Thursday, November 29, 2007

Arts Advocacy Update XXI

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv.

After Katrina, Louisiana's Film Industry Flourishes
CNN - Dow Jones, 11/23/2007
"While it isn't exactly pirating away thousands of jobs and making Southern California economists nervous, the boom in Louisiana's film industry is raising hopes it can be a catalyst for recovery from economic devastation wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. According to state officials, Louisiana now ranks behind only California and New York in U.S. film production. It's adding film-related jobs at a rate of 23% a year, the strongest growth rate in the industry throughout the U.S, officials say."
If true, that's a staggering statement: "Louisiana now ranks behind only California and New York in U.S. film production." This strikes me as rather an unreported story (even if it's on CNN Money). The question I have is who -- or what -- is driving this activity? Is it possible that it is now so cheap to work in Louisiana that it has effectively priced every other region out of the market? I am all in favor of anything that prevents so-called runaway production, but I'd also like to know whether this boom in Louisiana is increasing major (i.e. studio) production or more indie work, or both. Both would be very encouraging for writers, it seems to me.

Richard Florida
Globe and Mail (Canada), 11/24/2007
Richard Florida complains that the "most overlooked — but most important" element of his creative class theory "is that every human being is creative. . . . our society continues to encourage the creative talents of a privileged minority. We systematically neglect the creative potential of the 60 to 70 per cent of the population that lies outside a narrow view of the creative class. There are fewer and fewer rewarding jobs for people without college degrees. This amounts to a huge inefficiency in our system for harnessing creative energy and turning it into wealth and productivity capacity. The great challenge of society is to tap the creativity of much larger segments of the work force."
This is a very provocative essay. I would argue that while Florida's point is, well, sort of obvious and certainly unassailable, I don't think that absolutely anybody can be a playwright or director or artist -- at least professionally. I think there have to be standards and practices and qualitative threshholds to be met. That said, I agree that everyone has a creative side and an absolute right to express it -- a need, a desire, an imperative to do so, in fact. I'm copying a little bit of Florida's essay because I think it really should stir up some discussion.

"In North America, people who are employed in fields considered part of the creative class — science, technology, arts, culture, entertainment and professions — account for 35 to 40 per cent of the work force and produce more than half of all wages and salaries. But here's the rub: It's not enough to try to boost this creative economy just by increasing the pool of engineers and scientists, filmmakers, entertainers, media types, financial professionals and scientists.

The most overlooked — but most important — element of my theory and of the creative economy itself is that every human being is creative.

One of the great fallacies of modern times is the idea that creativity is limited to a small group. Most people, the belief goes, don't want to be creative, couldn't do it if asked and would be uncomfortable in an environment where creativity was expected of them.

This is false. Creativity is a virtually limitless resource that defies social status..."

Michael Kaiser And the Quest For a New Global Theater
Washington Post, 11/22/2007
Arts management as cultural diplomacy: Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser "has developed an almost messianic urge to teach the art of arts management to struggling cultural institutions around the globe." He recently traveled to Ramallah to help an ambitious but challenged theater, following a Kennedy Center-sponsored symposium in Cairo last March "at which he presented a workshop to 140 arts administrators from 17 Arab nations."
Headline is a little misleading on this one. Kaiser's work is much-admired in many corners of the globe, and rightly so.

The Nation's Mayors to Join Arts Leaders in New Hampshire During Presidential Candidate Forum
PR Newswire, 11/27/2007
"The United States Conference of Mayors will join Americans for the Arts Action Fund and ArtsVoteNH, an initiative of New Hampshire Citizens for the Arts, in a Presidential Candidate Forum to hear from presidential hopefuls on their support for the arts. With over 85% of people in the United States living in our nation's cities and metro areas, mayors clearly understand how urban issues impact everyday Americans and have included the arts as part of the Conference's 10 Point Plan that will be unveiled during the forum."
So who, other than Mike Huckabee (if he's smart) is going to show up? What is John McCain going to do, talk about how there shouldn't be torture in the arts? (Clearly he's never worked Off-Off-Broadway.) Or maybe Mitt Romney will talk about how he was for the arts before he was against it. Or maybe Ron Paul, who is making me think about giving him money (seriously!) will plead for us to get the arts out of our lives.

Where Are All the Charitable Bequests?
Christian Science Monitor, 11/19/2007
"Americans are very generous in life, with two-thirds giving to charity. But only 8 percent remember charities in their wills. One reason: federal tax cuts."
The moral? Don't drop dead.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nick of Rat Sass Socks it to George Hunka (Who Doesn't Notice, Nick Says, Because George is Busy 'Brownnosing' British and Australian Critics)

Whew, good for you, Nick -- about time someone else called out George Hunka yet again. I'm gonna just sit back and watch the sparks fly -- until I'm ready to comment.

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Yet Another Shameless Plug for Punch 59

Here's the press release:

PUNCH 59 Sketch Comedy presents
The Rev. Bill and Betty Holland’s Interfaith Christmas Show

10:30 p.m.
Thursday, December 6th
Friday, December 7th
Saturday, December 8th

45th Street Theatre
354 W. 45th Street

Tickets $15
No Drink Minimum
Buy tickets at

Punch 59 Sketch Comedy
The music of Sudden Death (Dr. Demento’s Funny #1 of the Year)
Leybia Rodgers (a.k.a. Mindy Raf)

PUNCH 59 SKETCH COMEDY is proud to present Rev. Bill and Betty Holland and their timeless message of intolerance and misunderstanding with an INTERFAITH CHRISTMAS SHOW.

Bill and Betty’s “Interfaith Understandings” give a twisted, satirical, ultra-right-wing take on an array of topics, including Passover (“it seems like the Jews aren’t even trying to be Christian”), Rock 'n' Roll (“Mick Jagger and Satan are Mexicans who have come to steal American jobs”), and Mormons (who are “singlehandedly ruining the American institution of starter wives and trophy wives”).

Rev. Bill and Betty Holland are the creation of PUNCH 59’s founder, Marty Hill, and have been a staple of the sketch comedy troupe since 1995.

Punch 59 and Sudden Death ask that everyone attending the show bring a new, unwrapped toy to benefit the U.S. Marine Corps’ annual “TOYS FOR TOTS” campaign (

Sudden Death is a comedy rap trio from New Jersey and they have twice been Dr. Demento’s “Funny #1” of the year. They are currently the top contender for Dr. Demento's Funny #1 of 2007, with the two most popular comedy hits of the year (“Getting Old Sucks”and “Pillagers #1”).

Leybia Rodgers (a.k.a. Mindy Raf) is glad to be bringing her sexy tofu nipples back to Punch 59! Mindy writes a weekly advice column on and has been featured in the New Yorker.

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New Reviews: The Constant Couple

Here's my New York Press review of The Constant Couple.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Please Watch This Totally Shameless Commercial for Punch 59

My favorite sketch comedy group.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Bull's Eye on the Strike...and a Miss

Jeremy Gerard, whose previous piece on the Broadway strike struck me as petty, has written what I think is the definitive post-mortem on the strike -- assuming there is a post-mortem to be written as of tonight. Read it here. I take back what I wrote before.

Meanwhile, I just read Terry Teachout's think piece on whether, in terms of dollars and cents, Broadway is worth it as compared to 1968 -- in other words, whether we really should give a damn about the strike, or about Broadway and its demanding denizens. I have a few problems with his piece. He pegs his comparison year, 1968, to the year Peter Brook wrote The Empty Space, which is as much a totem for me as I guess it is for Terry.

(As a side note, I'd have preferred Terry focus on the more provocative part of Brook's book, in which Brook said that critics should be "part of the whole, and whether he writes his notices fast or slow, short or long, is not really important. Has he an image of how a theatre could be in his community and is he revising this image around each experience he receives? How many critics see their job this way?....It is for this reason that the more the critic becomes an insider, the better. I see nothing but good in a critic plunging into our lives, meeting actors, talking, discussing, watching, intervening. I would welcome his putting his hands on the medium and attempting to work it himself." This idea, however fraught with contradictions and problems, is my idea of what a critic should be, and how I have tried to conduct my career.)

Anyway, Terry noted that the top ticket price on Broadway in 1968 was $11, or "$64 in today's dollars. Nowadays it will cost you anywhere between $51.50 and $121.50 to see 'Young Frankenstein' --unless you're prepared to fork out $450 for a premium-priced weekend seat." So the point of his essay is to ask whether Broadway is worth roughly twice what it was worth 40 years ago. It's the old "Let's quantify art through economics" trope. I mean, a Picasso that sold for $20 million three years ago just sold for $80 million -- is it really worth four times what it was worth before? Well, a conservative would say yes -- that's what the market would bear. But is the intrinsic value four times than it was before? No, of course not. When you consider the behemoth that is Broadway -- the branding, the history, the marketing -- it's a little too easy to try to boil everything down to 40 years ago versus now. You can pick any date, do all the math, and ask the same question, using a different multiple.

Even in 1968, Terry writes, "the curious, intelligent, nonconforming middle-class New Yorkers celebrated in 'The Empty Stage' could still afford -- just -- to visit Broadway often enough to feel that they were keeping up with American theater. Now they're more likely to go once or twice a year, if that. Broadway is no longer a meaningful part of their cultural lives."

