inspiring tale of Shalespeare on a flat bed truck, free plays in the park, and the early careers of dozens of actors we well know now. A pleasurable romp and terrific social history.
  • Alan
    I loved reading this book - getting the behind the scenes story on all these plays, many of whihc I saw in Central Park, the most wonderful place in the world to watch theater, or at the Public downtown. And I capped off the book by seeing the latest Public Theater production over Xmas vacation in NYC- Al Pacino as Shylock in Merchant of Veneice. Transcendant performance!
  • Janice
    An eye-opening oral history about Joe Papp and the early years of the Public Theater. I thought I knew the Papp mythology fairly well, but my esteem for the man (warts and all) has grown immeasurably from these accounts of his passion, bull-headedness, and vision. They definitely don't make 'em like that anymore.
  • Cameron
    Read this if you've given up hope that art and politics can matter to each other. Or if you've forgotten that theater can talk about something other than itself. Or if you just want to dish the dirt on the most important plays of the mid 20th century.Sure, this adds to the mythology of an already much-mythologized man. But hey, myths are what our culture is built on, right?
  • Jill
    Kenneth Turan collected interviews from Papp and many others who worked with him at the Public. A very enjoyable read as well as very informative re NYC history. It was great reading about all of the theater people worked with Papp.
  • Dave
    This is a collection of writings by and about Joseph Papp. A really interesting history of the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theatre. Was prevented from publication by Joseph Papp for 20 years, but it's hard to understand why.
  • Elizabeth
    Really terrific. A must read for ANYONE with a true passion or calling. Great from a historical as well as artistic perspective about the burgeoning of the American theater as nurtured, cajoled and driven by Joe Papp.
  • Cody
    This is the BEST book about NY theatre I've ever read. I took me less than 48 hours to finish and I literally could not put it down. I always knew that Papp was a huge man in the American theatre but I never knew how powerful he was.NOTE TO SELF: Read David Rabe's plays...
  • Nick
    What an interesting man and what a great way to tell his story. The best way I can describe it-- is interviews written down and placed in a way that you really get the chronology and understand his life. Really a great read.
  • Danny
    Reading this unique oral history has absolutely changed the way I think about theater and my place in it. Although it gets a bit weak at the end, the first 2/3 of the book are incredibly inspiring. Absolutely a must-read if you are interested in creating art of any kind.