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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.
Community partnership is the foundation of Public Works. We collaborate with eight partner organizations across New York City.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Between our annual productions, Public Works community members gather for year-round programming throughout the city designed in collaboration with our local partner organizations.
The Founding Public Works National Partners are:
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.