New York Shakespeare Festival

Theater of, by, and for all people.

aka The Public Theater   |   New York, NY   |  https://publictheater.org/

Mission

The Public Theater is theater of, by, and for all people. Artist-driven, radically inclusive, and fundamentally democratic, The Public continues the work of its visionary founder Joe Papp as a civic institution engaging, both on-stage and off, with some of the most important ideas and social issues of today. Conceived over 60 years ago as one of the nation’s first nonprofit theaters, The Public has long operated on the principles that theater is an essential cultural force and that art and culture belong to everyone.

Ruling year info

1956

Executive Director

Patrick Willingham

Artistic Director

Oskar Eustis

Main address

425 Lafayette Street

New York, NY 10003 USA

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Formerly known as

Shakespeare Workshop

EIN

13-1844852

NTEE code info

Theater (A65)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Public continues the work of its visionary founder Joe Papp as a civic institution engaging, both on-stage and off, with some of the most important ideas and social issues of today. Conceived over 60 years ago as one of the nation’s first nonprofit theaters, The Public has long operated on the principles that theater is an essential cultural force and that art and culture belong to everyone.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Free Shakespeare in the Park

Reaching over six million people to date with more than 100 productions, Free Shakespeare in the Park embodies The Public’s mission to offer the highest quality theater to the broadest possible audience, free of charge. Curated by Artistic Director Oskar Eustis to produce works that are both timeless and timely, Free Shakespeare in Park uses the classics – both of Shakespeare and of modern playwrights – to examine pressing contemporary issues. Each season, we welcome approximately 100,000 people to two productions of Shakespeare’s classics over nine weeks.

Each season, The Public works to engage the whole of the city each summer. As is our tradition, every day of every show, we distribute thousands of free tickets at the box office located in Central Park, and through a "virtual lottery" on the TodayTix app. We work with New York City’s Public Library systems to activate spaces in all five boroughs as ticket distribution sites; and with New York’s Department of Education to distribute hundreds of tickets to students and teachers and families connected to public schools in all five boroughs. And we offer ticket distributions every single day of our productions in borough community centers and libraries. Additionally, we also host a night at the Delacorte for each borough in partnership with its Borough President.

Finally, The Public continues to improve efforts to increase access for audience members with limited mobility, as well as those who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or have vision loss, by offering reserved seating for individuals using wheelchairs or motorized scooters, as well as select performances with open captions, audio description, or sign interpretation.

Population(s) Served

The mainstage season at 425 Lafayette Street feature diverse line-ups of new plays and musicals, as well as Shakespeare and other classics, in five theaters. Our downtown programming aims to present the most pressing issues of our time, as told by the field’s most cutting-edge voices, to the broadest possible audience. In a given season, this encompasses approximately eight productions – world/New York City premieres and revivals.

The Public has always been a home to artists who have the guts and the instinct to match the temper of the times with exuberance. From our origins with James Rado and Gerome Ragni’s HAIR, to Ntozake Shange’s lyrical for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, to Lin Manuel Miranda’s radical redefinition of musical theater with Hamilton, The Public is—and always has been—defined by our relationship with revolutionary new work that honors diverse experiences, speaks genuinely to our world, and is unafraid to expose vital truths with a bold voice.

Population(s) Served

Founded in 1998, Joe’s Pub is committed to reflecting the diverse community that it represents in its audience and on its stage by programming a variety of high quality performances, while keeping ticket prices at a minimum. As one of New York City’s most celebrated venues for emerging and established performance artists, Joe’s Pub plays a vital role in The Public’s mission by providing an intimate space for artists to perform and develop new work. It presents talent from all over the world as part of The Public’s programming downtown at its Astor Place home, hosting approximately 700 shows and serving over 100,000 audience members annually. Since its opening, Joe’s Pub has presented over 8,000 performances. The diverse roster of programming featured at Joe’s Pub includes top performers from Broadway, cabaret, dance, world, singer-songwriter, jazz, country and indie genres, today’s rising stars and GRAMMY Award winners. Finally, Joe’s Pub features the Vanguard Residency, an award and yearlong monthly series that celebrates the work and influence of an icon of American popular culture.

Population(s) Served

Far from being ancillary to our core priorities, The Public’s community partnership programs help us enact our values outside the walls of 425 Lafayette and the Delacorte. The programs serve an authentic cross-section of New Yorkers – particularly those with little or no access to the arts – by both reaching them where they live, and inviting them to make theater together. The programs actively participate in collaboratively telling a story with our community, not only putting the voices of the people on stages throughout the boroughs, but also the people themselves. If we want to change who sees theater, who makes theater, who participates more broadly in the arts, then we need a radical and effective means to do so. These programs are bringing us one step closer toward making these goals a reality.

