Historic, but not famous

Stuart Constable, NYC Parks Department

As performances for Shakespeare in the Park are announced, lets take a look at the man who almost stopped them from happening. This NYC institution was started by Joe Papp in Central Park on the lawn in the 1950s, but in 1959, Stuart Constable (1900 – 1979) went up against the event in the park.

As the 1959 Shakespeare In The Park season was set to begin and Robert Moses, Park Commissioner, was on vacation, leaving decisions to Stuart Constable, his right hand man in all matters park. Constable was violently anti-communist. Upon hearing that Joe Papp had been called before the House UnAmerican Activities Council and refused to say whether he was communist or not, Constable started charging the theater for use and clean up of the park and insisting that they charge an entrance fee to the plays. This made it impossible for the theater to run as it ran on a small budget and couldn’t afford the fees.  Papp felt the free plays were as valuable to the city’s populace as public libraries and often the only time many had to see live theater or hear Shakespeare.

Delacorte Theater, home of Shakespeare in the Park

Constable had the backing of his boss, Robert Moses. Moses was the most powerful unelected official in NYC. Papp took Constable, Moses and the Parks Department to court and eventually won after an appeal.

He started as Chief Designer of the Park under Moses 1936 -1955 and acting Commissioner from 1950 – 1960. He also worked with Moses on the World’s Fair in 1966 as Operations Manager. He was also involved in the building of the United Nations and Jones Beach. After the World’s Fair, he moved to Florida with his wife

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