2015-2016 Season


Book and Lyrics by Dan Collins
Music by Julianne Wick Davis
Directed by Thomas Caruso
Based on the Film by Kate Davis
Conceived for Stage by Robert DuSold and Thomas Caruso
Performances begin February 23

The Public continues its longstanding commitment to groundbreaking new American musicals with a heart-soaring show breathtaking in both its originality and humanity.

Based on Kate Davis’ 2001 Sundance Award-winning documentary, SOUTHERN COMFORT tells the true story of a group of transgender friends living life on their own terms in the back hills of rural Georgia.  Winner of the prestigious Jonathan Larson Award, this folk and bluegrass inspired musical is a celebration of redefining family and choosing love over every obstacle.  Tony-winning lyricist/composer of Falsettos William Finn calls SOUTHERN COMFORT, “remarkable,” with a score that “mines the country’s heart, and unveils, along its way, surprising pathways to a new world.”

Celebrate the extraordinary courage it takes to live an ordinary life in this transformative new musical composed by Julianne Wick Davis, with book and lyrics by Dan Collins, originally conceived by Robert DuSold and Thomas CarusoThomas Caruso directs. 

World Premiere Three-Play Cycle
THE GABRIELS: Election Year in the Life of One Family
Play One: HUNGRY

Written & Directed by Richard Nelson
Performances begin February 27

In 2013, The Public proudly presented all four of the critically acclaimed The Apple Family Plays, a dramatic triumph The New York Times called, "a rare and radiant mirror of the way we live."

This season, Tony Award-winning playwright and director Richard Nelson returns to The Public with HUNGRY, the first in a new three-play cycle introducing us to the Gabriels of Rhinebeck, New York. These three plays unfold in real time and track the lives of the Gabriels throughout the coming presidential election year.

To the rhythm of peeling, chopping and mixing, HUNGRY places us in the center of the Gabriel’s kitchen. The family discusses their lives and disappointments, and the world at large and nearby. As they struggle against the fear of being left behind, the family attempts to find resilience in the face of loss.  

World Premiere
Written by Sarah Burgess
Directed by Thomas Kail
Performances begin March 1
Featuring Hank Azaria, Claire Danes, Sanjit De Silva and John Krasinski

DRY POWDER is the viciously, deliciously funny new drama about the people shaping, and skewing, the American economy.

The same week his private equity firm forced massive layoffs at a national grocery chain, Rick threw himself an extravagant engagement party, setting off a publicity nightmare. Fortunately, Seth (John Krasinski), one of Rick’s managing directors, has a win-win deal to invest in an American-made luggage company for a song and rescue his boss from a PR disaster. But Jenny, Seth’s counterpart, has an entirely different plan: to squeeze every last penny out of the company, no matter the human toll. The game is on in Sarah Burgess’ gripping, razor-sharp new play about the price of success and the real cost of getting the deal done. Thomas Kail (HamiltonIn the HeightsLombardi) directs. 

New York Premiere
Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney
Directed by Tina Landau
In a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Performances begin March 15
Featuring Alana ArenasFrancois BattisteKyle Beltran,J. Bernard Calloway, and Phylicia Rashad.

Tarell Alvin McCraney, MacArthur Genius Award-winning playwright of the acclaimedThe Brother/Sister Plays, returns to The Public with an astonishing, deeply moving new drama about family, acceptance and the power of faith. 

At the mouth of the Mississippi River, Shelah’s family and friends have come to celebrate her birthday and save her from a leaking roof. But in this contemporary parable inspired by the Book of Job, unexpected events turn the reunion into the ultimate test of faith and love. As her world seems to collapse around her, Shelah (Phylicia Rashad) must fight to survive the rising flood of life’s greatest challenges.

Regular Public collaborator Tina Landau (Superior DonutThe Brother/Sister Plays) directs this poetic and piercing new play.

World Premiere
Text by Stew
Music by Heidi Rodewald & Stew
Directed by Joanna Settle
Performances begin May 10

Stew and Heidi Rodewald, creators of the Tony Award-winning show Passing Strange, team with director Joanna Settle to bring you their thrilling new musical, THE TOTAL BENT, a riotous new show at the crossroads of the sacred and profane, survival and liberation, gospel and rock ‘n’ roll.

When a British record producer arrives in Montgomery, Alabama to hook Marty Roy, a young black musical prodigy, he launches us back into Marty’s tumultuous upbringing.  The son of a gospel star and self-proclaimed healer, Marty spent his childhood writing the songs that have made his charismatic father famous.  But in an America on the verge of social upheaval, with an unrelenting appetite for celebrity, Marty finds himself at odds with his spiritually forceful father as he strives to make a name for himself — no matter the cost.

A funny, fiery, one-of-a-kind show, THE TOTAL BENT is about the passions that divide a father and son as they make their music and make their choice between salvation and selling out. 

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Lear deBessonet
Performances begin April 11

The Public Theater’s Mobile Shakespeare Unit strengthens community engagement with the arts by bringing free, world-class productions of Shakespeare to communities all across New York City. This season, the Mobile Unit will present Shakespeare’s timeless tale of ROMEO & JULIET. In some of the most romantic language ever written for the stage, young Romeo and Juliet become fortune’s fools when the ancient grudge between their families forces them to sacrifice all for the chance to be together. Obie Award winner Lear deBessonet directs the classic tale of star-cross’d lovers caught between the world outside the bedroom window and passion as boundless as the sea. 

