Public Works

Announcing our 2017 Public Works Season


As You Like It  

Community Partners:

Brownsville Recreation Center (Brooklyn), Center for Family Life in Sunset Park (Brooklyn), DreamYard Project (Bronx), Fortune Society (Queens), and Military Resilience Project (all boroughs), along with alumni partners Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, Children's Aid Society and Domestic Workers United.  


ABOUT PUBLIC WORKS: Theater of, by and for the people.

PUBLIC WORKS is a major initiative of The Public Theater that seeks to engage the people of New York by making them creators and not just spectators. Working deeply with partner organizations in all five boroughs, Public Works invites members of diverse communities to participate in workshops, take classes, attend performances at The Public, and, most importantly, to join in the creation of ambitious works of participatory theater.

Under the leadership of Director Lear deBessonet, PUBLIC WORKS deliberately blurs the line between professional artists and community members, creating theater that is not only for the people, but by and of the people as well. 

Click on our proposal below to learn more:


Lead support for Public Works is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon FoundationThe Stavros Niarchos FoundationThe Tow FoundationFord Foundation, and The Hearst Foundation. Additional support is provided by the New York Community TrustNew York State Council on the ArtsThe One World Fund, The SHS FoundationCarnegie Corporation of New YorkConsolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc.David Rockefeller Fund, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

The Tempest, 2013
The Tempest

The Winter's Tale, 2014

Winter's Tale

The Odyssey, 2015

Twelfth Night, 2016

Twelfth Night

About Our Community Partners
Our strong Public Works Community Partnerships contribute to the full range of Public Theater programming, including Joe's Pub, Shakespeare in the Park, Public Forum, and the Mobile Shakespeare Unit.  Additionally the Public Works community gathers for monthly dinners, and ongoing  activities.

Located in Brooklyn, Brownsville Recreation Center is a branch of the New York City Parks Department.  With extensive resources for youth and seniors, the center offers a vibrant space to tap into pursuits artistic and athletic alike. Over the course of three years partnering with Public Works, senior citizens participated in dance, theater, storytelling, and scene study classes led by Public Theater teaching artists.  The group has performed featured dances in both The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale at the Delacorte Theater. The seniors also performed various pieces they’ve developed in classes many times at The Public Theater and the BRC. In the spring of 2015, the center hosted the first ever Public Works Palooza, featuring community performances from all the Public Works partner classes, including their own adaptation of Steel Magnolias. The Brownsville Recreation Center received the Mobile Shakespeare Unit tours of Richard III (summer 2012), Much Ado About Nothing (Fall 2013), Pericles (Fall 2014), and Macbeth (Spring 2015). Learn more at

Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education’s mission is to empower youth and their families by creating a culture of learning through high quality social, cultural, and educational opportunities. It is one of the few organizations in the South Bronx that welcomes kids at the age of six and stays with them until college while providing family learning through the arts. It is also different in the plurality of ways in which it can attract community members to utilize its services. Students introduce their parents to the Center's cultural programs, while public programs guide parents to the wide ranging educational programs offered.  Casita Maria's work pervades the community, and its positive influence pervades the generations. It envisions being a vital contributor to the South Bronx renaissance, fostering culturally and artistically vibrant neighborhoods which effectively prepare the next generation for success. Learn more at

The Center for Family Life Sunset Park’s mission is to “promote positive outcomes for children, adults and families in Sunset Park through the provision of a comprehensive range of neighborhood-based family and social services. The Center’s programs are designed to reinforce the role of the agency as a stabilizing anchor in the community, one that provides culturally consonant services and creates environments where participants’ strengths are recognized and they are treated as valued partners rather than subjects.” Programs include family counseling and neighborhood-based foster care; cultural, educational and recreational programs at neighborhood public schools, adult and youth employment programs; and an emergency single stop storefront for food, advocacy, and legal aid. Through these programs, CFLSP serves over 15,000 individuals in over 8,000 families each year. Learn more at

Located in Manhattan, The Children's Aid Society helps children in poverty to succeed and thrive by providing comprehensive support and critical services to children and their families in targeted high-needs New York City neighborhoods. As part of Public Works, the Children’s Aid Society Chorus (a group of teenage girls led by Kelly Campbell) attended shows at Joe’s Pub, attended regular Public Theater performances, and received master classes in singing, songwriting, movement, and acting. The chorus performed various songs they’ve developed in classes many times at The Public Theater and other events.  In 2015, Public Works also partnered with the CAS Deaf and Hard of Hearing Teen program, where deaf and hard of hearing youth studied the intersection of Shakespeare poetry and sign language. Their work culminated in a community performance of excerpts from Romeo and Juliet. Learn more at


Domestic Workers United is a city-wide organization of Caribbean, Latina and African nannies, housekeepers, and elderly caregivers in New York, organizing for power, respect, and fair labor standards, and to help build a movement to end exploitation and oppression for all. As part of Public Works, members have read and discussed dozens of plays in a monthly play reading and luncheon group. Plays have included Eurydice, For Colored Girls…,A Raisin in the Sun, Antigone, The House of Bernarda Alba, Mother Courage and Her Children, and many others.  Members also attend regular performances at The Public. Learn more at

Located in the Bronx, Dreamyard Project was recognized by President Obama with a 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. The organization provides transformative arts education for youth in the Bronx through school-based and out-of-school programs and supports young people as they work toward higher learning, meaningful careers and social action. As part of Public Works, DreamYard youth participate in workshops and intensives in performing Shakespeare, and in generative movement led by artists from The Public, along with attending performances in The Public’s season. The parents of DreamYard students also participate in weekly Shakespeare scene study classes led by Public Theater artists. The group has studied, rehearsed and performed scenes from Hamlet and Julius Caesar. This group has performed excerpts from both plays multiple times at The Public Theater, the DreamYard Art Center, and other partner sites. The DreamYard Project received the Mobile Shakespeare Unit tours of Much Ado About Nothing (Fall 2013), Pericles (Fall 2014), and Macbeth (Spring 2015). Learn more at

Located in Queens, Fortune Society is a nonprofit social service and advocacy organization, founded in 1967, whose mission is to support successful reentry from prison and promote alternatives to incarceration thus strengthening the fabric of their communities. Drawing upon the life experience of Fortune's formerly incarcerated staff and clients, they offer a holistic, "one-stop" model which includes: alternatives to incarceration, counseling, career development, education, housing services, HIV/AIDS-case management, substance abuse treatment, family services, and lifetime aftercare, among other services. As part of Public Works, members participate in a full year of classes in playwriting, acting, improvisation, storytelling, clown, and production. The Fortune Tellers, the group that has emerged from these classes, has performed their original pieces many times at The Public Theater, the Fortune Society campuses, and other partner sites.  The Fortune Society received the Mobile Shakespeare Unit tours of Richard III (summer 2012), Much Ado About Nothing (Fall 2013), Pericles (Fall 2014), and Macbeth (Spring 2015). Learn more at

The Military Resilience Project has a strong belief that resiliency and reintegration has as much to do with us in the community as it does those who have served.  The mission at the Military Resilience Project is to create opportunities for individual men and women who have served in the military to engage in community based events that both honors their unique experiences and allows those experiences to become part of a shared narrative. Learn more at