This paragraph implies that Broadway's economics are to blame for people visiting the Great White Way once or twice a year. What Terry leaves out, conveniently, is that there are millions more people visiting Broadway than were sitting in those seats 40 years ago (and there were more theatres then). And speaking of the Great White Way, it is also important to note that it is less white (if less great) than it was 40 years ago as well. Indeed, if Broadway's demographics have a long way to go before we can consider attendance representative of the nation's citizens, I see no evidence that theatregoing habits have changed drastically since 1968. Certainly there are more options on the cultural palate. But it's hard for me to see how the numbers are alone to blame for shifting cultural tides.

I'm glad Terry wrote the piece. It should stir conversation. These are very large sociological issues we're dealing with. And with the strike perhaps ending tonight, it's worth asking whether ticket prices are going to come down. We all know the answer to that.

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A Call from Kings County

Still hearing the siren song of Brooklyn ringing through your head? Oh, how Oedipal.

Well, if you are, it's still not too late to take advantage of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's announcement of an open call to cultural organizations that are interested in finding a real, live, permanent home in the up-and-coming BAM Cultural District.

The deadline for all inquiries regarding projects for consideration is 5 pm on Friday, Dec. 14.

For information and guidelines, visit

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Arts Advocacy Update XX

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv.

Expert: Md. Tourism Looks Solid for Next Year
WTOP (Washington, DC), 11/20/2007
"While some indicators show that the national economy could slide into a recession sometime next year," Maryland's tourism industry should remain solid in 2008, -- thanks in part to arts tourism, says one expert. Between August 2005 and August 2006, "[o]ne of the strongest areas of growth for the state was in arts tourism." According to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, "more than 13 million people attended arts events in Maryland in 2006, generating over $1 billion in economic impact, up from $970 million the previous year. . . . Arts tourism generated an estimated $37.3 million in state and local taxes, up from $35 million."
Hoping some of that is going to the Maryland Shakespeare Festival, run by my dear friend Becky Kemper.

Art & Innovation: An Evolutionary Economic View of the Creative Industries
Unesco Observatory, The University of Melbourne Refereed E-Journal, 2007
"This paper explores the economic and cultural contribution of the arts and its effect on economic growth and evolution. The crucial connection is supplied by an innovation systems perspective on the creative industries. In this view, the creative industries contribute not just to value-added and jobs, but more importantly, to the evolutionary process by which economic systems grow. This paper thus offers a new view of the economics of the arts and creative industries re-conceptualised as part of the innovation system of an evolving economic order. Analytic and policy implications are then outlined in terms of an evolutionary approach to the economics of the arts."
Heady stuff, but interesting reading if you're into economic theory. For example:

I shall seek to explain in this paper how arts, education and cultural researchers may benefit by closer engagement with the analysis of economic dynamics (as open system processes of change and re-coordination) than by continuing with increasingly futile attempts to defend (static) cultural value against (equally static) economic value. The value of the arts and culture are dynamic. By connecting with the evolutionary framework of economic dynamics, and specifically the creative systems model, a more coherent, interesting and possibly even more powerful analytic framework for arts and humanities research may result.

Artist Colonies, `Heat Shield' From Critics, May Get U.S. Funds
Bloomberg News, 11/19/2007
"Twelve years after Congress ended most funding to individual artists, the National Endowment for the Arts may reopen the flow of money to poets, musicians, writers and painters through artist colonies. The NEA, which is in line for a budget increase of as much as 28 percent next year, plans to direct some of the additional money to the hundreds of U.S. colonies and communities that provide artists with residencies, funding and, above all, creative freedom."
Very exciting, I think. Read the story for the specifics.

Arts groups get $6-million boost
Detroit Free Press, 11/14/2007
"These are tough times for local arts institutions. Corporate, individual and state funding is down, deficits are up, competition for dollars is fierce and Michigan's stubborn economy isn't showing much sign of improvement. That's why metro Detroit arts groups are greeting the Kresge Foundation of Troy's $6 million in new grants like drought-stricken farmers welcoming a rain storm. The grants, which go to 53 nonprofit organizations in southeast Michigan, underscore the increasing importance of philanthropic foundations in the local fund-raising ecosystem for arts."
I pray people don't get shot on their way to the gallery, though. Yikes.

Small Companies Put Charity Into Their Business Plan
Wall Street Journal, 11/20/2007
"Large companies -- and entrepreneurs -- often make philanthropy part of the company once they have become successful. But it is rarer for owners of small businesses to build a company with a philanthropic bent right from the start -- when resources are scant and each move made is supposed to assure that the bottom line grows. While such a mission adds to the financial burden many start-ups often face, in the long run it may help the company's bottom line more than it hurts."
Would love to see someone develop of list of companies in New York that would fit this bill.

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

From Local One

Just received this from the spokesperson for Local One. Any thoughts?

Dear Brothers and Sisters of Actors Equity and all the people of Broadway:

"Either we all hang together, or we will most certainly hang separately." said Benjamin Franklin.

As the work stoppage on Broadway makes headlines around the world, we must note that the whole world is watching. The League of American Theatres and Producers, now known to the media for their great communications inaccuracies, has sent one more letter around the Rialto designed to divide and conquer us.

Local One deplores the vain attempt to splinter the unions, especially the recent one directed at Actors Equity, the first and foremost union of performers in America. The first strike on Broadway for fair wages and benefits was by actors demanding equity. The current strike on Broadway continues in that tradition.

The League's intention in driving Local One to the picket line is not about art, but money. Less for us is more for them. A few years ago they stood ready to replace musicians with canned music. If they can chalk up a win against Local One, the next people in the producers' gun sight will be actors. Then they'll pick off the other unions one by one.

The eloquent and elegant words of Actors Equity's new executive director are still echoing throughout the canyons of the Great White Way. All of Broadway stood up to cheer John Connolly. All working people who heard his oration knows he speaks for them.

Local One truly appreciates the support that all our brothers and sisters working on Broadway have shown for us in this difficult time. Our membership deeply regrets the hardships you are enduring.

The talents of stagehands differ from that of actors, musicians, press agents, designers or make-up artists. But it is the merging of all of our many talents, skills and craftsmanship that makes the magic of Broadway. Front of house, back of house or back office, we are all Broadway, and that is what brings us together.

This fight, with Local One now at the fore and Actors Equity and other unions honoring our picket lines and joining us out in the cold, will long be remembered - not just for how we all suffered, not for what we won and lost, preserved and discarded, but for the unity we showed.

The firmer we stand together now to defend one union's wages, benefits, jobs and jurisdiction, the more the league will respect each union when its turn is taken at the negotiating table. The League only respects power, strength, force and, above all, solidarity. After all, it is The League's hope to hang us all separately.

If there is anything that all of us can agree on, it is the imperative for both sides to meet and negotiate a fair and equitable contract and return the magic to Broadway.

In Solidarity,

Your Brothers and Sisters of Local One, IATSE

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

News from the League of Independent Theater

John Clancy, on his blog, put up the latest version of the Statement of Purpose for the League of Independent Theater. Do send any comments to me so I can pass them along.

The League of Independent Theater (LIT) is the association of theater professionals working in New York City theaters of up to 99 seats. LIT's mission is to organize and protect its members to ensure that independent theater is economically viable for all of its practitioners. We will advocate on behalf of the decades-old tradition of off-off Broadway theater to ensure that it remains, and grows, as a thriving artistic and economic sector in New York City.

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New Review: Make Me a Song

In the New York Press. Enjoy.

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The Lynching of Charles Isherwood

Jason Grote, who I recently assigned to be profiled in the pages of Back Stage, has posted a piece called "Bring Me the Head of Charles Isherwood. Or Not."

And I must say that I really like Jason's take on the fracas because it aims to put the whole thing into some sort of respectable and intelligent macro-perspective. To wit:
"I'm a bit late on the Baitz essay, but (despite the fact that a half a dozen people emailed it to me), I didn't feel compelled to comment, because (with all due respect to Baitz), he seems to be missing the point. Maybe he's too nice. What really offended me about the Isherwood piece in question (that is, his plea for TV writers to return to the stage), is not that Isherwood's own fire-breathing criticism makes him something of a hypocrite (though it does); but that playwrights who are writing television scripts for the stage should be in Hollywood making money and not writing plays because TV on stage is fucking boring. Now, I love a lot of TV, and clearly not every writer who pays the bills with TV writing is a hack. But why on earth would I pay anywhere between $20-$200 and drag my ass into midtown to see something I could get at home for free? When theater starts competing with television, it's already lost...."
Jason goes to talk about why he trashes NYT's theatre criticism and culture coverage on his blogs, but I would argue that he, along with Isaac (in his open letter to the Times) and even Matt Freeman, both of whom I greatly like and respect, nevertheless aren't taking much in the way of action to force NYT to make whatever changes -- not fully and specifically articulated, in my view -- they desire.

