and Partners

Public Theater


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. Public Works, a major program of The Public, aims to restore and build community by connecting people through theater—both performing it and experiencing it. Working with 8 partner organizations across New York City, Public Works engages community members as active participants and creators — taking classes, attending performances, and joining in the creation of ambitious works of participatory theater. 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.


Purpose: To support the Public Works programs in New York City.

The Illumination Fund supports the Public Theater’s year-round programming throughout the city designed in collaboration with local partner organizations, including:

  • Fortune Society, a social service and advocacy organization that supports successful reentry from prison and promotes alternatives to incarceration;
  • Brownsville Recreation Center, a NYC Parks site that provides safe activity spaces and services for Brooklyn community members;
  • DreamYard, the largest arts organization in the Bronx, which works to develop artistic voices, nurture young peoples’ desire to make change, and cultivate the skills necessary to reach positive goals;
  • Military Resilience Project, an organization that provides comprehensive alternatives for wellness and resiliency for veterans, with a focus on promoting social unity; and
  • Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, which provides families with the vital human services needed to create thriving communities.


With these partners, Public Works creates customized programming in collaboration with each community and delivers weekly workshops and classes on site. The Public Works team also holds monthly potlucks, creates performance opportunities, and works with each partner to honor the robust, meaningful relationships they have built through multi-year engagements. Programming culminates in ambitious participatory theater productions including 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.



Photos by Joan Marcus.