N.Y. bard’s future secure

The New York Shakespeare Festival won long-term commitments from the City of New York Wednesday, guaranteeing the non-profit company’s stewardship of its downtown home base, the Joseph Papp Public Theater, and its Central Park satellite, the Delacorte Theater, for the coming decades.

In a City Hall ceremony, Mayor David N. Dinkins signed leases on the city-owned properties, assuring the festival residence at the Public for 99 years and primary usage of the Delacorte, where the festival offers free Shakespeare in the Park each summer, for 20 years.

The city will continue to pay for the maintenance and utilities at the theaters at just under $ 1 million annually.

“The New York Shakespeare Festival is carrying on Joseph Papp’s commitment to maintain a cultural center whose work embraces and reflects the diversity of all New Yorkers,” Dinkins said at a press conference attended by George C. Wolfe, recently appointed producer of the festival, and managing director Jason Steven Cohen.

The festival, Dinkins added, “is part of the cultural fabric of this city.”

The festival was founded by Papp in 1954, when it was chartered as the Shakespeare Workshop. In 1966, he pursuaded the city to purchase the Astor Library on Lafayette Street in Greenwich Village and lease it back to him for $ 1 per year.

He dubbed it the Public Theater, built five theaters within it, and quickly established the festival as the nation’s preeminent non-profit cultural institution, the spawning ground of “Hair,””A Chorus Line,””For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf,””That Championship Season” and “Streamers.”

In April 1992 it was renamed in honor of the founder, who had died the previous fall.