Everybody seems to be interested in posting 100 sentences about theatre and 20 rules for writing about plays and 100 this and 100 that. How about somebody post 100 ways to improve theatre coverage in New York? How about somebody post 100 reasons why Isherwood and/or Brantley should be let go immediately? How about somebody post 100 other people that could replace them? How about somebody, somewhere, stop the whiny-bitchy-moaning and be fully specific about how to ameliorate the situation and end the immature lynching Charles Friggin' Isherwood? The more you mock him, the more you rake him over the coals, the more you call him names, the more you assail his character, the more you write open letters to the Times that you know full well they're not going to read because they lack any teeth, the more you ascribe power to the Times -- the more that you give the Times precisely what it wants. How about getting some journalists in on the gig? How about putting your money where your mouths are? Jason Grote had the strength of character to create and circulate a petition against New York Theatre Workshop, signed by 939 people, when the workshop did that horrid job of explaining why Rachel Corrie was being postponed-slash-cancelled. Why not make it clear that Times advertisers will be boycotted if this and this and this and this isn't changed immediately? Why not take some kind of really serious action against the Times if you don't like what Isherwood is doing? Do you really believe a blog will affect change? If so, show me how it's happening. I don't think so -- I don't think the Times considers these blogs all that important.
And why does everybody continue to act like Isherwood is some wild renegade who writes whatever he wants without his editors, Rick Lyman and Sam Sifton and who knows who else, knowing anything about it? Are you all suggesting they're not complicit in this mediocrity, if you believe he's vile and vicious and mediocre?

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STRIKE, strike, strike, strike, STRIKE, strike, strike, strike... II

Meanwhile, you can tell something about the biases of journalists on the strike by looking at headlines and ledes.

In Philip Boroff's piece on, Stagehand Strike Creates 'Image Problem,' Costs N.Y. Millions, the headline alone goes about creating that "image problem" and then the story, if you read it closely, doesn't prove that there is an "image problem" so much as manufacture the crisis that it implies. Although it's very interesting that the League, according to Boroff, can't seem to get clear about just what, in its opinion, the economic impact of the strike really is. Charlotte St. Martin, taking a much-deserved break from sucking the blood of her victims, says the impact is $17 million, a number widely disputed by, among others, Karen Hauser, who heads up the League's own research division.

By contrast, Gordon Cox's piece in Variety, Bullets over Broadway: Factions' frictions cause rift in union leadership, strikes me (pardon the pun) as much more even-handed -- good, straightforward reporting.

Meanwhile, back at, Jeremy Gerard has posted a piece, Broadway in Lockstep as Strike Rains on Parade, that doesn't even try to report -- it just opines. For example:

That the two sides aren't even meeting until Sunday -- and then just maybe -- is simply outrageous.

The contract between the League of American Theatres and Producers and Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees expired July 31, but management refused to begin negotiations until the end of the summer. Why? The producers and theater owners also made a big show of announcing a year ago that they were putting aside money from every ticket sold to amass a war chest -- $20 million -- in the event of a strike. They were loaded for bear.

Local One is, literally and figuratively, the muscle behind Broadway. Stagehands install shows in theaters, run them until closing and then strike them to make way for the next show. As shows have become more technologically advanced, the most ambitious stagehands take courses to keep up, and the shows can't run without them.

Is there fat in their contract? You bet. Do they all earn $125,000 a year or more? Some do, most don't make much more than half that."

So, if most don't make much more than $62,500 a year, how is that fat, Jeremy? And what's wrong with anyone making $125,000 a year anyway? What the hell do you make? If $62,500 is fat, you better start sweating to the oldies.

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STRIKE, strike, strike, strike, STRIKE, strike, strike, strike... I

There's way too much going on with this strike, I don't even know where to begin. Y'all probably know that a judge is forcing the Jujamcyns to reopen the Grinch -- how strange that the local and the producers had to go to court to have the theatre owner unlock the house...sigh. This is, I hear, going to be even more bitter before this is over.

While it's true that my default emotional reaction is anti-management as I think management is inherently abusive, I think both sides have much to be ashamed of.

This post will deal strictly with an email I got the other day from Bruce Cohen, who represents the striking local. It pertains to the average salary a member of the local makes -- and how the League has gone out of its way, like the Bush Administration in the run-up to the murder of the nation's treasure, to distort and outright lie -- that is, if we can prove that the local's viewpoint is unassailable.

Anyway, Boris Kachka of New York Magazine did this side by side comparison, which I think should be required reading. Who do you believe?

And Bruce also suggested that everyone take a look at this Newsday article from November 17. Like I said, who do you believe?

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

New Podcast

I did another podcast for Martin and Rochelle -- fabulous experience as always.

I guess I should also take this opportunity to reveal that as of January I will be hosting a regular monthly podcast for them. Look for more on that in the next few weeks.

This latest podcast goes north -- to Westchester. The panel included Jack W. Batman and Bruce Harris of the White Plains Performing Arts Center, and Bill Stutler of Westchester Broadway Theatre.

Here's a little FYI on these two groups, courtesy of nytheatrecast's blog:

"White Plains Perfoming Arts Center offers a diverse array of programming aimed at many age groups, tastes, and personalities. Their Broadway Classics series will kick off on November 29th with a new production of Man of la Mancha starring Robert Cuccioli."

"Westchester Broadway Theatre is a dinner theatre offering revivals (and, occasionally) new productions of classic musicals. Their current season includes the Maury Yeston Phantom, along with A Christmas Carol, Buddy, and Beauty and the Beast.

"Our guests point out that Westchester’s theatre scene is booming. The theatres are within an hour of downtown Manhattan and both companies often feature Broadway-caliber talent.

Here's a link to the podcast.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Culture Project's "A Question of Impeachment," Article I

Isaac Butler of Parabasis asked me to be one of the bloggers covering the Culture Project’s A Question of Impeachment: The People’s Hearings, which began in earnest last night with the formal consideration of the first of five articles of impeachment imagined against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. This is altogether ironic for me, having spent this graduate-school semester neck-high in the whys and wherefores of documentary theatre, and having recently completed a paper outlining the history of critics’ attitudes toward documentary theatre that my professor, as well as certain other academics, have asked me to consider publishing.

As a general thought, it seemed to me that the Culture Project envisions A Question of Impeachment as a hybrid of documentary theatre and a political rally, the result being a kind of socio-political catharsis. I am sure not to win any friends or influence any enemies as I write this, but the “performance” struck me as eerily redolent of Orwell’s 1984—the scene in which the mentally-blinkered masses attend a movie expressly designed to arouse and subsequently dispel any individual thought or emotion so as to more efficiently align with the groupthink and commandments of Big Brother.

For the record, I’m a liberal. However, I’ve always had the sinking feeling that quality New York liberalism has a worrisome strain of a groupthink about it; what I witnessed was a collective intellectual orgasm not entirely dissimilar to the one Orwell imagined.

I don’t know the names of the man and woman who sat beside me, although I must confess I was amused as two different individuals claimed the woman’s seat as their own. What I do know is that when the woman turned to me as the lights dimmed and said, “Well, I guess everyone knows that they’re preaching to the converted,” she was largely on the mark.

It makes sense to tease apart the event into two elements—the performative and the political. Not that the twain never meet: the structure of A Question of Impeachment, which will be broken out in Sunday and Monday night events through December 16 (there are five articles of impeachment in all), implies a co-existence, if not co-dependency, between the two. One prime example: Elizabeth de la Vega, a former 20-year federal prosecutor and author of United States V. George W. Bush et al. who “performed” a mock deposition of last night’s three special guests.

First, however, came an arrangement of actors (Willie Garson, Nana Mensah, Chris McKinney, Scott Cohen, etc.) reading through a colossal aggregation of primary source material on the etymology, history, rationale and evolution of impeachment. This was documentary theatre at its very purest even as it offered no plot, arc, or discernable characters, unless you consider the honorable, Enlightenment-era perorations of the Founding Fathers to be strutting and fretting like anthropomorphic characters across a metaphorical stage.

All of this, I thought, represented a didactic—though not uninteresting—effort to accustom the audience to the idea of political investigation as a way to enrich, purify and restore the nation's sullied, demoralized soul. It proved that didacticism sometimes has benefits: I was unfamiliar with the 14th century roots of impeachment, and it occurred to me there would have been a bit of spectacular theatre had someone mentioned that habeus corpus, the writ so despised by the Bush administration, is also a creation of the 14th century (at the least).

This first, very long scene was a dramatic build-up to something, although I couldn't and still can't say what. It was stirring, to be sure, as the actors quoted thinkers and statesmen whose words shimmered across the centuries: James Madison's debate at the Federal Convention of 1787; Jefferson’s policy statement against the Alien and Sedition Acts; Edmund Burke’s “Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents” from 1770; a liberal quote from Elizabeth Holtzman’s essay, “The Impeachment of George W. Bush,” published in the January 2006 issue of The Nation.

There was yet another Madison quote: “War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes…,” and then there was this fine editorial from 1918 in the Kansas City Star, penned by Theodore Roosevelt:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”
(I remember when the Republicans, their faces in mournful mien, mean-spiritedly hauled out this quote during the impeachment of President Clinton. How delightful to see it re-employed for more, um, unimpeachable use.)

Overall, however, it seemed that the motive of actor-writer Darrell Larson, who compiled this mountain of monologues, wasn't clear. I do think he was employing a dollop of psychology: first demythologize the notion of impeachment, then launch upon the audience such an onslaught of verbal and physical evidence against Bush and Cheney so as to legally (and theatrically) justify the deposition that de la Vega would later undertake—that is, to legally (and theatrically) justify A Question of Impeachment as a performative exercise. As fascinating as all the quotes were, I soon began to experience labor pains. By what process does a theatre-maker decide that 15 quotes are enough to make the point, and not 30 or 50 or 70? It occurred to me that this is not unlike a prosecuting attorney who must decide whether 30 or 50 or 70 witnesses will be enough to prove his case, or a defense attorney who must guess whether 30 or 50 or 70 experts will exonerate a client.

