Lear deBessonet is the Founder of Public Works and Resident Director at the Public Theater. For Public Works, she has directed pageant-style musical adaptations of The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, and The Odyssey at the Delacorte, each featuring two-hundred New Yorkers from all five boroughs. Now in its sixth year, the Public Works model of ongoing community engagement and participatory theater has spread nationally and internationally to Dallas, Seattle, Detroit, and most recently the National Theater in London.
Her direction has received an Obie Award, Lilly Award, Lortel Award, and a Drama Desk nomination. She most recently directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Shakespeare in the Park; also at the Public Theater: Good Person of Szechwan (featuring Taylor Mac, co-production with The Foundry), Romeo and Juliet, and the musical Miss You Like Hell by Quiara Hudes and Erin McKeown.
Other directing credits include Suzan-Lori Parks’ Venus (Signature Theater), Big River (City Center Encores!), Miss You Like Hell (La Jolla Playhouse), Pump Boys and Dinettes (Encores! Off-Center), Sherie Rene Scott’s Piece of Meat (54 Below), Marcus Gardley’s On the Levee (LCT3), Naomi Iizuka’s The Scarlet Letter (Intiman Theatre), Saint Joan of the Stockyards (PS122), Susan Soon He Stanton’s Takarazuka (Clubbed Thumb), Lucy Thurber’s Monstrosity (13P), When I Was a Ghost (Guthrie Theater), and In the Dark Ages (National Opera Theatre of Kazakhstan).
Her previous large-scale community projects include an original musical adaptation of The Odyssey at the Old Globe in 2011 and Quixote, a collaboration with homeless shelter Broad Street Ministry and the punk gypsy band Psalters in Philadelphia in 2009. For Ten Thousand Things in Minneapolis, she directed productions of As You Like It, My Fair Lady, and The Music Man that toured to prisons, community centers, and homeless shelters. She created and ran the TICKETS FOR THE PEOPLE program in New York, an initiative to distribute tickets to non-traditional theatre-goers including immigrants, students, and seniors.
Recipient of the Doris Duke Impact Award, TCG’s Peter Zeisler Award, LMCC’s Presidential Award for Artistic Excellence, and the Meadow’s Prize. She has been honored as one of Crain’s 40 under 40, Time Out New York’s “25 People to Watch,” and the NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Directors. She has also acted as a visiting professor at NYU-Tisch School of the Arts.
Lear is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.