Saheem Ali has joined The Public Theater as an associate artistic director as part of an expanded and restructured artistic leadership team effort. Shanta Thake has also been promoted to the same title after 18 years at the Off-Broadway institution.
The two join Mandy Hackett, who remains in the same role, with all three taking on a specific branch of work within the organization. Ali will doubly serve as resident director, curating, developing, and directing productions. Thake will retain the title of director of artistic programs, overseeing Joe's Pub, Mobile Unit, Under the Radar, and more. Hackett also continues as director of Public Theater productions, leading commercial project efforts from early development to potential Broadway transfers.
“This restructuring celebrates the growth and strength of our artists, diversifies the artistic decision-making authority at The Public, distributes leadership, and opens up our decision making to more voices,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “There is much more work to come, and shortly, but I believe this is an important step in the process of The Public becoming a more progressive, just, and anti-racist institution.”
Ali, who joins effectively immediately, most recently directed the four-part radio play presentation of Richard II. He has also helmed The Public’s Shakespeare in the Park staging of Twelfth Night in 2017 and Lincoln Center Theatre’s The Rolling Stone in 2019, among other projects.
“I’ve been an ardent admirer of The Public since I first immigrated to this country from Kenya, with the dual dream of becoming an artist and an American citizen,” said Ali. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be calling it my new artistic home... As a theatre community, we must continue to ask what we can do better and consider the ways in which we have been inadvertently but effectively complicit in the tenets of white supremacy and anti-Blackness.”
While The Public has been shuttered since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the theatre has continued to adapt to the times by offering streaming productions like The Line and moving forward with its emerging writer development programs. In April, the company furloughed 70 percent of its full-time staff, with senior leadership taking a significant pay cut.