The comment from the woman beside me ran over and over in my head: Was anyone in the audience not sure that by impeaching Bush and Cheney we could remedy our current political crisis?

As I was given my program, an usher also handed me a flyer—on paper so orange it seemed to radiate fire. On it, the face of George W. Bush was overlaid on a mushroom cloud. The proud handiwork of, the most significant copy on the flyer is meant to instill Bush-style terror, which struck me as woefully sad and ironic, if perhaps necessary in this mindless era. In the context of A Question of Impeachment, it’s a message designed to relegate any qualms about impeaching Bush and Cheney to the psychological slush pile:

“The Bush regime ‘has drawn up plans for massive air-strikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days,” according to The Times of London, September 2, 2007. Bush himself is intensifying rhetoric accusing Iran of nuclear capability, and refusing himself to take the ‘nuclear option’ ‘off the table’ from the Pentagon’s Iran attack plans.”
Meanwhile, the recitation of primary sources chugged on. There was Robert Byrd’s quote from March 20, 2003 on Operation Iraqi Freedom, “I weep for my country,” which generated grim faces and a smattering of applause from more than a few solemn and nodding heads. There was a 1974 voiceover of Representative Barbara Jordan, who reminded everyone of a time when a firebrand, in a lather over President Nixon's high crimes and misdemeanors, could still be found among the rational men and women of the Lone Star State:

“Today, I am an inquisitor; I believe hyperbole would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution. If the impeachment provision in the Constitution of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here, then perhaps that eighteenth century Constitution should be abandoned to a twentieth century paper shredder.”
And then there was Whit Whitman: “To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist much, obey little, Once unquestioned obedience, once fully enslaved, Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty.”

And then there was Studs Terkel, writing an op-ed in the October 26, 2007 edition of The New York Times: “Given the facts and an opportunity to act, the body politic generally does the right thing. By revealing the truth in a public forum, the American people will have the facts to play their historic role in putting our nation back on the path toward freedom.”

It was a rhetorical rally for the righteous and wronged.

It was also full of deliberate theatrical moments—clarifying bits of political vaudeville designed to dovetail with the steadily building thrum of hate for Bush and the neocons. There was Donald Rumsfeld’s “Go massive” quote, uttered in the aftermath of Sept. 11, offered by one actor with just enough of the SecDef’s too-precise diction to evince subtle jeers and peevish whispers from the rapt and agitating crowd. There was Colin Powell’s phrase “sinister nexus,” originally used to implicate the now-discredited alliance between Iraq and al-Qaeda, offered by another actor with the right musky vocal resonance for which the general is renowned. It was a drip, drip, drip from the condemnable, the damnable: Dick Cheney claiming from the side of his sclerotic mouth that our troops would be “greeted as liberators”; President Bush's fratboy twang.

Yes, I was rapidly becoming swept up in the gush, thrush, crush of emotion. I was hungry to see the neocons banished to the moon of a dark and forgettable planet, a sunless orb where methane from the windbag politics of this tortured new millennium could pollute some other atmosphere.

But if A Question of Impeachment had the potential of an Orwellian orgasm, I wonder whether everybody actually came. After we heard all that documentation, Lewis Lapham came to the stage, where he sat in a chair and read aloud what for all the world seemed an indictment. Now the show was a word monsoon—to such a degree that I actually can’t remember whether anyone actually read out loud the most important document of all: the first imagined article of impeachment. Here it is:

George W. Bush's and Richard Cheney's initiation and continuation of the Iraq war constitutes a high crime and misdemeanor. In undertaking that aggressive war, George W. Bush and Richard Cheney have subverted the Constitution, its guarantee of a republican form of government and the constitutional separation of powers by undermining the rightful authority of Congress to declare war, oversee foreign affairs and make appropriations. They did so by justifying the war with false and misleading statements and deceived the people of the United States as well as Congress. They committed fraud against the United States by lying to and intentionally misleading Congress about the reasons for the Iraq war. George W. Bush and Richard Cheney acted contrary to their trust as president and vice president and subverted the constitutional government to the prejudice of law and justice and manifest inquiry of the people of the United States. Wherefore George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, by such conduct, warrant impeachment, trial and removal from office.
Now de la Vega—who is very much a class act—got underway. It still seemed to me that this was neither a mock debate in the U.S. House of Representatives, which in the real world would have to sign off on any articles of impeachment for a trial to occur, nor a mock trial in the U.S. Senate, where the fate of Bush and Cheney would actually take place. Indeed, it seemed a given, a fact indisputable and foregone, that Bush and Cheney would be impeached and convicted if the House would only take up the cause, if the Senate majority would exercise its power and prerogatives. There was a feeling I had, a kind of unspoken understanding between those on the stage and those in their seats, that the event was a kangaroo court, a third-world, democracy-mocking injustice system that Americans were once trained in their civics classes to disdain.
All that documentation read out loud; all that history, ancient and modern, designed to firm up the moral underpinnings of this mock-impeachment adventure; all the unfettered fury of men and women eager to channel their unrest and their uncertainty—somehow it seemed silly to me that no one on stage was there to counterbalance de la Vega’s expert questioning. Not because I wouldn't want Bush or Cheney impeached, tried, and convicted, but because I want them to be —the American way, the checks-and-balances way, the fair way, the true way, the right way. That is, the Constitutional way. A Question of Impeachment is a question of verasimilitude.

Up came Larry Everest, distinguished writer, journalist and author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, to take a perfectly timed swing at de la Vega’s softballs and, using his knowledge of petro-politics, quickly launch the ball for impeachment right out of the park. Everest’s explanation of the Project for a New American Century figured in perfectly here; I was also gunning for a mention of the Bilderberg Group, which I think is more insidiously evil.

Up came Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who once mixed it up with Donald Rumsfeld on television, asked by de la Vega to “tell us what you can without having to kill us.” With calm and meticulousness, McGovern dissected the worst lies of the Bush administration as it went about selling the American people on the Iraq war. McGovern—who once headed the team preparing the President’s Daily Brief (under Nixon, Ford and Reagan)—was the most compelling witness: His soft-spoken voice and word choice (despite a script outline set down before him) had none of the hyperbolic tone of the documentary-theatre portion of the night.

When de la Vega brought out an aluminum tube from under McGovern’s seat, the sheer size of the prop—how they went about showing how it couldn't be used for a centrifuge—catapulted the moment into patriotic farce: Harpo Marx would have grabbed the tube, stormed into the aisles, pretended to whack everyone over the head and made a run for it, a cacophony of honks behind him. Here, the atmosphere was somber. This wasn't Harpo Marx but rather Sammy "The Bull" Gravano ratting on John Gotti.

Up came Col. (Ret.) Ann Wright, who served 29 years in the U.S. Army and who resigned her diplomatic posting to Afghanistan after Bush began to divert funds—some $700 million, she said—to Iraq before the war. Her firsthand knowledge of U.S. diplomacy (she served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia) was stunning. Frankly, though, everyone was getting weary. It was two hours and ten minutes into the event and the audience was beginning to vote by shuffling its feet.

I didn’t stay for the panel discussion held following intermission, where I’m sure the rhetoric was highly charged, negative and positive.

I do understand that this was a political inquest, a legal fantasia for the purpose of re-activating already-active political fighters. But the Culture Project, in my view, has a responsibility to set a higher bar. Let them provide mythical Bush and mythical Cheney a mythical defense to let a mythical jury (the very real audience) arrive at mythical conclusions. Each side's arguments can be strong and must be unafraid; evidence must be unquestionably germane. Let the case not be a slam dunk. Let its results not be a fait accompli. Without true suspense, this is not theatre.

“Well, I guess everyone knows that they’re preaching to the converted” said that prescient woman to my left. How much more dramatic would things have been had that woman been mistaken?

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Broadway Talks Off; or How Charlotte St. Martin Mourns the Death of a Stagehand

Talks between the producers and the stagehands have broken off. Here's how Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the League of American Theatres and Producers, is expressing her sorrow over the untimely, unfortunate death of a striking stagehand on Friday.

Yes, Virginia, it would have nice for Ms. St. Martin to have issued a public declaration of sorrow over the death of Frank Lavaia, but maybe she's too busy quenching her thirst for union blood.

Meanwhile, I just got an emailed press release from the publicist for Local One. It reads:

NEW YORK, November 18 - Talks between Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the League of American Theatres and Producers broke off late this even (Sunday, November 18).

Just before the talks broke off, the producers informed Local One that what Local One had offered was simply not enough. The producers then walked out.

Local One will have no further comment.

For 121 years, Local One <> has been the premiere stagehand union of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. The union represents 3,000 property persons, stage and studio electricians, set carpenters, sound designers, audio technicians, moving-light operators, riggers and special effects people in New York. For a history of Local One, click

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An Announcement

Americans for the Arts has taken notice of my weekly "Arts Advocacy Update" feature and we have agreed to mutually promote each other's blogs and updates.

