BTG Client Stories: The Public Theater Finds an Interim CFO

November 4, 2022 Eric Knox

The renowned Public Theater in New York—home to the original productions of Hamilton, A Chorus Line, and Hair—had nearly completed its search for a full-time CFO when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Upon the immediate shutdown of its business operations, the organization determined that moving forward with the position no longer made sense. Facing extraordinary uncertainty and in need of flexible resourcing to fulfill critical finance priorities, The Public Theater’s Executive Director, Patrick Willingham, reached out to Business Talent Group for help.

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick about his experience working with BTG to find an interim CFO for his incredible organization. Watch the video above or read the transcript below to hear Patrick’s story in his own words.


My name is Patrick Willingham, and I’m the Executive Director of The Public Theater.

The Public Theater is theater of, by, and for all people. We have a venue in downtown Manhattan, as well as the beloved Delacorte Theater in Central Park where we produce Shakespeare in the Park for up to a hundred thousand New Yorkers for free every summer. In our downtown theater, we have six different performing spaces where we produce somewhere between 17 and 18 productions each season, as well as Joe’s Pub, which is a beloved cabaret space where we also serve food and drink. And we run a number of programs that are very focused on community engagement: one called Public Works, in which about 200 New Yorkers perform every summer on the stage of the Delacorte Theater in Central Park for all of their fellow New York citizens, and a program called the Mobile Unit, where we actually take works of Shakespeare around throughout the five boroughs of New York City.

Why did you reach out to Business Talent Group?

We reached out to Business Talent Group because, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, The Public was almost immediately subject to a shutdown by state orders and we’ve been closed ever since. We were about to the end of a search for a full-time CFO, and because of the ceasing of all of our business operations, we determined that moving forward with that position didn’t make sense, and instead determined that we would be better served by having a more flexible arrangement.

What were you looking for in an interim CFO?

What we needed from an interim CFO was someone who would be able to come into the organization quickly, understand the financial needs of the organization, be able to speak to and present to our trustees, and help us navigate through a really uncertain time.

We were looking for someone who had deep experience in the not-for-profit space. Also hopefully someone who had some sense of how the performing arts, and particularly theater, worked—as well as a level of sophistication and expertise in terms of the overall finance function.

How did BTG help you find the perfect talent?

The BTG process was amazing. It required very little of my time and attention. After a couple of very brief discussions, we worked together on a job description and posting, and got that immediately posted, and within a couple of weeks had a slew of candidates who were really high quality.

How well did the talent fit your needs?

The talent was really extraordinary. I have to say I had no expectations going in. This is the first time we’ve actually used flexible talent in this way. And so, to get back the level of both experience and the level of skill was really gratifying.

It was very clear that BTG was able to identify, source, and then deliver a candidate who was exactly fitting my needs.

How is your talent engagement going?

The talent engagement is going really, really well. I have to say, I was both excited when this candidate was presented on paper, excited when I had the opportunity to speak with this candidate, and since we’ve been working together for several months, have just been really, really pleased with the skills that he brings to the table, the level of expertise, and truly his ability to very easily slide into the day-to-day functions of my business.

What would you say to others thinking of using on-demand talent?

What I would say to any organization considering using on-demand talent and BTG is that, in these times, having access to the level of talent that BTG can access, as well as the type of flexibility that on-demand talent represents, is absolutely vital.

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