David Rothenberg

Producer, director and author; Founder of the Fortune Society

David Rothenberg’s life has centered on theater, social activism, politics, and a tireless focus on advocating for the lives of those impacted by the criminal justice system. A theatrical producer and director, in 1967, he produced a play in New York City called Fortune and Men’s Eyes that revealed the horrors of life in prison. The audience discussions it generated inspired him to establish The Fortune Society. Over the past 50 years, Fortune has become one of the leading reentry service organizations in the country, serving over 7,000 formerly incarcerated individuals annually and providing a wide range of holistic services to meet their needs. Fortune is also a principal advocate in the fight for criminal justice reform and alternatives to incarceration. In September of 1971, David was one of a small group of courageous civilian monitors brought in to Attica Correctional Facility at the request of the incarcerated individuals who were fighting for their human rights. The Attica Prison uprising was an incident that ended in tragedy, but showed the world the horrors of the criminal justice system in the United States. David is also a former member of the New York City Human Rights Commission and was appointed as Advisory Counsel to the New York State Commission on Human Rights in 1984. He has frequently testified about the criminal justice system before the United States Senate and U.S. House of Representatives and in state and city governing bodies around the nation. With the help of Fortune participants, David created, wrote, and produced the play The Castle, which has been performed Off-Broadway, on college campuses, and in prisons throughout the country. His memoir, Fortune in My Eyes, was published in 2012. Now in his mid-80s, David continues to volunteer at Fortune every week, actively seeking out new ways to highlight the issues and needs of the formerly incarcerated through theater, art, advocacy, conversation, communications, and innovative programming. In the theatre, Rothenberg was associated with some of the most memorable productions of the last half-century, including the original production of “Hair,” John Gielgud’s “The School for Scandal,” Richard Burton’s “Hamlet,” Blue Man Group, “The Boys in the Band,” and a multitude of others. He has hosted a weekly radio show, “Any Saturday,” on WBAI-FM for more than 40 years.