So please look for the logo every week -- and please be sure to sign up for the Cultural Policy Listserv. It's been my lifeline and a fabulous free service.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jon Robin Baitz -- "JRB" -- Responds

What Mr. Baitz is doing home on a Saturday night, I don't know. Me, I'm getting over a cold and waiting for Ken to get home from Mexico. Flight delays, yadda yadda. Cognac helps cold. Mmm, me like-ee.

Anyway, to my shock, Mr. Baitz posted a response to my post inspired by Moxie's response to Rebeck's response to Baitz's response to Isherwood's story. So now, in the spirit of high-octane Ionesco, I am responding to Baitz's response to my response to Moxie's response to Rebeck's response to Baitz's response to Isherwood's story.

In the spirit of fairness, the response was posted anonymously. But at the end of the post, the person wrote "JRB," so I'm making a big scary leap here and assuming it was him. Of course, now I have a dilemma: do I write a mash note or mash his notes? Here goes:

Jon Robin Baitz writes:

"I remember Walter Kerr rather well, and you, sir, are the prisoner of a verbal machine. I would have thought we were "on the same side", which actually, we are -- you just don't realize it. And you seem to have given a lot of thought to this, which perhaps is flattering, but reveals a slew of predjudices mingled with..oh never mind. But go ahead and talk about 13 year old profiles -my point to Isherwood was simply that as smart as he is, there is a measure of venom which seems to me somewhat -- well - I shrug about it. Anyway, it was the timing of his piece also, and his apparent lack of understanding about the results of the WGA strike on many struggling writers. I know it's useless to respond to these things, but exactly what is it about reminding a critic from the paper of record to be mindful is offensive to you? It seems churlish . And again -- I would ask you to identify exactly where I claim to be one of the Times "victims"????I make no such claim. I am all for being slammed, but at least slam me for what I do write. As for Rich, he championed a lot of people, and he was cruel too. But I never had the sense that he was enduring a tenure as critic -- that's my point. Wow. JRB"
And you, sir, are a victim of your own…oh never mind, indeed. Look, please understand that someone might not reflexively agree with you, or agree with certain specific things you wrote or approaches you took or analyses you presented. And that verbal machine you refer to me being trapped inside—I mean, isn't that rather R.U.R. of you?—is cranked up because your own verbal machinery looped around a bit in your Huffington Post huff-and-puff; you yourself admitted you shouldn't have taken that swipe at Will Eno, for heaven's sake.

And yes, I will absolutely talk about 13-year-old profiles because you know perfectly well, Mr. Baitz, what an important moment that was to gay people, including yours very truly. You know perfectly well how everybody woke up and couldn’t believe the Times had at last done a lifestyle piece of substance on a prominent gay couple. Whatever you might think of that piece today, it was a direct, unmistakable signal of hope for many of us back in that weird, conservative-ascendent 1994 landscape; it was proof that the potential of public societal recognition existed for all of the rest of us. And you know perfectly well what that seal of approval, or endorsement, or whatever you’d want to call it, meant to your career as a result of being in the Times. When you attack the Times institutionally, therefore—and hey, who doesn’t, it’s the blogosphere’s blood sport—it’s really a little disingenuous on your part. That is, unless you're suggesting that the piece did not benefit you or your career at all or, in fact, injured it in some way, which I think most people would find hard to believe. In your response to my post, you wrote “But go ahead and talk about 13-year-old profiles” because what I wrote clearly stung. Sorry. But that wasn't a run-of-the-mill profile and you know it. So the Times has been good to you. That doesn't mean do a dance of hagiography, but it just seems to me that for people at your stage of the career game, things do tend to cut both ways when convenient.

Anyway, is Isherwood’s venom any more poisonous than that of anyone else at the Times? Do you honestly believe that a Brantley pan is less withering? Really? I mean, does the fact that John Simon was finally knocked down a few pegs and booted from New York magazine at all mitigate the fact that he was, and may forever be, the most poisonous snake of them all? Or are we back to the omnipotence of the Times again? (More on that anon.)

Yes, the timing of Isherwood’s piece was, shall we say, unfortunate, but are you suggesting he’s some renegade writer that the Times just publishes without second thought, without editorial oversight? Either way, here enters your criticism of the Times institutionally: if Isherwood's editors knew nothing of the piece, that's institutional neglect; if Isherwood's editors felt it was a good, strong, smart, timely piece for him to pen, I can see why that, too, might upset you. But then you’ve really got to hurl invective at the Times institutionally, and with more specificity and precision, not as a mere afterthought at the bottom of a rant-slash-essay.

I find nothing offensive about cautioning Isherwood to be mindful. What I find offensive -- more like sad -- is how you blithely dismiss all the other critics in New York City (of which I am one, but no one cares about that) as if their voices mean nothing, add nothing, do nothing. That’s old school thinking, and I’ll go to the mat on that one because, sir, the scene is fast changing -- and it has been changing for a long time. I won't blather on about this again because I did so in my earlier post. But that's what I believe. I think it's provable statistically, and I think it's being proved every day in the...ugh, awful word...zeitgeist.

Moreover, by dint of writing what you wrote, by dint of hurling curare-tipped arrows where you did, are you not conferring that power to the Times?

Moving on. You write,
“I would ask you to identify exactly where I claim to be one of the Times ‘victims’???? I make no such claim. I am all for being slammed, but at least slam me for what I do write,"

but this confuses me. Unless you're not an American playwright (I'm not referring to your birthplace), when you mention the struggle of American playwrights “against aging and monochromatic audiences, subscribers who arrive bleary and distracted, and jaded New Yorkers,” I assumed you would include yourself among the list of dramatists who must rally against such distressing demographic disasters. Yes, you do refer to the plight of the “serious young playwright,” but surely you’re not exempt from those same concerns, or are you?

You noted you “went to do my TV show so as to never have to worry about that problem” -- the problem being that Isherwood, et. al., needlessly complicate “the already tendentious struggle that playwrights face in trying to make a life in the theater." Surely we must believe, then, that you, too, have been victimized (strong word) by the Times' tyranny, or at least the icicles of Isherwood, as you see it.

At the end of the day, Mr. Baitz, I do realize that we largely agree. Indeed, I noted at the top of my post that I had been debating what to write in response to your Huffington huff-and-puff, if anything. You know, it also occurs to me that most New York playwrights, critics and writers aren’t exactly afforded the opportunities to contribute to venues such as the Huffington Post anyway, so perhaps that is where some of the “slew of prejudices” you smell are coming from. I'd be more inclined, however, not to call it a slew. It's more like a drip.

To cut to the chase: you’re Jon Robin Baitz. You knew full well that writing that post would get you attention, which it did; you knew full well that it would start dialogues and discussions and debates; artists of your provenance, recognition and acclaim ought to be doing such things. But then you have to be able to handle it when someone argues slightly different positions, and, as you noted, takes the time to sharpen the arguments. You’re flattered that I wrote my essay. To be honest, I’m flattered you responded to my post. Assuming you don't think I'm the enemy, I'd like someday to shake your hand.

With respect (for own commonalities and differences), LJ

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Will the League of American Theatres and Producers Mourn the Death of a Stagehand at "The Lion King"?

Last paragraph, please read.
This is also on WABC-TV.

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Moxie the Maven Gets it Right and Wrong (and Right?)

I've been debating what to do about Jon Robin Baitz's obnoxious Huffington Post piece about writing for TV and film vs. suffering under the tyranny of Charles Isherwood of the Times (who we are to believe, I suppose, is to the theatre criticism world what Pol Pot was to the 1970s, or maybe it was Idi Amin, or maybe it was Welcome Back, Kotter).

Anyway, I've read Baitz's piece a few times and I've finally decided that it's driving me nuts -- and it's getting a lot of positive rah-rah play on the blogosphere because people on the blogosphere reflexively have orgasms whenever anyone trashes the critics at the New York Times, which as a sport apparently predates bowling and archery.

Then, yesterday, I happened to loop onto Moxie the Maven's blogpost about Baitz's piece, which deals a little more with Theresa Rebeck's response to Baitz's post, followed by Moxie's response to Rebeck's response. The question is: Do I respond to Moxie's response to Rebeck's response to Baitz or let it all blow over?

One guess.

Headlined, "All the Views Fit to Print? Charles Isherwood on Whither the Playwrights (Plus a P.S.)," I should probably explain that Baitz was actually calling Isherwood on his piece about how the writer's strike ought to inspire West Coast-based playwrights -- i.e., film and TV scribes whose original inspiration may have been writing for the stage -- to return east. Here's a small sample:

Whatever the inspiration, you dreamed the dream. And then you lost your way. You got the agent after that first play made a small splash Off Broadway. A spec script for a sitcom followed. Then a move to Los Angeles — just for a year — to see what would come of it. The money was good. No, the money was great. The weather wasn’t bad either. The bagels, not so impressive, but then they outlawed carbs.

But are you truly happy, slouching around that sick-souled city of grimy palms and gridlock? Does earning that co-executive producer credit on that flashy network drama really represent the summit of your writerly ambition? Does all that lovely money truly make up for the punishing grind of pitching series and movies to executives 10 years your junior? Haven’t you read any vintage Joan Didion lately?

To you I say, return to the fold!...

