Patrick Willingham to Take Over as Public Theater's Executive Director

By: Nov. 07, 2011
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The Public Theater announced today that Patrick Willingham, former President and Chief Operating Officer of Blue Man Productions, has been appointed the new Executive Director of The Public Theater, beginning November 28, 2011. After a thorough nationwide search, led by Chairman of the Board Warren Spector, Board Member Andi Bernstein, and Albert Hall and Associates, Willingham will join Artistic Director Oskar Eustis in running the award-winning Public Theater. The new partnership will focus on continuing the mission and extensive programming of The Public Theater while strengthening the organization for sustainability and future growth.

Interim Executive Director Joey Parnes, who also served on the search committee and was an important voice in helping to select the new Executive Director, will continue working with The Public on the national tour of HAIR. He will continue independently to produce and manage shows out of his Broadway office.

"This is an exciting time for Patrick Willingham to be joining The Public Theater. We are nearing completion of our $40 million GOING PUBLIC Capital Campaign and will be reopening our historic building in fall 2012," said Chairman of the Board Warren Spector. "Patrick will work alongside Artistic Director Oskar Eustis to continue to make The Public Theater one of the most exciting, important and diverse theaters in the country. The search committee did an extensive search and unanimously chose Patrick for his strong managerial skills, stellar financial background and deep love of the theater. We welcome Patrick back to Lafayette Street and know he will be an invaluable asset to the future of The Public Theater."

"Patrick has the experience, skills, ambition and heart to be a superb Executive Director for The Public. The search to find him was thorough, deep and careful; the man who has emerged from that search is a principled and wise leader. I am delighted Patrick has agreed to join us and look forward to a long and successful partnership," said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. "I also want to add my personal gratitude to Joey Parnes, who agreed to serve as interim Executive Director while we conducted our search and has been a sure and trusted steward of this wonderful ship over the last nine months."

"I am absolutely thrilled to have been selected to be the next Executive Director of an institution that is so vital to the cultural landscape of the city, and indeed the nation. While my journey to The Public may seem like a short walk across Lafayette Street, it is in fact the culmination of 20 years of work as a manager and an executive in the theater, and I am particularly looking forward to returning to my roots in the not-for-profit world in service of the unparalleled mission of The Public Theater," said Patrick Willingham. "Oskar is a true visionary, and I'm excited to partner with him, the Board and The Public's incredible staff to weld that vision to strategies and business practices that will strengthen The Public during its second half century."

The Public Theater opened its 57th season in September with the critically acclaimed Sweet and Sad, written and directed by Richard Nelson, followed by Mike Daisey's The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs that was extended three additional weeks due to strong reviews and audience demand. The downtown season this fall features three Shakespeare plays, Love's Labor's Lost, King Lear and Titus Andronicus, leading up to the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Delacorte Theater in Central Park next summer. Joe's Pub recently reopened in October with a beautiful new renovation and the ability to reserve seats online for the first time. Last month, the Ford Foundation announced a $2 million grant toward the building renovations that will make The Public Theater more accessible, more enjoyable and more relevant to the cultural landscape of the city. The building renovations are scheduled to be completed by summer 2012 with a grand reopening in fall 2012. In the spring, The Public will present two new world premiere musicals, The Total Bent by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, and February House by Gabriel Kahane and Seth Bockley. The Shakespeare in the Park summer season will be announced in early 2012.

PATRICK WILLINGHAM is an Arts and Entertainment Executive with over 20 years of experience in the theatrical industry. For the majority of his career, Willingham partnered with the founders of Blue Man Group to grow the off-Broadway performance art sensation into an international phenomenon. As the President and Chief Operating Officer of Blue Man Productions he drove the significant expansion of the company, leading the senior management team as they grew the company from a single production in New York City to a world-wide enterprise employing over 700 people with eight permanent productions in the US and abroad, multiple touring properties, two albums of recorded music, hundreds of television appearances, and numerous partnerships with major corporations, including Intel and Pepsi. In 2008, he successfully managed the difficult economic downturn to restore the company to fiscal health and expansion. Willingham started his career at Blue Man as the Company Manager of Astor Show Productions in 1994 and was promoted to General Manager of Blue Man Productions in 1996. During his four years as General Manager, he oversaw operations of the New York, Boston and ChicaGo Productions of Blue Man Group as well as the installations of the multi-million dollar Chicago and Las Vegas shows. Prior to that, he worked with the off-Broadway producer and general manager Maria Di Dia at her firm, Maria Productions, as well as with Jujamcyn Theaters, the owners and operators of five Broadway venues. For a brief period in the aughts, he owned a retail-clothing boutique in Brooklyn that was named one of the top 100 Boutiques by Lucky Magazine. Willingham began his career managing costume shops for Players Theatre in Columbus, Ohio and for the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival. Most recently Willingham served as an independent consultant for the Cirque du Soleil partner Cirque Eloize in Montreal, advising them on their efforts to expand into the US commercial theatrical market. He has an MFA in Performing Arts Management from Brooklyn College and a BFA in Theatre Design and Technology from the University of Wyoming.

The Public Theater was founded by Joseph Papp in 1954 and is now one of the nation's preeminent cultural institutions, producing new plays, musicals and productions of classics at its downtown home and at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The Public Theater's mandate to create a theater for all New Yorkers continues to this day on stage and through extensive outreach programs. Each year, more than 250,000 people attend Public Theater-related productions and events at six downtown stages, including Joe's Pub, and Shakespeare in the Park. The Public Theater's productions have won 42 Tony Awards, 158 Obies, 42 Drama Desk Awards and four Pulitzer Prizes. Fifty-four Public Theater Productions have moved to Broadway, including Sticks and Bones; That Championship Season; A Chorus Line; For Colored Girls...; The Pirates of Penzance; The Tempest; Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk; The Ride Down Mt. Morgan; Topdog/Underdog; Take Me Out; Caroline, or Change; Passing Strange; the revival of HAIR; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and The Merchant of Venice.