Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Executive Director Patrick Willingham announced the line-up today for The Public’s free digital fall season. The Public will present new digital works, deepen community relationships through its artistic programs, and continue its long tradition of civic engagement in this crucial election season. Though its physical stages remain dark, the robust slate of virtual programming will include a full-day summit for creative activism; a visual art installation projected on the historic facade of The Public’s home on Astor Place dedicated to the Black lives that have been lost to police brutality and white violence; the world premiere of an original Public Works documentary on ALL ARTS; the election season-centered return of Kiki & Herb and Toshi Reagon to the Joe’s Pub digital stage; and new works by Samora Pinderhughes and Jack DeBoe, and Anne Washburn.
“Now, more than ever, we need what the theater has to offer: hope, truth, joy, solidarity, beauty. The artists of The Public Theater have responded to the multiple crises we are facing—racial, medical, economic, and political—with courage and immense creativity,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “Our community partners through all five boroughs have doubled down on their support of their communities, and we are continuing to support them and our own community of artists. We are also discovering unexpected victories: our digital content is reaching an audience across the country, and across the world, bringing free access to a larger and more diverse audience than we could have ever hoped.”
This fall will be unlike any The Public has experienced before. The Public continues to be unable to gather in-person in theaters and is navigating immense challenges because of the global coronavirus pandemic, and in response to the long-overdue reckoning around racism in the country and in the theater community, The Public has begun interrogating its practices and systems to move closer to being an inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist organization. This is a moment of uncertainty, transformation, action, and accountability. There is much work to be done, but The Public’s mission has not changed, and artists and their voices play a critical role at this moment too.
Eustis continued, “Though times are difficult, The Public will not stop striving to fulfill its mission. This season, we reaffirm our commitment to amplifying artists of color, to anti-racism both on and off of our stages, and to creating new works that respond to the demands for racial reckoning and justice that continue resounding throughout the nation.”
“As we hurl towards an election of great consequence in perennial isolation, The Public Theater has the privileged position of engaging artists seeking to create art even in the face of adversity, and making it all free,” said Associate Artistic Director and Resident Director Saheem Ali. “I’m thrilled to be directing Anne Washburn’s searing new play Shipwreck as an audio drama, reconceived to bring an intensely theatrical and political play into our current discourse.”
More important than ever, The Public also continues its year-round engagement through its vital programs: Joe’s Pub, Mobile Unit, Public Works, Under the Radar Festival, Public Forum, Public Shakespeare Initiative, #BARS, and Emerging Writers Group. This fall, Mobile Unit will launch its brand new Mobile Unit in Corrections Initiative, bringing the tools of theater into the daily lives of incarcerated communities; Public Shakespeare Initiative will bring back its full scope of activity with a new lens on digital platforms through the continuation of its Brave New Shakespeare Challenge and the Hunts Point Children’s Shakespeare Ensemble will be working virtually on A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Public Works will continue with digital workshops and classes with partner organizations in all five boroughs; Public Forum will bring back its monthly Civic Salons via Zoom; Joe’s Pub will present streamed concerts from their family of artists on the Joe’s Pub stage; and #BARS will host monthly digital masterclasses, led by Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, and Chris Hicks.
“In the midst of national and local upheaval, our relationships through our Public Works partners, Mobile Unit sites, and Hunts Point Alliance for Children have been such inspiring touchstones as we think deeply about how to be a true civic partner and how theater can continue to tell our new shared American stories,” said Associate Artistic Director and Director of Artistic Programs Shanta Thake.“This is a necessary moment to reflect the truth in our cities and the joy of our interdependence as dreamers, drawing on the strength of our relationships around the world and growing into whatever comes next.”
“In these challenging times, while our theaters remain dark, it is encouraging to see our artists continue to engage with our world to make art that speaks with courage and truth to this moment,” said Associate Artistic Director and Director of Public Theater Productions Mandy Hackett. “We need artists and storytellers to help bring us together and it is vital to our mission that we do this through free digital productions that break down theater’s traditional barriers to access, uniting us in our humanity.”
