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PUBLIC WORKS

Hard Won Joy: Building Public Works

PUBLIC WORKS, a major program of the Public Theater, aims to restore and build community by connecting people through theater—both performing it and experiencing it—reminding us that we’re all in this together.  Working with partner organizations in all 5 boroughs, Public Works invites community members to take classes, attend performances and join in the creation of ambitious works of participatory theater. The Public Works model continues to be adopted by theaters across the country, and around the world.

Led by Founder Lear deBessonet and Director Laurie Woolery, 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.

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WHO WE ARE.

Community partnership is the foundation of Public Works. We collaborate with eight partner organizations across New York City.

Brownsville Recreation Center

Brownsville Recreation Center

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 pursue both artistic and athletic activities.

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Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education

Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education

Founded in 1934, Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education is the oldest Latino charity in New York City. The South Bronx-based community arts and educational organization presents diverse, contemporary visual and performing arts and education programming for all ages.

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Center for Family Life in Sunset Park

Center for Family Life in Sunset Park

Center for Family Life in Sunset Park is a neighborhood-based social service organization in Brooklyn. CFL’s comprehensive services in counseling, employment, education, the arts and recreation engage more than 16,000 children and adults each year at 8 community locations. 

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Children's Aid

Children's Aid

Located in Manhattan, Children's Aid provides comprehensive support to children in targeted New York City neighborhoods. The organization aims to connect young people and their families with the tools they need to learn, grow, and become leaders of their own lives.

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Domestic Workers United

Domestic Workers United

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 in the domestic industry. 

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DreamYard

DreamYard

Located in the Bronx, DreamYard 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.

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The Fortune Society

The Fortune Society

Located in Queens, The 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 our communities.

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Military Resiliance Foundation

Military Resiliance Foundation

Military Resilience Foundation works to create opportunities for individual men and women who have served in the military to engage in community-based events that honor their unique experiences, while allowing those experiences to become part of a shared narrative. 

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WHAT WE DO.

In New York City

Between our annual productions, Public Works community members gather for year-round programming throughout the city designed in collaboration with our local partner organizations.

  • We offer weekly or biweekly CLASSES at our community partner organizations, taught by master teaching artists and tailor-made to serve the artistic interest of each community.
  • Monthly POTLUCKS give us all an opportunity to share a meal, celebrate our achievements and present the creative projects people have been working on throughout the year. 
  • Programming also includes a community choir, a quarterly newsletter, attending plays, member-run leadership committees, and ACTivate, a theater-making program that puts community in the artistic driver’s seat.
  • And all this programming culminates in ambitious participatory theater PRODUCTIONS. Once a year, our vast community comes together to create an extraordinary, large-scale production: the Public Works Pageant, a musical adaptation of a classic story featuring residents from all over the city and performed at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

Across the Country and Around the World

The Founding Public Works National Partners are:

  • Dallas Theater Center (Dallas, TX)
  • The National Theatre’s Public Acts programme (London and nationally, England)
  • Seattle Repertory Theatre (Seattle, WA).

In 2019, Public Works welcomed seven new Public Works National Affiliates: Long Wharf Theatre (New Haven, CT), Pittsburgh Public Theater (Pittsburgh, PA), Theatre Under The Stars (Houston, TX), Trinity Repertory Company (Providence, RI), Tulsa Performing Arts Center and Trust (Tulsa, OK), Virginia Stage Company (Norfolk, VA), and Williamstown Theatre Festival (Williamstown, MA).

This network of theaters gathers to share practices and help build momentum around community-based theater nationwide. Collectively, we are seeking to put theater at the heart of every community, and community at the heart of every theater.

MEDIA.

Hard Won Joy: Building Public Works

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