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Shanta Thake and Saheem Ali. (Photos by Gregory Kramer and Simon Luethi)

The Public Names Shanta Thake and Saheem Ali Associate Artistic Directors

Ali and Thake will join Mandy Hackett as part of the restructuring of the Public’s artistic leadership.

NEW YORK CITY: The Public Theater has announced that Saheem Ali and Shanta Thake have been named associate artistic directors as part of the restructuring of the theatre’s leadership team. Ali and Thake will join associate artistic director Mandy Hackett. Each associate artistic director will have their own areas of focus and responsibilities, with Ali serving as resident director, Thake as director of artistic programs, and Hackett as director of Public Theater productions.

“Saheem, Shanta, and Mandy, in their joint capacity as associate artistic directors, will be core to the artistic leadership team,” said artistic director Oskar Eustis in a statement, “and alongside me, they will contribute to and create the overall artistic direction of the Public, in all its manifestations. 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. 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 will start at the Public effective immediately. Most recently, Ali directed the four-part radio drama Richard II.

“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 in a statement. “Having worked at The Public as a freelance director, I’m absolutely thrilled to be calling it my new artistic home. These are turbulent times for our country and our field. We’ve been reminded that the journey towards racial equality is far from over. As a theater 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. I look forward to working with Oskar, Mandy, Shanta, Patrick, and the extraordinary staff of The Public, as we evolve in these challenging times, and strive to continue the exemplary programming synonymous with social engagement and artistic excellence.”

Thake, who was already overseeing all artistic programs, including Joe’s Pub, Mobile Unit, Under the Radar, Public Shakespeare Initiative, Public Works, and Public Forum, will see her role and responsibilities expanded as associate artistic director. Hackett will continue to lead the Public’s commercial efforts from early development through Broadway transfers.

“The Public’s breadth of programming and support of multiple voices telling new American narratives has always been a source of deep inspiration and pride for me personally and professionally—I am so honored to work alongside these amazing artists and colleagues in this complicated, revolutionary time to reflect our changing relationships to our world and each other,” said Thake in a statement.

Saheem Ali has worked as a freelance director on new plays, musicals, and classics. This summer, he conceived for the radio and directed Richard II starring André Holland for the Public, in collaboration with WNYC. Recent productions include Shipwreck (Woolly Mammoth), Fires in The Mirror (Signature Theatre), The Rolling Stone (Lincoln Center Theater), The New Englanders (MTC), and Passage (Soho Rep). His original musical Goddess, with Michael Thurber and Jocelyn Bioh, will receive its world premiere at Berkeley Rep in 2021. Other past productions include Fireflies (Atlantic Theater Company), Dangerous House (Williamstown Theater Festival), Sugar in Our Wounds (MTC), Tartuffe (Playmakers Rep), Where Storms Are Born (WTF), Twelfth Night (The Public Theater Mobile Unit), Kill Move Paradise (National Black Theater), Nollywood Dreams (Cherry Lane), and Dot (Detroit Public Theater). Saheem works extensively on new work and has workshopped plays and musicals at the Public, Playwrights Horizons, the Playwrights Realm, MCC, New Dramatists, O’Neill Musical Theater Conference, New York Stage & Film, Roundabout Underground, Page 73, NAMT, and the Lark. He is a New York Theater Workshop Fellow and Usual Suspect, a Sir John Gielgud SDCF Fellow, and a Shubert Fellow. He holds an MFA from Columbia University.

Shanta Thake oversees the growth and development of the Public Theater’s artistic programs, including Public Works, Mobile Unit, Under the Radar, Joe’s Pub, the Public Shakespeare Initiative and Public Forum.  Previously, she spent 10 years as the director of Joe’s Pub, the intimate cabaret venue which hosts more than 700 shows annually and is consistently hailed as one of New York City’s most prestigious venues for both emerging and established artists. In addition, she is the co-director of GlobalFEST, North America’s world music festival and non-profit organization whose mission is to foster cultural exchange and to increase the presence of world music in diverse communities nationwide, and in this role received the William Dawson award for Programmatic Excellence. She has served as the co-chair for the Association of Performing Arts Professionals conference in 2019 and 2020.  She received a B.A. in theatre as well as a degree in management from Indiana University and currently lives in Brooklyn.

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