With theaters closed and in-person programming on pause, The Public Theater continues to navigate the immense challenges created by the pandemic, including an operating budget that has contracted significantly, substantial furloughs among full-time staff, and a lack of employment opportunities to offer the freelance artistic community. The Public continues to rely on its community of loyal supporters who stand alongside the organization as it upholds its mission during this uncertain time. With the generous contributions of supporters as the only current source of revenue, The Public continues to reimagine theater for the digital space, support a range of artistic voices in making new work, and share it with a growing global audience.
THE PUBLIC THEATER’S FALL DIGITAL PROGRAMMING:
Public Forum Presents
CREATIVE ACTIVISM: A DAY OF ART, IDEAS, AND ACTION
Full-Day Summit — September 23; Multiple sessions from 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. EST
With less than 50 days until the 2020 Election, the need to activate our civic power has never been stronger. Public Forum will help you harness your power for change with CREATIVE ACTIVISM, a day-long summit of art, ideas, and action featuring some of the leading creatives and community organizers in our country. CREATIVE ACTIVISM will feature panel discussions, workshops, performances, and keynote addresses, all designed to connect you with the artists and activists who are making change in today’s world. Featuring Dominique Morisseau, Alison Stewart, Claudia Rankine, P. Carl, Erika Dickerson-Despenza, Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi, and Cara Page; workshops with For Freedoms and The Brennan Center for Justice, and more. Visit publictheater.org for info.
Special Broadcast of Iconic Joe’s Pub Concert (visit here for 2020 programming)
KIKI & HERB: SEEKING ASYLUM!
Created by Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman
Premieres September 24 at 7:00 p.m. EST featuring a live chat with the artists
Available via Joe’s Pub YouTube and The Public’s website through November 5
This season, The Public offers an antidote to all our isolation anxiety with the “bombastic, razor sharp & triumphant return” (W Magazine) of the incomparable Kiki & Herb. After major successes at Carnegie Hall, on Broadway, and on the International Concert Circuit, cabaret legends Kiki and Herb took a break from the live performance grind to explore other opportunities. Kiki’s sabbatical included a stint as a Middle East correspondent for Al Jazeera, while Herb found himself in hot water—both literal and proverbial—in Southeast Asia. After their dramatic escapes, from undisclosed locations in Syria and Thailand, Kiki and Herb immediately returned to Joe’s Pub with a brand new show, KIKI & HERB: SEEKING ASYLUM! — an instant cabaret classic that crashed the Joe’s Pub website the moment it was announced. Enjoy in the “demented, raw and pointedly political” (The New Yorker) ecstasy of Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman’s sold-out 2016 show, streaming for free, on-demand, for a limited time.
SAY THEIR NAMES
Curated byGarlia Cornelia Jones
The Public Theater will be converting the facade of their historic home at 425 Lafayette into a blank canvas for an artist installation. SAY THEIR NAMES will honor, remember, and include at least 2,200 names and accompanying sentences of Black lives murdered at the hands of the police. Curated by Garlia Cornelia Jones, this installation will cover the entire front of the landmark building and feature work by ten visual artists from varying mediums including From Ferguson to Baltimore by Dáreece Walker and Pietà by Tylonn J. Sawyer, responding to one single prompt:
For centuries, the murders of Black Americans have been overlooked, covered up, and disregarded.
We invite you to remember.
We invite you to honor.
We invite you to Say Their Names.
Original Public Works Documentary
UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE Premieres October 7 at 8:00 p.m. EST on ALL ARTS
The WNET Group’s arts and culture broadcast channel and streaming platform.
UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE, a new documentary from The Public Theater created with Art Docs and premiering this fall on ALL ARTS, focuses on The Public Theater’s 2017 Public Works musical production of As You Like It, which was performed by 200 New Yorkers of all ages and boroughs, and was named one of the Top Ten shows of 2017 by The New York Times. Co-adapted by Shaina Taub and Laurie Woolery, with music and lyrics by Shaina Taub, original choreography by Sonya Tayeh, and direction by Laurie Woolery, As You Like It was set to be remounted as part of the 2020 Free Shakespeare in the Park season, but those plans were halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This film tracks the creation of As You Like It and the ways this resilient community has banded together amidst the crises of 2020. 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—creating theater that is not only for the people, but by and of the people as well. For the last eight years, Public Works has partnered with organizations across New York City, inviting community members to take classes, attend performances, and join in the creation of ambitious works of participatory theater.
