Joseph Papp founded The Public Theater in 1954 as the Shakespeare Workshop. The organization moved into its current home on Lafayette Street in Lower Manhattan in 1967.
The Public Theater building was under risk of demolition, however the Public persuaded the city council to purchase the building and use it as a theatre. As a result, the building was granted 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 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 — 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, Shakespeare in the Park, which has offered the general public free Shakespeare productions since 1954.