Willingham is set to officially join the Public Nov. 28. He succeeds Andrew D. Hamingson, who departed the Tony-winning Off-Broadway institution in early 2011. Former Public Theater executive producer Joey Parnes stepped into Hamingson's role while the Public and its board sought a full-time replacement.
The new executive director won't have far to go – Blue Man Group's New York home since 1991 is the Astor Place Theatre, located just across from the Public on Lafayette Street.
“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," artistic director Oskar Eustis said in a statement. "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."
Willingham added, "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. 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."
During his time with Blue Man Group, Willingham helped the company grow from a downtown New York phenomenon into a worldwide brand. He recently consulted for the Cirque du Soleil partner Cirque Eloize. Prior to his work with Blue Man Group, Willingham worked with Maria di Dia at her firm, Maria Productions, as well as with Jujamcyn Theaters. Visit PublicTheater.