On the one hand, yes, Baitz is right: Isherwood's blithe ignorance is a little bracing -- this idea that making money is somehow bad for a writer (or anyone in the entertainment industry). Isherwood naturally lumbers over to the well of history for examples of New York repatriations he deems honorable, such as that of Clifford Odets, but the whole rhetorical strategy is selective, don't you think? I mean, Isherwood antes up with Odets, but I could easily see his Odets with an Elia Kazan and raise him a Mike Nichols -- two men who segued easily between mediums and coasts without indulging in choosing between them.

What Isherwood is really doing -- especially when he specifically praises David Lindsay-Abaire for rebuffing Hollywood's siren song and implying that Lindsay-Abaire won his Pulitzer Prize, in part, because he stayed in New York -- is deploying the old theatre vs. Hollywood paradigm as a wedge issue, which, as Baitz's correctly notes, shows a complete absence from the reality-based community.

But Baitz, in my view, stumbles, too. With apologies for elisions, here are some selections from his essay:
"And now to the slightly unpleasant part of this essay. Mr. Isherwood, as a critic, will never be noted for his generosity of spirit. He is not Harold Clurman. He tends to be waspish, dismissive, cool, and brittle - as a writer. He can be gratuitously insulting, and his reputation is marred by the general consensus that a good mind is not matched by a particularly big heart. There is a whiff of Grinch in his criticism. Mr. Brantley, more and more seems like a breathless writer of gossip and gush for fan mags, and his intelligence - which again is not in question - seems to fail when it comes down to the big picture. The Times critics present themselves as advocates for consumers, and not as advocates for the theater itself. Unlike Clurman, Ken Tynan, say, or even Frank Rich, who could be withering but always managed to let it be known that he was passionate for new voices, passionate for promise, and uncompromisingly rigorous, as he is as an op-ed writer on Sundays. Speaking of Sundays, the Times used to have a Sunday critic, but have dropped that, thereby handing a monopoly of opinion to Isherwood and Brantley. I would submit that they do not necessarily add incentive to the already tendentious struggle that playwrights
face in trying to make a life in the theater. Nor is that really their job. But there is a slight whiff of disconnection in Charles' essay....

....There are no other critics that matter in NY, other than those of the Times, and when Charles is gratuitously cutting and destructive, and when Brantley is gushy and woozy and adrift in a language derived from OK!, or Teen Beat, it is simply part of the climate now. There are very few playwrights I can think of who won't come back to NY because of the people who sway audiences by their pronouncements about their work.

As a critic, Isherwood is not without value, though many people are still scratching their heads over his almost Olympian celebration of an inscrutable monologue a few years ago at a Union Square theater. All things are connected. The regional theaters now live in a timorous queue, waiting for that which has been granted thumbs up in Gotham. Used to be much more likely that a playwright could go off to say, Seattle Rep for six months, and then come into Playwrights Horizons - now, you start at Playwrights, and if Charles or Ben doesn't respond favorably, the regional theaters do not, generally, come a-calling....

....I suggest that the Times critics re-read Tynan, for instance, who was funny and could be ruthless, but was always on the side of the artist, and never innocently hid behind the pretense of being in the hire of the cultural wing of Consumer Reports. All things are connected, Charles (and Ben). Reading your essay yesterday, it occurred to me that you are suffering from that most modern of diseases - a soul-deep isolation, and a growing dislocation -- a place from which being a critic of the theater, is dangerous, given how communal the art is.

There is one last point I will make -- and it is about the Times itself. I believe that working there can be corrupting on some level, there is a safety in it, and a routine in it, and there is smugness too in the culture pages. Inoculate yourselves with sabbaticals. Maybe some time in Rome, or in LA, before coming back to the Grey Lady with a new understanding of some of the verities in the larger world."

Rather clever and underhanded of Baitz to segue from a gentle, understandable refutation of Isherwood's idea of striking writers "lying on the couch in Hollywood perfecting their video-game scores" to attacking the brand, style, tone and substance of Isherwood's criticism, hm? Rather clever and underhanded, too, of Baitz to imply that it is Isherwood's fault (and Brantley's fault and the fault of the diabolical The New York Times) that playwrights must turn to film and TV in the first place to make a living. It's a cheap shot and irrelevant, ultimately. Isherwood -- for God's sake, Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times -- could give everything Baitz has ever written a huge, big, fat kiss of a review and he's still need to work in film and TV. It's just the economics of the scene, and you can't lay that solely at Isherwood -- or Isherwood's brand of criticism, whatever else one may think of it.

And what does citing Harold Clurman have to do with anything? One of the things that people who throw around historical names left and right always, always fail to consider is context. The era that created Clurman easily lent itself to the idea of the critic-as-practitioner, whereas today most critics, to their detriment, find that idea abhorrent -- probably because they fear learning that they lack any theatrical talent of their own. That Isherwood "can be gratuitiously insulting," that there's "a whiff of Grinch in his criticism" strikes me as not germane to Baitz's argument; his description of Brantley as "more and a breathless writer of gossip and gush for fan mags" thereby drags into the fray the chief drama critic of the Times, as if he is responsible for the sins of his second-in-command who wrote the piece Baitz is taking issue with in the first place. No, no, write a separate essay about Brantley -- don't blame Brantley for Isherwood.

Baitz laments the fact that Isherwood and Brantley are advocates for consumers, not "advocates for the theater itself," but then, in a regrettable and insidious swipe at Will Eno's Thom Pain (based on nothing), Baitz says that "Isherwood is not without value, though many people are still scratching their heads over his almost Olympian celebration of an inscrutable monologue a few years ago at a Union Square theater." In other words, if Isherwood advocates for theater Baitz finds inscrutable, Isherwood is a bad critic. If Isherwood advocates for theater Baitz likes, he's..."not without value." That's about as consistent as...mud.

I agree with Baitz that the Times not having a Sunday critic is a terrible thing, but I think the problems at the Times transcend the disappearance of a Sunday view -- and I'd wager that most people, including Baitz, aren't old enough to remember Walter Kerr's Sunday pieces, which in the late 1970s and early 1980s didn't do all that much to leaven the debate. Indeed, it seems to me that everybody's so-called memories of Sunday review pieces are far hazier and far more warmhearted than they were actually received at the time.

What gets me, however, is Baitz's belief that there "are no other critics that matter in NY, other than those of the Times." Here we are again with that same stupid whiny, bitching complaining that the Times is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. So easy, so wrong. Just how many producers are saying that in New York? Well, some, to be sure. I'd say the old-school producers, which is a rapidly diminishing group, for the most part. In the old days when organizations like the League of American Theatres and Producers encompassed individual Broadway producers, as opposed to corporate entities, yes, the Times had a certain omnipotent power. But Baitz's martyr-like resistance is out of touch. For example, it is common knowledge these days that the Internet -- websites, web marketing, the power of the viral; not to mention the added firepower of the blogosphere -- had accelerated what was already seen as the diminishing power of the Times that began in earnest with Brantley's tenure. (Yes, critics do discuss these things behind closed doors.)

Moreover, Baitz seems not to remember, as he gently lathers up the reader with his fuzzy and kissy-faced hagiography of Frank Rich, that it was Rich who had the power to regularly close shows with his opening-night reviews. Rich was the chief critic for 13 years; Brantley has been at it for 10 or so. Count up the number of Broadway productions that closed in one night, or two nights, or one week during each of their tenures, and I think you'll see the number significantly lower during Brantley's tenure. Is this because the quality of the work on Broadway has gotten so much better since Rich was the top critic? Please, stop laughing. It's because producing and producers, on top of becoming corporatized and in many ways standardized, have also learned how to create shows that are designed to be critic-proof. And this idea isn't even really new -- I remember a play in 1984 called "Whodunnit?" by Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth) that was eviscerated by Rich yet still ended up running six months -- I remember the producers giving interviews in which they made it clear that they would run the play regardless of what Rich said. Ask marketers; ask innovative advertising folk in the industry what drives ticket sales, and the New York Times is not going to be the first thing they say. Yes, a Times rave is nice, but not absolutely necessary. Where the Times makes a big difference is OB and OOB, and God knows Baitz's relationship to OOB is non-existent. Baitz writes that Isherwood is "suffering from that most modern of diseases - a soul-deep isolation, and a growing dislocation -- a place from which being a critic of the theater, is dangerous, given how communal the art is," but is that to assure us that Baitz really has a pulse on what's going on? On the basis of what evidence can he possibly say that? On a blogosphere in which we're forever wanting to champion new voices, forever wanting to put an end to workshop and development hell, we're astounded and thrilled when a Jason Grote can have an amazing Off-Broadway run -- and so where is dear Robby in any of those struggles? Has Baitz forgotten that he was anointed the golden boy back in the early 90s?

This last point brings me to the final point I'd like to make about Baitz. He writes that working at the Times "can be corrupting on some level," that "there is the culture pages." Well, it certainly didn't seem to bother Baitz in 1994 when the Times published nearly 3,000 words on the happy home life of Baitz and Joe Mantello, the Couple of the Moment in New York Theater. Yep, I'd say the Times was pretty good to Baitz. Maybe he should acknowledge that for a change instead of painting himself as one of many victims.