THE SEED PROJECT
Large-Scale Visual Projection Project to Cover the Facade of The Public
This is a rare moment of intense shared experience across our country. Given the anti-racist uprising in the U.S. and the global pandemic, the theaters in thePublic Works National Cohort feel called to reimagine how to be of service to their communities. This cohort of community artists is activating their creativity to reimagine spaces for collective artmaking and believes that there is strength and joy to be found in envisioning the future together. This artistic call to action has resulted in THE SEED PROJECT, an ambitious work of collaborative and participatory art across the nation and in New York City. Community members from the Public Works National Partners and Affiliates across the country are responding to the prompt: “Today, I am planting a seed of …” These offerings for the future are being turned into large-scale pieces of public art, with each theater in the National Cohort creating a unique work of art for its own community. In New York, Public Works has collected responses from 150 community members from all five boroughs, and is using them to create a large-scale projection that will cover the entire facade of the historic Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street with offerings for the future of our city. The projections will be designed by Lucy MacKinnon and Shih-lien Eugene Yen, using words by and images of the Public Works community, with photography by Jennifer Young.
World Premiere Joe’s Pub New York Voices Commission
VENUS SMILES NOT IN THE HOUSE OF TEARS
Created and Performed by Samora Pinderhughes and Jack DeBoe
Directed by Christian Padron and Kassim Norris | Choreography by Amanda Krische
Premieres October 9 at 8:00 p.m. EST with live chat from Samora Pinderhughes & Jack DeBoe
VENUS SMILES NOT IN THE HOUSE OF TEARS is a transformative concert event, written and produced by Samora Pinderhughes and Jack DeBoe. VENUS isan intimate, radical experiment in multi-genre storytelling, full of “pathos-laden melody and heart-rending harmonies” (New York Times). Captivating Venus pulls us close and then leaves us to wrestle with the truths and lies of love, through Pinderhughes’ explorations of romance, grief, and memory in relationships past. Heralded as one of his generation’s most captivating composers, Pinderhughes showcases his style—a combination of emotional and political storytelling, with radically honest lyrics set to lush harmonies—in this enthralling new work.
New York Premiere Audio Play
By Anne Washburn | Directed by Saheem Ali
Four-Part Podcast Production to be Released in Late October on The Public’s websiteIn a co-production with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
The complete cast includes Mia Barron (Mare), Brooke Bloom (Allie), Phillip James Brannon (Bush), Bill Camp (Trump), Rob Campbell (Jim), Raúl Esparza (Luis), Sue Jean Kim (Jools), Jenny Jules (Trump’s Secretary), Bruce McKenzie (Lawrence), Joe Morton (James Comey), Jeremy Shamos (Andrew), and Rich Topol (Richard)
This fall, as the election draws near, tune in to a searing and searching new audio drama from acclaimed playwright Anne Washburn about America’s present-day divisions, seen through the eyes of the very recent past. SHIPWRECK centers on a group of liberal friends gathered at an upstate farmhouse on a day of crystalline beauty. While the weather outside grows increasingly apocalyptic and the conversation within grows precariously honest, the group discovers that in turbulent times, every dinner invitation comes at a cost. Slated to be a stage production in The Public’s 2020 season, SHIPWRECK has been re-worked specifically for an audience listening from home or headphones. Saheem Ali directs this harrowing and hilarious masterpiece about race, religion, family, and the nightmarish fallout of the American experiment.
