Free for All is an irresistible behind-the-scenes look at one of America’s most beloved and important cultural institutions.
Under the inspired leadership of founder Joseph Papp, the Public Theater and the New York Shakespeare Festival brought revolutionary performances to the public for decades. This compulsively readable history of those years—much of it told in Papp’s own words—is fascinating, ranging from a dramatic early showdown with Robert Moses over keeping Shakespeare in the Park free to the launching of such landmark productions as Hair and A Chorus Line. To bring the story to life, film critic Kenneth Turan interviewed some 160 luminaries—including George C. Scott, Meryl Streep, Mike Nichols, Kevin Kline, James Earl Jones, David Rabe, Jerry Stiller, Tommy Lee Jones, and Wallace Shawn—and masterfully weaves their voices into a dizzyingly rich tale of creativity, conflict, and achievement.
Kenneth Turan has been a film critic for the Los Angeles Times since 1991 and the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes since 1993. He teaches nonfiction writing and film criticism at the University of Southern California and provides regular reviews for Morning Edition on National Public Radio.
Joseph Papp (1921–1991) was an American theatrical producer and director. Papp founded the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1954 with the aim of making Shakespeare’s works accessible to the public.
"A heady stew of gossip and tumult. . . . A rowdy oral history." —The New York Times
"[An] important, colorful, capacious book . . . rich, rewarding . . . immensely pleasurable." —The New York Times Book Review
“Eminently readable . . . [with] a highly theatrical momentum.” —The New Yorker
“Free for All is a powerful, in-depth, and deeply moving oral history of a man (Joseph Papp) who created an extraordinary place (the Public Theatre) during an unforgettable era in American theatrical history. It was truly the best of times, and the book returned me with awe to a period when a passionate mentor made all the difference in my life and career.” —Martin Sheen
“Anyone interested in Joe Papp, who played a legendary role in New York theater, or in his remarkable productions at the Public Theater, in Central Park, at Lincoln Center, or on Broadway, must read this long-suppressed, almost lost book. And if you have no interest in any of these things, the personalities that leap from its pages, their vividness and (usually) unstoppable charm, make it a must-read all by themselves!” —John Rockwell, former critic for the New York Times
"The theater book of the season ... a juicy, exciting read. It's history as intimate storytelling, and a must-have for any theater lover." —Charles Isherwood, The New York Times