As for Moxie the Maven taking on Rebeck's comment on Baitz's piece....sigh. I really don't blame Rebeck for writing what she wrote. But at the same time, Moxie shouldn't use Rebeck's agreement with Baitz as a pretext to take another potshot at Rebeck's work. Yes, Rebeck may be a little on the sour grapes side because "The New York Times whacks you on the head because of some utterly inane new rule they've come up with as an excuse to dismiss your play," but many playwrights -- including Baitz -- are struggling to locate coherent aesthetic principles and preferences in Isherwood and Brantley's criticism, and that, not Isherwood's isolation, is the problem. (Not that any writer should write in order to please critics, I should add.)

Then Moxie makes the same mistake -- the same pissy, twisted, innocuous, petty, grouchy, petulent, nyah nyah nyah mistake -- that Baitz makes when Moxie dismisses Rebeck by decrying the fact that "her plays aren't really challenging the form." Is that, or should that be, I ask, the sole determinant for good playwriting? Must everything radicalize? Must everything innovate -- and if so, how, and who says? Is there no more room for solidly constructed plays?

Those who insist that there can only be progress for there to be richness have as limited a view of contemporary American dramaturgy that Baitz so despises in Isherwood.

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Extraordinary Clip of Pacific Overtures' "Someone in a Tree" in Rehearsal, Sondheim at Piano

This just went up on YouTube. Stunning.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Jewish Theater of New York Attacks Polish Consul General for...Attacking Jewish Theater of New York

Dear Lord,

Give me the strength to deal with more press releases from the Jewish Theater of New York. I'm seriously praying for guidance, Lord. Thanks muchly.

For Immediate Release
Abe Cohen, 212.494.0050

The Jewish Theater of New York condemns threats against our theater by the Polish Consul General in New York

In an interview (link below) with Polish TV broadcast this week, Krzysztof Kasprzyk, the Polish Consul General in New York, called our Artistic Director, Tuvia Tenenbom, a "liar who suffers from hallucinations" and then issued a threat, saying that "this is not the end and Tuvia will answer to us." His comments come in response to our show, LAST JEW IN EUROPE, which deals with the rising anti-Semitism in his country.

We resolutely condemn his behavior and regret that a diplomat resorts to this kind of language. That said, we strengthen the hands of the prestigious Teatr Na Woli in Warsaw, Poland, for their courageous decision to present LAST JEW IN EUROPE next week, starring renown Polish theater and film actors. We are also thankful to the Polish political magazine, Polityka, for their sponsorship and collaboration.

We hope that American journalists will act in similar spirit and attend the presentation of the LAST JEW here in New York. To remind you: LAST JEW IN EUROPE is currently playing at the Triad theater on West 72nd Street in NYC; Sun @ 3pm, Mon & Wed @ 7pm. For reservation or other info please call Abe Cohen or Liz Lauren at 212.494.0050.

Please note: The Polish diplomat's comments (in Polish) can be viewed HERE.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Arts Advocacy Update XIX

The content below has been appropriated from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, a product of its Arts Policy Information Center.

I have worked as a journalist and editor with Americans for the Arts in the past, and endorse and support their work. I am therefore pleased to appropriate this content with their permission. I do, however, urge everyone to check out their
entire website and to visit it regularly as a great source of news and information for the arts community.

I also urge everyone to
join the listserv so you can receive the same email blasts I do, from which the content below is being taken.

Social networking Web site launched for artists
Washington Post - Reuters, 11/12/2007
"A Canadian publisher and philanthropist has launched a new social networking site for artists, underlining the growing influence of the Internet in showcasing and selling art. Louise MacBain said the site,, could be compared to popular networking site, and allowed artists to showcase their work, chat with each other online and blog. . . . MacBain's company LTB Media has also re-launched, an online guide to art and culture, and a new Art Sales Index allowing users to access auction prices and other records for more than 200,000 artists."
New York theatre should have something like this, no?

Montreal set for $120M revamp of entertainment district
CBC News (Canada), 11/13/2007

"An area of Montreal is earmarked for a major facelift after all three levels of government pledged $120 million toward the revamp as an attractive arts and entertainment hub."
What a story this is, assuming it all happens. It makes the idea of developing a $300 million fund for OOB theatre not so far-fetched, really. Frankly, if we can harness the economic, social, political and aesthetic arguments -- and reading this article might give us some clues -- it might actually happen. For example, here's a bit of the piece:

The spirit behind the project extends from the co-operation between the different levels of government as well as the community itself, Quebec Premier Jean Charest said Monday. The parties involved have "an out of the ordinary will to do something that is going to be significant for Montreal and really leave a profound mark," he said.

Study: Aging Artists Remain Resilient
Washington Post - AP, 11/12/2007
"Aging artists in New York City stay engaged and productive well past retirement age and would choose their profession again if they were starting over, according to a new study. 'Above Ground: Information on Artists III: Special Focus New York City Aging Artists' found that contrary to the stereotype that people become more isolated as they age, aging artists remain passionate and display high self-esteem and life satisfaction. . . . A second phase of the study is to include aging artists in the performing and literary fields."
You can find a link to the actual study here. Why, though, is the Washington Post reporting on this study and not media outlets in, um, New York City, where the subjects live? Two, the rollout on this study is going to be very nice -- probably because it'll be affiliated with the Teachers College and Columbia University. What I think the League of Indie Theaters will want, in order to generate an economic impact report on some kind, is some sort of similar arrangement, although obviously not with Columbia.

Could state dollars be a long-term solution for arts funding in Colorado?
Rocky Mountain Chronicle (Fort Collins, CO), 11/8/2007
After suffering a $200,000, all-time low state allocation in 2004, the Colorado Council on the Arts (CCA) is celebrating this year's state appropriation of $1.5 million. But the CCA is not confident state funding will continue to grow at the same rate as Colorado's arts. The future may depend on local-level initiatives, such as "the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) in Denver, which was created in 1989 and distributes sales tax to arts and sciences organizations in the Denver-metro area."
Great local story. I've always been fascinated by the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District in Denver. Get this:
Since 1989, Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) has distributed funds from a 1/10 of 1% sales and use tax to cultural facilities throughout the seven-county Denver metropolitan area. The funds support cultural facilities whose primary purpose is to enlighten and entertain the public through the production, presentation, exhibition, advancement and preservation of art, music, theatre, dance, zoology, botany, natural history and cultural history.

How about that, hm?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The League of Independent Theaters and, From Yesterday, a New York Story

You'll doubtless want to spend a little time, when not glued to this blog, visiting John Clancy's blog, for he might -- might -- post the draft statement of purpose of the League of Independent Theaters that was drafted today. I'm a little unclear as to what of the meeting is publishable on this blog and what is not, but as he posted a super-early draft of the SOP, I figure it isn't a secret that this organization is forming.

I'm an old cynic and professionally frustrated in I don't know how many ways. And I've sat in on gazillions of meetings for a project here and a project there that ultimately get aloft as far as my feet when I walk. Today's meeting, however, partly due to the constellation of individuals at the table, gives me some serious hope. I will write more but want to yabber a bit with John Clancy first.

Meanwhile, I had dinner last night with my friend, actor-writer Paul Haber. It was something of a nutty night. I was headed uptown on the A train to a gala for the Abingdon Theatre Company, being held at Tavern on the Green. I recently wrote a story on the company and its artistic director, the terrific Jan Buttram and to my astonishment, she invited me and a plus-one as her guest. With Kenny busy sunning himself on the beach in Puerto Vallarta (bitch -- though he did call me today), I figured I'd take Paul.

Well, we had moved about two feet out of the subway station at 42nd Street when it seemed the emergency brake had been pulled. People go flying hither and yon, and trust me, neither hither nor yon were thrilled by the crush of bodies in the front car at rush hour. We sit. We sit, we sit, and we sit. I make the tiniest half-turn where I'm standing, which was about all I was really able to do. And this woman to my left catches my eye and says, "I'm claustrophobic. If they don't open the doors soon I'm going to scream and cry."

I assured her -- well, the one ear without an earphone in it -- that everything was going to be fine. As fine, I suppose, as we might hope from the good workers of the Transit Authority. On the speakers, the conductor suggests there's a police action. Soon, we realize the motorman has gotten out of his area and begun to make his way through the crowded first car to the back of it, which is where I'm standing. I believe in good samaritanship (samaritanism? samaritanity?), so I said to the man as he was squeezing by, "Hi, is there any possibility we could have the doors opened -- this lady here is a little claustrophobic." Grunts, groans, squeals, yelps, moans and a little bit of spittle followed, but I went with the impression that he heard me and was going to get the doors open. He took a key and unlocked one of the advertising panels, revealing the odd innards of the car, which was pretty cool. He closed the panel up, began squeezing back toward his part of the car, and I asked again. The walkie-talkie goes on -- the conductor says something, then he says something, and clearly they're not communicating properly or even agreeing what the problem is. Except the woman to my left is my problem at the moment and -- shit! he's walking away.

Despite what certain youngish theatre critics who would prefer to keep me out of professional organizations may think, I'm not an asshole. Yet I had to say something, so I muttered something about this guy not giving a shit about what I asked him on behalf of this increasingly agitated woman. He blurts, "There's a police action." The moment was like asking someone for the time and receiving -- sarcastically -- "fuschia" as a reply.

"I speak English!" interrupted Claustrophobic Claudia, which, being the A train, caused a huge explosion of laughter, going up and down the car like a wave. The motorman replied, "So do I. And I can tell you the same thing in several other languages, too." To which Claustrophobic Claudia said, "So can I."