• Mobile Unit. A contemporary version of The Public’s initial touring model, the Mobile Unit goes directly into the neighborhoods where underserved populations live and work, making Shakespeare’s plays accessible, timely and resonant among these communities. Serving youth and senior centers, hospitals, correctional facilities, and shelters, it offers free performances and educational workshops that enrich our communities’ overall theater experience. Each year, we offer one spring tour and one fall tour of Shakespeare’s classic – working with New York’s library systems in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, the New York City Housing Authority, and the City Parks Foundation to identify libraries, public housing and parks to activate as tour venues.

• Public Works. Launched in 2012, Public Works partners with community organizations to cultivate new connections and new models of engagement with artists, audiences, and communities in all five boroughs. Public Works brings participants into the full experience of The Public through workshops, classes, social gatherings, and opportunities to attend performances at The Public Theater, both downtown and in Central Park. By including our community partners as active participants in the creation of art, Public Works continues to address the inequities we see on our stages and in our audiences, striving to reimagine the roles our theaters might play in our cities – where artistry, the ability to create, is central to all human beings. Its annual culminating performances, as exemplified by the resoundingly successful productions of THE TEMPEST, THE WINTER’S TALE, THE ODYSSEY, TWELFTH NIGHT, AS YOU LIKE IT, and most recently HERCULES, at the Delacorte, aim to open theater as a vehicle for understanding, collaboration, and civic dialogue.

We continue to share the model and methodology of our program as broadly as possible. Our Public Works National partners Mosaic Children’s Theater in Detroit, Dallas Theater Center, and Seattle Repertory Theater remain committed to continuing their adaptations of this work in their cities, and we continue to add new partners to our cohort – including, most recently, the UK’s National Theatre, which have adopted and adapted the Public Works model to fit their nationwide mandate. And we continue to explore ways for Public Works to occupy more space at The Public, through more partnerships, engagement opportunities, and performances of our annual Public Works productions. Our hope is to inspire a field-wide movement toward community participatory art and help redefine the very ground rules by which we make and watch theater.

• Public Forum. Public Forum offers a series of conversations and performances featuring leading voices in politics, media, and the arts, drawing the broadest range of voices in conversation about American culture. The program uses various formats to ensure that a variety of perspectives are presented. A key component to this vision are CIVIC SALONS, monthly brunch-time gatherings where the community is invited to come together in the spirit of belonging to nurture their minds and bodies. Each month features a different theme and different participants who bring readings, songs, and a keynote address – all chosen in the hope of inspiring civic engagement and change. In addition, Public Forum hosts a series of events that touch on the most pressing topics of the day.

• Public Shakespeare Initiative. The Public Shakespeare Initiative offers a wide range of programming which includes larger Public Shakespeare Presents evenings, blending incisive commentary by scholars and other thinkers with compelling live performances by artists of all disciplines; intimate Public Shakespeare Talks, giving audiences unique insight into the artistic and intellectual processes of leading Shakespeare practitioners working in the theater; Artist Development Programs, to cultivate some of the most visionary artistic minds working on Shakespeare today; and Education Programs, specifically the Hunts Point Children’s Shakespeare Ensemble. The Latter was co-founded by The Shakespeare Society with the Hunts Point Alliance for Children over a decade ago, and has offered hundreds of elementary and middle school students the opportunity to develop their confidence, knowledge, and creativity through the transformative experience of bringing Shakespeare’s words to life onstage in the eleven Shakespeare productions the Ensemble has presented.

Population(s) Served

Developing new works and supporting early-career writers are central to our mission. Through an interrelated suite of New Work Development initiatives, The Public provides holistic support for artists during every period of career development. Each program works to fosters connections between artists and audiences, and across ethnicities, ages, and experiences—connections that are fundamental to the work of the institution and the freshness and vitality of the theater.

• Early Career Working Groups. The Public’s early career working groups provide collaborative, effective models for supporting artists at critical stages of their development. The primary goals of each program are to build meaningful pathways for artistic and professional advancement:

• Emerging Writers Group (EWG). Focused on identifying and supporting early career playwrights, the Emerging Writer’s Group provides key resources for writers at every stage of their careers. The primary goal of the EWG program is to build meaningful pathways for writers’ artistic and professional development. The EWG team works to create a fertile community and foster a web of supportive artistic relationships across generations. Writers are selected bi-annually and receive a two-year fellowship, which includes a $15,000 stipend. Eligibility criteria are tailored to serve qualified writers who are shut out of the field’s standard play development channels – those without professional representation or graduate school training. The playwrights participate in a bi-weekly writers group led by The Public’s new work department, featuring master classes led by established playwrights, and their fellowship culminates in an industry-invited showcase of work developed during the residency.

