"Joe Papp was an American cultural icon - the son of Jewish immigrants, he became a self-made impresario, an ardent advocate for human rights and a controversial innovator who was one of the most influential figures in American theater. Known for his accomplishments as the founder of the New York Shakespeare Festival, Papp brought free Shakespeare in the Park to New York City, created the nation's most important showcase for new playwrights at the Public Theater and launched such Broadway hits as A Chorus Line and Hair. A defender of the First Amendment and champion of multiculturalism long before the word was coined, Papp combined creative genius with grassroots political activism and left the American cultural landscape changed forever." "In 1954, Papp started producing Shakespeare in a church basement in Manhattan and created not only the first free Shakespeare festival in the world, but the most prolific and successful not-for-profit theater in America. In addition to presenting most of Shakespeare, Papp's organization produced such unmistakably American plays as That Championship Season, Sticks and Bones, Streamers, Runaways, for colored girls ..., The Normal Heart and A Chorus Line, the longest-running musical in Broadway history. Papp's Public Theater was responsible for the training of hundreds of actors (Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Denzel Washington), directors (Wilford Leach, Andrei Serban, James Lapine) and playwrights (Ntozake Shange, David Rabe, Tom Babe)." "In this, the first biography of Joe Papp, Helen Epstein captures the complexity of a man who fought for his principles throughout his life and inspired intense emotions in others - anger and contempt as well as love and admiration. She offers a compassionate portrait of this impassioned idealist and quintessential American figure."--Jacket.