Eventually the train moves, but it's getting very late. I'm not excellent at punctuality, but I do try, and last night I would have been early. Oh, well. Finally we arrive at 59th Street, which is where I'm getting off and where my new neurotic best friend is getting off. The doors open and we begin to make our way through. "The thing is," she says out loud, presumably to me although it could just as soon have been to anyone, "I'm on my way to a meditation."

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Events and Announcements I

Going forward, I don't think I'm going to post each event or announcement that I get separately. I love having posted 250-odd times, but, really, you know, that's nuts. So here's four:

Roundabout Theatre Company
“Sex & The Ritz”
A two-week post-show discussion series moderated by
Jason Bellini, anchor of “CBS News on LOGO”

Each week, various experts will discuss the evolution of sex in New York City, as depicted in Terrence McNally’s 1975 bathhouse farce to today.

“Sex & The Ritz” will take place on:
Tuesday, November 27th & Tuesday, December 4th

Roundabout Theatre Company’s announces “Sex & The Ritz”, a two-week series of post-show discussions moderated by Jason Bellini, anchor of “CBS News on LOGO.” “Sex & The Ritz” will take place on Tuesday, November 27th and Tuesday, December 4th following the performance at Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street) on Broadway.

Jason and various experts will participate in provocative discussions regarding the sexual revolution following the emergence of AIDS and how the behavior represented in The Ritz (and at Studio 54) changed in the ‘80s.

Scheduled to participate are: Shelley Ackerman (comedian and former bathhouse performer), Richard Berkowitz (Author, “Stayin’ Alive: The Invention of Safe Sex, A Personal History”), Wayne Hoffman (Author of “Hard”, a novel that takes an inside look at gay men’s lives today), Ephen Glenn Colter (Editor and Contributor, “Policing Public Sex: Queer Issues and the Future of AIDS Activism”). All participants are subject to change.

JASON BELLINI (Moderator) is the anchor of “CBS News on Logo’s,” a new weekly half-hour news program aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) viewers that airs on the Logo channel, and online at Logo's Web site,

The limited engagement of Terrence McNally’s The Ritz, directed by Joe Mantello, was recently extended though December 9th.

WOR Radio 710 HD Announces
JAMES LIPTON, “Inside the Actors Studio” CREATOR AND HOST
TODAY! - November 14th at 5PM ET

(New York, New York - November 14, 2007) WOR Radio 710 HD has announced that James Lipton, popular creator and host of “Inside the Actors Studio,” will be will be interviewed on The Steve Malzberg Show this afternoon, Wednesday, November 14th at 5pm on WOR Radio 710 HD/New York. Malzberg will interview Lipton on his new book “Inside Inside,” about the perils and adventures of his life.

An energized mix of hot political topics of the day and pop culture with a decidedly conservative bent, The Steve Malzberg Show airs weekday afternoons from 4pm-6pm on WOR Radio 710 HD on the AM radio dial. A live stream is available and podcasts are posted on

This is not open to the public:
The National Arts Club
The Medal of Honor to

Sunday, November 18, 2007
615 P.M. Cocktails / 7:15 P.M. Dinner
National Arts Club
15 Gramercy Park South


Tony Walton has been working as a stage director and teacher increasingly over the last 12 years, but is principally a designer of settings and, frequently, costumes for theatre and film. His many designs for Broadway and the West End include last season’s Well and the recent revivals of Our Town, I’m Not Rappaport, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Uncle Vanya, Annie Get Your Gun, 1776, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, She Loves Me, Guys and Dolls, and Anything Goes. Other Broadway designs include Bob Fosse’s original productions of Chicago and Pippin, Pinter’s Moonlight and Ashes to Ashes, Grand Hotel, The Real Thing, The Will Rogers Follies, The House of Blue Leaves, Madison Square Garden’s Annual Christmas Carol and Julie Andrew’s triumphant revival of The Boyfriend, which recently completed its U.S. tour.

His film designs for directors Bob Fosse, Sidney Lumet, Paul Newman, Mike Nichols, Ken Russell, Volcker Schlondorf, and Francois Truffaut, include: Mary Poppins, Murder on the Orient Express, Prince of the City, The Wiz, The Glass Menagerie, The Boy Friend, Deathtrap, Death of a Salesman and All That Jazz.

He recently directed and designed the acclaimed Gala performance of Busker Alley starring Jim Dale and Glenn Close at the Kaye Playhouse, the U.S. premiere of Noel Coward’s After the Ball for the Irish Repertory Theatre- for whom he has also staged The Importance of Being Earnest and Major Barbara. He directed last season’s production of Orson Welles’ Moby Dick: Rehearsed – starring Peter Boyle – for East Hampton’s John Drew Theatre- for whom he has also directed several readings including The Royal Family starring Mercedes Ruehl and Marian Seldes. Other direction includes the smash hit revival of Where’s Charley? for Goodspeed, Coward’s A Song at Twilight for Bay Street Theatre, Gen Leroy’s Missing Footage for San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, and Oops! The Big Apple Circus Stage Show for a 60 city U.S. tour…a production he also co-wrote and co-designed.

His Opera designs for Covent Garden & The Sadler’s Wells have appeared throughout Europe and America. His many Ballet designs include St. Louis Woman for Dance Theatre of Harlem and Peter and the Wolf for American Ballet Theatre for whom he also designed the new Sleeping Beauty…all premiering at Lincoln Center. As a producer he has co-presented six productions – plays and musicals – in London: three in association with the legendary Hal Prince. His graphic work includes many book and magazine illustrations; caricatures for Playbill, Theatre Arts and Vogue, etc: Covers for record albums, CDs and DVDs, and posters for many Broadway and West End shows. His many citations include the Oscar, the Emmy, and three Tonys (16 nominations). He was elected into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1991.



The Fred Ebb Foundation (Mitchell S. Bernard, Trustee) in association with the Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes, Artistic Director) announced today that Peter Mills has been awarded the third annual Fred Ebb Award.

The invitation only award presentation and cocktail reception will take place on Monday, November 26, 2007 at 6:00 p.m. at The American Airlines Theatre's Penthouse Lounge (227 West 42nd Street). Five-time Tony Award nominee Scott Ellis will present Mr. Mills with his award. The award is named in honor of the late award-winning lyricist Fred Ebb who passed away in September 2004.

The Fred Ebb Award recognizes excellence in musical theatre songwriting, by a songwriter or songwriting team that has not yet achieved significant commercial success. The award is meant to encourage and support aspiring songwriters to create new works for the musical theatre. The prize includes a $50,000 award. The Fred Ebb Foundation is funded by royalties from Mr. Ebb's vast catalogue of work. The selection panel includes Foundation Trustee, Mitchell S. Bernard, Sheldon Harnick, David Loud, Tim Pinckney, Arthur Whitelaw and Karen Ziemba.

For more information, please visit

PETER MILLS received 2005 Drama Desk Award nominations for his show The Pursuit Of Persephone (Best Music and Best Orchestrations), the 2003 Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award from the ASCAP Foundation, and received a 2002 grant from the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation. Most recently, he wrote music and lyrics for The Rockae, a rock musical based on The Bacchae. Other recent projects include lyrics for Iron Curtain (music by Stephen Weiner, book by Susan DiLallo), and music and lyrics for The Alchemists, Illyria (a musical adaptation of Twelfth Night, which had its regional premiere at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Fall 2004, with a cast album released in April 2005) and The Taxi Cabaret (published by Samuel French in Fall 2004). With Cara Reichel, he wrote The Flood, which was selected for the ASCAP Musical Theater Workshop (2001). Marco Polo, written with composer Deborah Abramson, was selected for the ASCAP Musical Theater Workshop in 2000, and Peter and Deborah were chosen as 2000-01 Dramatists Guild Fellows. Peter holds an M.F.A. in Musical Theater Writing from New York University's Tisch School for the Arts and a degree in English/Dramatic Literature from Princeton University. He is a founding member of Prospect Theater Company.


Pop Culture Artist Drives Beyond Conventional Mediums

"I believe art should have no physical limitations or boundaries," says Artist Andy Golub. "Art should be seen and enjoyed by the masses even if that includes painting a Lexus automobile or a metal muffler." Maybe that's the relationship between art and pop culture—it’s created for the masses, not the elite.

Sometimes controversial, Golub has always been willing to be unique in his work. His trademark "Blue Faces" paintings can be found on cars, truck mufflers, beer barrels, mannequins and anything else he can get his hands on, including beautiful nude models." Please go to to see Golub's collected works, including his murals, surreal and abstract pieces and commercial work.

Golub's work has been compared to Keith Haring and Robert Crumb, and can be described as a sort of urban-graffiti-tattoo style. Whether he's painting murals on the side of a building, or painting live models with G-Strings in Times Square, his work strives to break the mold.

Golub knows his work gets a reaction: "When people see my blue faces Lexus driving around, they're stopped in their tracks because they aren't able to fully register what they have seen before it's gone. Where people see Lexus as a status symbol, I see it as a moving mural."

While some of Golub's works are done on metal objects such as trash cans, car doors and carburetors, others are on the skin of beautiful models. During the 2007 Halloween Parade in New York City, Andy garnered attention from the public and the press with his collection of living, breathing artworks.

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