Joe Papp book with Kenneth Turan appears 20 years later

ken-turan-cropped.jpegLos Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan has a new book out co-authored by New York theater impresario Jospeh Papp — who died in 1991 and who killed the book a few years before that. So how does a dead man co-write his own biography? The story behind “Free for All: Joe Papp, the Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told" gets an airing in today's New York Times.

As Turan explains in the introduction, with Papp’s endorsement and collaboration he began conducting interviews for a definitive oral history of the Shakespeare Festival and the Public Thea­ter more than 23 years ago. After a year and a half of research and writing, Turan presented his co-author with a first draft, only to have Papp take unexplained umbrage and summarily kill the project....

Emerging from its time capsule today — at a slimmed-down, largely engrossing 593 pages, and with the assistance of Papp’s widow, Gail Merrifield Papp — the book still thrills with its tale of a historic passage in the American theater told by the artists and administrators involved. What it may lack in currency and novelty — the story of Papp and the Public has been told before, perhaps most notably in Helen Epstein’s “Joe Papp” — it makes up in vividness, comprehensiveness and intimacy.

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