Segments in this Video

American Playwrights at Joseph Papp's Public Theater: Introduction (03:18)


Joseph Papp receives 40-50 plays a week from young playwrights. Watch excerpts from three plays produced at the Public Theater. Margaret Croyden describes the "Public Theater" season. (Credits)

The Mind of the Playwrights (02:08)

In the 1960s and 1970s parent-child relationships are common thematic elements. Papp explains that generation brings a fresh perspective to themes that have been explored since the Ancient Greeks.

"Jessie and the Bandit Queen" (02:49)

Freeman explores Jesse James' and Belle Starr's relationship in the play. Watch a scene performed by Kevin O'Connor and Dixie Carter.

Interview with Freeman (02:48)

Freeman chose to explore the relationship because the same problems exist in our modern society that occurs in the Wild West. Watch a monologue from "Jessie and the Bandit Queen" performed by O'Connor.

Belle's Character (03:36)

Carter explains that Belle Starr wants Jesse James authority. O'Connor describes how the characters are competing for fame. Watch an excerpt of "Jessie and the Bandit Queen."

Legend of Jesse James (02:32)

Freeman explains that James is a good legendary character because he embodies the American myth. Watch O'Connor perform a monologue from "Jessie and the Bandit Queen."

Similarities between Men and Woman (02:24)

Most playwrights write about an outlaw or oddball character that has been victimized by society. Papp explains that crushing an artistic soul is very easy. Feeling oppressed as a woman and being Jewish inspired Myrna Lamb to write "Apple Pie."

Interview with Lamb (03:37)

In collaboration with Nicholas Meyers, Lamb wrote the play about a woman's struggle to understand her role within society. She explains getting a play produced is like giving birth and being raped simultaneously. Croyden and Lamb explore the common themes within "Apple Pie."

The American Dream (02:42)

In "Apple Pie," the main character is guilty of portraying a sexual object, aging to where she is no longer desirable, and creating destruction in men's lives. Lamb writes from her own experiences and wanted to express that a woman can be powerful if they take control of the fantasy.

Constantly Watching (01:41)

Papps explains that contemporary playwrights feel conflicted about society and traditional family structures. By establishing a strong relationship with the writer, he can determine when a scene is working. (Credits)

Encouraging Minorities (04:07)

In 1967, The Public Theater opened with the premiere of "Hair." Papp wants to exacerbate the wound that makes a playwright write. Watch an excerpt of "So Nice, They Named it Twice," written by Neil Harris.

Brutal Characters (02:14)

Harris explains that he is not trying to write a fairy tale, and men sometimes beat their wives. Watch an excerpt of "So Nice, They Named it Twice" performed by Alfre Woodard.

Family or Melodrama (02:38)

Ed Bullins worked with Harris on "So Nice, They Named it Twice." While some minority plays are predictable in format, Bullins feels his own work, Bill Gunn's, and Adrienne Kennedy's attempts to explore new avenues. Papp created The Playwright's Workshop so emerging writers could learn craft.

Status Quo is Insane (02:26)

Guare and Mel Shapiro collaborated on "Rich and Famous," which explores the writer's desire to connect with his parents. Watch a scene from the play. Papp describes how playwrights are perceptive and eccentric.

Interview with Guare (03:45)

Guare explains the play is not autobiographical, but a combination of writers he knows. The characters in "Rich and Famous" want to achieve their dreams without work or effort. Watch an excerpt of the play.

Blaming the Parents (03:38)

Guare attests that only the main character is responsible for his faulty convictions. He enjoys collaborating with Papp because he does not pressure the artists. Watch an excerpt of "Rich and Famous."

Conducive to Collaboration (03:24)

Papp tries to establish an environment of artistic freedom and chooses not to look at his plays as successes or failures. Most new writers are not fully developed but possess discernible talent. The Public Theater selects plays for personal reasons, not petty ones.

Popular Theater (04:24)

Papp wants the Public Theater will cater to all parts of society and accepts his role as the dominant visionary for the organization. Croyden summarizes the episode.

Credits: American Playwrights at Joseph Papp's Public Theater (00:36)

Credits: American Playwrights at Joseph Papp's Public Theater

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American Playwrights at Joseph Papp's Public Theater

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An exploration of the goals and techniques of Joseph Papp's famous enterprise in New York City, The Public Theater, this program includes interviews with playwrights David Freeman, John Guare, and Myrna Lamb. It presents excerpts of their plays as finished productions or works in progress. The plays highlighted are David Freeman's Jessie and the Bandit Queen, John Guare's Rich and Famous, Myrna Lamb's Apple Pie. Papp and the writers discuss such issues as what attracts American playwrights, what they use as raw materials for their plots and characterizations, the role of women playwrights, and the persistence of the parent-child relationship as play material.

Length: 56 minutes

Item#: BVL124244

ISBN: 978-1-63521-855-8

Copyright date: ©1976

Closed Captioned

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