The Public Theater

Public Theater

425 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10003
Anspacher Theater (275), LuEsther Hall (160), Martinson Theater (199), Newman Theater (299) and Shiva Theater (99)

The Public Theater was founded by Joseph Papp in 1954 and was originally called the Shakespeare Workshop. The organization moved into its current home on Lafayette Street in Lower Manhattan in 1967. Construction began in 1853 by William B. Astor and the building was founded by William’s father John Jacob Astor as the Astor Library (which would later become the New York Public Library). It was originally designed by German architect Alexander Saeltzer, and was eventually completed after two further expansions by 1881. In 1920, the building was acquired by the Hebrew Immigrant Society, but fell into disuse by 1965 and was under risk of demolition. The Public Theater (then called the New York Shakespeare Festival), however, persuaded the city council to purchase the building and use it as a theatre. As a result, it was awarded New York City landmark status in 1965 and converted into a theatre by Giorgio Cavaglieri from 1967. The company’s inaugural production in its new home was the world premiere of the musical ‘Hair’ (which also marked their first non-Shakespeare offering). The building is comprised of five performance spaces – Anspacher Theater (which has a 275-seat capacity), LuEsther Hall (160 seats), Martinson Theater (199 seats), Newman Theater (299 seats) and the Shiva Theater (99 seats). The Public also operates Joe’s Pub in the Astor Place venue – which is a cabaret-style venue used for smaller musical revues and soloists – as well as the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The latter is home to the popular New York summer tradition known as “Shakespeare in the Park” which has offered the general public free Shakespeare productions since 1954.

Public Theater Map and Travel Info
Nearest subway station: 
Astor Place Station
Subway lines: 
6 Train