• Devised Theater Working Group (DTWG). Formed in 2014, the Devised Theater Working Group (DTWG) is an artist resource group designed for makers of all disciplines, including those who don’t self-identify as theater makers but for whom theatre is a potent metaphor or framework. DTWG serves as a think tank to ensure that The Public is responsive to the most immediate realities of independent theater making. DTWG offers next-generation theater-makers a supportive framework in which to develop their work, engage in consistent dialogue, and be challenged by each other’s aesthetic practice. Using the model of the Emerging Writers Group, DTWG creates an infrastructure to support cohorts of between eight and ten artists or performance groups to meet consistently throughout the year as they create theater by offering the dramaturgical, technical, artistic and administrative resources of The Public.

• Joe’s Pub Working Group (JPWG) & New York Voices. In order to create sustainable resources for the field and to support emerging artists, Director of Joe’s Pub Shanta Thake and Associate Director of Joe's Pub Alex Knowlton blended The Public’s approach to supporting emerging playwrights and independent artists to create two programs: Joe’s Pub Working Group, which aims to enrich the sustainability and growth of New York-based emerging artists’ careers; and New York Voices, a commissioning initiative for musicians and performance artists to create cross-genre theater pieces.

• Joe’s Pub Working Group supports cohorts of five early career musicians and performance artists by providing a variety of support. These include administrative resources, physical space, and curatorial services – further cultivating a community atmosphere wherein those artists can create and sustain new and developing work. The program selects from the field’s most exciting artists—identifying musicians and performance artists that particularly exhibit a strong narrative voice in their work—and asks them to explore theatrical storytelling and songwriting.

• New York Voices started from a desire to directly address the crumbling music industry and the lack of album sales, as well as to find a new way to support artists in a manner unique to Joe’s Pub. Since album sales are a relic, we have committed to commissioning at least three musicians per year and helping them to develop new tools for their live show. The hope for these shows is that they will lead to longer runs in various markets around the country and allow these musicians to access a new realm of grants and funding. New York Voices annually commissions a small group of artists over the course of the year, produced as a culminating performance series. In addition, the program provides finishing funds as necessary to assist the artist in fully realizing each project and increase their viability for a touring life. With these dynamic initiatives, Joe’s Pub has been able to grow from being strictly a presenting venue into a robust producing efforts, working with a diverse slate of multidisciplinary artists.

• Public Studio. Dedicated exclusively to developing the work of emerging writers, Public Studio provides a laboratory environment in which playwrights can rehearse with actors and a director, incorporate bare bones design elements, and open the process to an audience over a series of performances. More than a reading or workshop but not a full production, this middle step affords early career writers the important opportunity to deepen their experience of working collaboratively over an extended rehearsal period and to see their work staged in front of an audience. Each year, Public Studio presents a diverse slate of two early career writers receiving their first major theatrical workshop.

• Writers-In-Residence. To cultivate meaningful relationships with playwrights, we have learned the importance of offering exceptional artists the time, resources, and tool to do what they do best: write. The Master Writer Chair, held by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, provides an artistic home and support for an established playwright whose work has set the standard for the highest level of achievement in theater. It represents a resounding testament to sustained, long-term relationship building with artists. Modeled on Chairs at our great research universities, the full-salaried Master Writer Chair is our best attempt at establishing a way for a master American playwright to make a living in the non-profit theater. It has been an astounding success, bringing Parks firmly and dramatically back to the theater. The Master Writer Chair enables Parks to write with focus and security, producing some of the most landmark work of her career, while simultaneously serving to firmly position the generative artist at the heart of our organizational structure.

Supported by a grant from The New York Community Trust, The Public is home to three Van Lier Fellows. These two-year residencies represent an institutional investment in continuing to support graduates of the early career artists through structured development channels. Throughout their fellowships, we provide access to peer networks, professional support, and resources to help these artists refine their artistic voice. The Van Lier Fellows also receive a $15,000 stipend per year, which serves as a commissioning fee and/or finishing fund for a capstone project to be developed and produced at the culmination of their two-year fellowship.

In partnership with the Tow Foundation, each year The Public offers the Tow Playwright in Residence at The Public. This year-long fellowship provide the recipient with an exceptional opportunity to deepen their playwriting practice and invest in their career in the theater, including: dramaturgical resources, financial support, access to the full spectrum of Public Theater staff, space and events, and a culminating full production of their play as part of the mainstage season.