Plays, titles, actors, directors,and performance dates and times are subject to change.



January 6-17, 2016

Curated by Co-Directors Mark Russell and Meiyin Wang, this highly-anticipated 12-day festival in January showcases cutting-edge theater from around the U.S. and the world.



Public Works at The Delacorte Theater
Book, Music & Lyrics by Todd Almond
Conceived and Directed by Public Works Director Lear deBessonet
September 4-7

The Public Theater’s Public Works program creates ambitious works of participatory theater in partnership with community organizations from all five boroughs of New York City.  This year, Obie Award-winning director LEAR DEBESSONET and lyricist/composer TODD ALMOND, the team behind the acclaimed Public Works' productions of The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale, join forces again to create a breathtaking new musical adaptation, THE ODYSSEY

Inspired by the historical pageantry movement of the early 1900s—known for blending mass spectacle with community engagement—this final work in deBessonet and Almond’s grand trilogy reimagines the Greek epic with Public Works' signature blend of professional actors, community members and special guests. Man-eating Cyclops, a sorceress that turns sailors to beasts and the deadly sweet song of the Sirens explode onto the stage with spectacular numbers in this joyful, larger-than-life musical about finding your way home—no matter where fate may lead you.

World Premiere
Written by Robert O’Hara
Directed by Kent Gash
Performances began September 22

“Audacious, fearless” (New York Times) playwright ROBERT O’HARA (Bootycandy) returns to The Public with a provocative, hilarious and shatteringly honest new take on good old family DRAMA

The O’Mallerys have gathered in their local park to share some barbecue and straight talk with their sister Barbara, whose spiral of drugs and recklessness has forced her siblings to stage an open-air intervention. But the event becomes raucous and unpredictable as familial stereotypes collide with hard realities, and racial politics slam up against the stories we tell—and maybe even believe—about who we were and who we become.

KENT GASH (Miss Evers' Boys) directs this wildly inventive new play that proves family can be a bigger vice than any other addiction.

New York Premiere
Written by Danai Gurira
Directed by Liesl Tommy
Featuring Lupita Nyong'o
Now through November 29

Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) comes to The Public in the New York premiere of ECLIPSED the stunning, deeply moving play by award-winning Zimbabwean-American Playwright/Actress, Danai Gurira (co-author of In the Continuum and Michonne on AMC's "The Walking Dead".) 

Amid the chaos of the Liberian Civil War, the captive wives of a rebel officer band together to form a fragile community – until the balance of their lives is upset by the arrival of a new girl. Drawing on reserves of wit and compassion, ECLIPSED reveals distinct women who must discover their own means of survival in this deeply felt portrait of women finding and testing their own strength in a hostile world of horrors not of their own making.

South African born Liesl Tommy (Appropriate and The Public’s The Good Negro) directs this magnificent story of survival and resilience.

World Premiere
Written by Michael John LaChiusa
Directed by Kirsten Sanderson
Now through November 22

Tony Award nominee MICHAEL JOHN LACHIUSA (GiantSee What I Wanna SeeThe Wild Party) imagines the inner lives and dreams of America's best-known daughters with a funny and moving follow-up to his 1993 Public musical First Lady Suite.

A historical fantasia in four-parts, FIRST DAUGHTER SUITE follows Patricia Nixon and daughters Tricia and Julie, Roselyn and Amy Carter, Betty and Susan Ford, Patti Davis and mom Nancy Reagan, and Barbara Bush and daughter-in-law Laura as they strive to live meaningful lives in the public eye, while dealing with the complex private relationships all of us face with our parents and children.

Directed by KIRSTEN SANDERSON (Under My SkinFirst Lady Suite), this wholly captivating new musical with a lush, sweeping score is a deeply felt new work about mothers, daughters and the surprising discoveries we make about one another as we grow.

Initial casting for this world premiere musical includes Rachel Bay JonesTheresa McCarthy, Betsy MorganIsabel SantiagoCarly Tamer,  Mary Testa and Barbara Walsh.

American Premiere

Created by Gob Squad

Now through November 29

UK and Berlin-based Gob Squad’s last show at The Public was an Under The Radar sensation. This season, Gob Squad returns with the ambitious and poignant BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES, created over the course of the past two years with 8-14 year olds from around New York City.  From behind the safety of one-way mirrors, the audience witness seven lives lived in fast forward—from angst-ridden teens to hunched geriatrics. As we adults try to stop the process of aging and preserve youth as long as we can, the children peer into the future and nostalgically back at their recent past, as they prepare to leave childhood behind forever. A must-see experience from this internationally acclaimed theater collective.

The Belgian version of Before Your Very Eyes was produced by CAMPO (Belgium) and premiered in 2012.


Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah
Now through November 22

KWAME KWEI-ARMAH, who directed The Public’s 2013 production of Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit ’67 and the 2013 Mobile Shakespeare Unit’s Much Ado About Nothing, returns this fall to direct THE COMEDY OF ERRORS.  This uproariously funny comedy will tour the five boroughs followed by a limited three-week engagement at The Public as part of The Mobile Shakespeare Unit, which strengthens community engagement with the arts by bringing free, world-class productions of Shakespeare to communities all across New York City.  Mistaken identity leads to delightful mayhem in the Bard’s classic play about two sets of twins separated by stormy seas. When one pair dares to trespass into a foreign city to find the other, the comedy of errors begins and the long-lost brothers must overcome wrongful imprisonment, angry wives and hilarious confusion on their journey to a joyful reunion.



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