The primary Stages Off-Broadway Oral history Project

Celebrating the visionaries who created New York's vibrant Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theater.

Gail Merrifield Papp

Gail Merrifield Papp

Director of Plays and Musicals Development at the New York Shakespeare Festival/The Public Theater

Interviewed on: Friday, October 30, 2015
Location: Her Home
Interviewed by: Casey Childs
Interview #55
"This [was] a three-story building and Joe [Papp] was projecting five theaters to be created inside, all to do new American plays. Nobody else was thinking on this kind of scale."
Gail Merrifield Papp Highlights
Video Length: 5 minutes, 51 seconds
Gail Merrifield Papp Interview Part One
Video Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Gail Merrifield Papp Interview Part Two
Video Length: 46 minutes, 4 seconds

Gail Merrifield Papp is the former Director of Plays and Musicals Development for The Public Theater. She moved to New York City to attend NYU and took a job reading plays at the brand new Lincoln Center Theater. In 1965, she joined Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival as his Executive Assistant. After Joe Papp acquired the Astor Library building on Lafayette Street to begin producing new American plays, Merrifield Papp was put in charge of producing new works at The Public and was responsible for many of the theater’s best-remembered productions, including THE NORMAL HEART (1985) and THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (1985).

Merrifield Papp was born in California into a family with a deep theatre lineage. She and Joseph Papp were married in 1976. Since his death in 1991, she has served as a Board Member at The Public. She has also served as a Research Collaborator in the publication of “Free for All: Joe Papp, The Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told,” by Kenneth Turan, “Joe Papp: An American Life,” by Helen Epstein, and the documentary film Joe Papp in Five Acts (2010). She is the author of the memoir “Public/Private: My Life with Joseph Papp and The Public Theater.” 

Mentioned in Interview

Joseph Papp, Sam Waterston, Elia Kazan, Harold Clurman, Robert Whitehead, Robert DeNiro, Paul Davis, Joseph Chaikin, A.J. Antoon, Ellen Stewart, Elizabeth Swados, David Rabe, Edgar White, Charles Gordon, Christopher Durang, James Lapine, Mel Shapiro, John Guare, Galt MacDermot, Mike Nichols, Thomas Babe, Dixie Carter, Meryl Streep, Elizabeth Wilson, Colleen Dewhurst, Marvin Hamlisch, Ntozake Shange, Woodie King Jr., Lee Grant, Richard Foreman, David Hare, Caryl Churchill, Edward Pressman, Ian McKellen, Larry Kramer, Emmet Foster, Bill Hart, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Frank Rich, Wally Shawn, JoAnne Akalaitis, George C. Wolfe, Raul Julia, Estelle Parsons, Ming Cho Lee, Robin Wagner, Rosemarie Tichler, NYSF/The Public, WPA Federal Theatre Project, Circle in the Square, The Living Theatre, Judson Poets Theater, Theatre Guild, Lincoln Center Theater, The Forum, Bread and Puppet Theatre, La MaMa E.T.C., New Federal Theatre, Theatre for the New City, CUBA AND HIS TEDDY BEAR, HAIR, AUNT DAN AND LEMON, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, THE THREEPENNY OPERA, NO PLACE TO BE SOMEBODY, STOCK UP ON PEPPER BECAUSE TURKEY’S GOING TO WAR, TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (MUSICAL), STICKS AND BONES, BASIC TRAINING OF PAVLO HUMMEL, STREAMERS, TAKEN IN MARRIAGE, A CHORUS LINE, FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE/WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF, THE MEMORANDUM, THE NORMAL HEART, THE CHERRY ORCHARD, TOP GIRLS, FEN