• Devised Theater Initiative/Under the Radar Festival. The Devised Theater Initiative is a year-round program that commissions, develops, and presents devised theater in all its forms at The Public. It creates an infrastructure to support the field of devised/independent theater by combining the dramaturgical, technical, artistic, and administrative resources of The Public Theater and the expanding web of relationships of the Under the Radar Festival, a 12-day program promoting the discovery and dissemination of innovative contemporary work from around the work. The Under the Radar Festival serves as a vital presenting vehicle for artists creating work outside the normal avenues of playwright-driven theater practice, integrating these projects deeper into The Public’s artistic vision. Both the Devised Theater Initiative and the Under the Radar Festival are committed to supporting and promoting devised/independent theater from around the world.

• Commissions and Premieres. The Public commissions artists from a diverse range of perspectives, identities, and experiences to write new plays and musicals. The Public’s commitment to new work development ensures that the most vital, exciting work is made available to an expansive range of audiences. The volume and success of our commissioning initiatives have already created an unprecedented level of activity in The Public’s venues, and serving to embody ideals inherent to The Public’s mission: to champion the development of original theatrical work and promote a diversity of voices and faces on the stage; to spark civic and artistic discussion; and to provide access to audiences of all backgrounds.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The Public is devoted to making theater that matters – theater that helps bind our community together by connecting us to the great issues and dilemmas of our time. But we are at risk of entering a cultural reality where that theater belongs only to the privileged few, depriving so many in our community of what we have always believed to be the birthright of all citizens in any thriving democracy: that art belongs to ALL people. This founding commitment to access continues to inform all that we do.

As the nation's foremost theatrical producer of Shakespeare and new work, The Public Theater is dedicated to developing an American theater that is accessible and relevant to all people through artistically excellent productions of challenging new plays and musicals, and innovative stagings of the classics.

The five core programs central to our mission are:
· Free Shakespeare in the Park
· The Downtown Season at Astor Place
· Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater
· Community Partnership Programs (which includes the Mobile Unit, Public Works, Public Forum, and Public Shakespeare Initiative)
· New Work Development

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit our ability to produce and gather for in-person performances, we have expanded the mediums for presenting our work to and engaging with the public. For instance, we have created new work via virtual performances, collaborated with other organizations to produce radio plays, and held virtual events to keep our constituencies engaged with our activities.

The Public commissions artists from a diverse range of perspectives, identities, and experiences to write new plays and musicals, which are then developed via a combination of the programs above and under the guidance of our New Work Development team. Through an interrelated suite of New Work Development initiatives, The Public provides holistic support for artists during every period of career development – fostering connections between artists and audiences, and across ethnicities, ages, and experiences. The volume and success of our commissioning initiatives have already created an unprecedented level of activity in The Public’s venues, and serving to embody ideals inherent to The Public’s mission: to champion the development of original theatrical work and promote a diversity of voices and faces on the stage; to spark civic and artistic discussion; and to provide access to audiences of all backgrounds. Our ability to accomplish this work is largely dependent on contributed income, as the bulk of our programs are either offered free of charge or at discounted rates. Of total dollars raised from tickets and donations, over two-thirds is contributed.

The Public Theater remains committed to its core values as a theater that is radically inclusive and fundamentally democratic, placing strong institutional investment in creating space for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists, staff, and audiences to lead. The organization employs a full-time staff and thousands of freelance theatermakers – representing a deep breadth of race, ethnicity, gender orientations, and ages – who cumulatively make all of our productions and programs possible. Spanning all departments (including development/fundraising, production, marketing, and front of house operations), we are able to engage the experiences of all of our stakeholders in presenting works whose content and reach reflect the very diversity of New York City.

In the course of a single season, The Public Theater produces an average of 265 performances on 5 principal stages at its headquarters on Lafayette Street, approximately 700 performances at Joe’s Pub, and more than 50 free performances at the Delacorte Theater for Free Shakespeare in the Park. These programs encompass productions of new plays and musicals by mid-career and established writers, as well as productions of other classics that engage more than 350,000 artists and theatergoers each year. These include: The Mobile Unit and Public Works, which deepen connections between artists and our community; Public Forum, which presents performances and conversations with leading voices in politics, media, and the arts; Public Shakespeare Initiative, which offers programs using Shakespearean works to engage audiences, develop artists, educate young people, and support their teachers; and numerous initiatives that cultivate and nurture new talent, while providing crucial support for more established artists and writers.

Like all cultural institutions, The Public continues to contend with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in the face of these challenges, we remain steadfast in pursuit of our mission to bring theater to more communities; to bring untold stories to the stage; and to support more artists and provide spaces for them to tell their stories. We will continue to use and grow our expanded mediums of presenting theater to further our goals and overall mission.

Financials

New York Shakespeare Festival
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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New York Shakespeare Festival

Board of directors
as of 2/26/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Arielle Tepper


Board co-chair

Patricia Fili-Krushel

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/18/2020

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community
Disability status
Person without a disability

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

 

No data

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data