I’ve never been to the free Shakespeare in the Park or plays at the Public, so I wasn’t sure how I’d respond to Joe Papp in Five Acts, a film at the Tribeca Film Festival yesterday directed by Tracie Holder, and Karen Thorsen.
What I found–besides a great documentary on Joseph Papp–was the feeling of nostalgia. The ’70s and ’80s seemed freer and somewhat chaotic. The was City going broke; a mysterious disease, AIDS, was overwhelming New York; and it was a time that was not over ruled by the pursuit of the bottom line and sometimes David overcame Goliath.
Joseph Papp was that David, slaying multiple Goliaths’s, including Robert Moses, city planner, and other naysayers that couldnt believe (or want) free culture in the form of Shakespeare. Joe Papp brought his scruffy Brooklyn background to the cultural elite and presented a way to see things anew. He also championed new playwrites and new actors.
But what was most intruging about Joe Papp in Five Acts at the Tribeca Film Festival was how it made me feel. Joe Papp, and the film, made it seem like almost anything was possible with drive, determination, and the belief that something should be changed–and did something about it. This notion, by the way parallels the directors Tracie Holder and Karen Thorsen struggle to get this film made. It took them nearly 18 years to make it.
You might have to wait for it to be shown on WNET’s American Master’s in 2013, but look for it. (The preview and world premier had the directors as well as Mandy Patinkin and others in a Question and Answer session, which was great).
The biography of Joe Papp by Helen Epstein is now available as an eBook Joe Papp: An American Life
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