MOBILE UNIT IN CORRECTIONS
New Initiative of Mobile Unit Program Launches this October
The Public Theater is proud to announce MOBILE UNIT IN CORRECTIONS, its first long-term program that brings the tools of theater into the daily lives of incarcerated communities. At a time when most institutions are on lock-down, inmates are at high-risk for COVID and have even more limitations, it is important to the health and safety of the entire corrections community to provide some kind of outlet. This initial engagement offering will launch in October with Hip-Hop vs. Shakespeare delivered via video inviting participants to tell their own stories. Created and conceived by hip-hop theater artist, Malik Work and Mobile Unit Community Programs Manager, Praycious Wilson-Gay, the Hip-Hop vs. Shakespeare video series will help activate creative thinking, develop skills of writing and performing verse while encouraging a life-long passion for learning. Participants are provided with supplemental materials administered through our corrections partners. Videos are produced and directed by Mobile Unit Program Manager, Alejandra Cisneros. The Public Theater’s Mobile Unit remains community-driven, radically inclusive, and civically engaged; maintains a strong dialogue with communities across the five boroughs and continues to deepen partnerships with corrections, community centers and libraries, while developing new ways to create narratives about, for and by our beloved communities.
PUBLIC FORUM: WE THE PEOPLE
Live on November 2 at 8:00 p.m. EST
Available via The Public’s YouTube and The Public’s website
Public Forum continues a beloved Election Night tradition with a new twist, and a new date! This season, WE THE PEOPLE will take place online the night prior to the election and will feature performances and commentary. Celebrate the democratic process and unite virtually with community through music and poetry by The Public’s family of artists and enter election day galvanized and ready to use your voice!
Joe’s Pub Concerts
TOSHI REAGON: POST-ELECTION DAY CONCERT
Premieres November 4 at 7:00 p.m. EST
Available via Joe’s Pub YouTube and The Public’s website through December 16
Toshi Reagon is a singer, musician, composer, producer, and curator, who has been described by Vibe magazine as “one helluva rock’n’roller-coaster ride” and by PopMatters.com as “a treasure waiting to be found, Reagon is a one-woman celebration of all that is dynamic, progressive and uplifting in American music.” At her quadrennial Post-Election Day show, Reagon will be joined by special guests to address the future of America. Visit here for more info.
PUBLIC FORUM: CIVIC SALONS
Live on Zoom: October 13, November 16, and December 14 at 7:00 p.m. EST
Civic Salons are back, and they’ve gone digital! Never before has it been more important to connect with the communities around us. Civic Salons are a community crossroads where artists and audiences can come together to nurture our minds and our bodies. Through songs, poetry, text, and speeches all driven by a common theme, Civic Salons feature artists, activists, and organizers who are using their voices to create change in their communities. Break bread with your neighbor, raise your voice in song, and leave inspired.
THE #BARS WORKSHOP
New Season of Free Masterclasses Goes Digital in October
The #BARS Workshop is a lab series created by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs. #BARS will go digital in October 2020 with Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs, and Chris Walker hosting monthly online masterclasses with incredible guest artists that will be free and open to the public. Leading up to each masterclass, the #BARS team will release creative prompts on social media so that #BARS can continue to serve as a space for artists to investigate the intersection between contemporary verse and theater while we’re all creating and learning from home. Follow along at @barsworkshop on Instagram.
#WATCHMEWORK FROM HOME WITH SUZAN-LORI PARKS
Live on select Mondays at 5:00 p.m. EST
Watch Me Work is a performance piece, a meditation on the artistic process, and an actual work session, featuring Suzan-Lori Parks working on her newest writing project. Traditionally hosted on the mezzanine of The Public Theater Lobby, this new version continues the program via Zoom sessions and HowlRound livestreams.
BRAVE NEW SHAKESPEARE CHALLENGE
New challenges posted to The Public’s social channels every other week on Fridays at 2:00 p.m. EST
Inspired by the courageous ways the world community is responding to this challenging time by creating performance, song, conversation, and connection, The Public Theater is inviting the world to use Shakespeare’s words to connect with friends, family, and communities, all from their homes. Every other week, across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, they focus on a different passage or scene from Shakespeare and invite everyone to join in and create.
HUNTS POINT CHILDREN’S SHAKESPEARE ENSEMBLEAfter last season’s triumphant transition into the online space, the Hunts Point Children’s Shakespeare Ensemble takes on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, remotely to begin the school year. The Public Theater is proud to continue our partnership with the Hunts Point Alliance for Children and honors the resilience and spirit of the Hunts Point community.