Monday, March 31, 2008

The Death of Criticism

Well, that's a rather dramatic headline, but I want to put on here, so everyone knows, something I received in an email. It's extremely disturbing:

The Village Voice has dismissed its dance critic, Deborah Jowitt, leaving the weekly with no full-time staff dance writers. Ms. Jowitt began at the newspaper in November 1967 and was one of its senior arts writers. She said in a telephone interview that she learned on Tuesday that her position was being eliminated ''for economic reasons,'' along with that of the film critic Nathan Lee.

Julie Lichtenstein, a spokeswoman for the paper, said in an e-mail message: ''Financial constraints force us to convert two full-time positions to freelance jobs. Both Deborah Jowitt and Nathan Lee have been asked to continue writing for The Voice.'' Ms. Jowitt said, ''I was told that the dance page would continue to exist,'' adding that her dismissal ''came as a complete shock to me.''

Sphere: Related Content

Back from Humana

So I'm back from Louisville and finishing a long piece reviewing most of the plays. Will be posting a link to it probably tomorrow, or as soon as Back Stage has it on line.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gone for a few days more

Have received, at long last, all the edits on my book, plus I fly to Louisville on Thursday morning for the Humana Festival. I'll resume blogging on April 1.

But -- if any of you are not on the listserve, you're missing one hell of a debate about internships and the nonprofit model. I've saved ALL the emails and I'll be responding later on.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What are you doing on Arts Advocacy Day?

Here's something that EVERYBODY should be contributing to. For more information, visit the website of Americans for the Arts.



Robert Redford, John Legend, Robert L. Lynch Among Those Testifying

Americans for the Arts, in conjunction with the Congressional Arts Caucus, celebrates Arts Advocacy Day 2008 a day on which more than 400 arts advocates from across the nation visit their representatives on Capitol Hill. The day begins with a Congressional Arts Breakfast where Americans for the Arts will present its National Award for Congressional Arts Leadership to Sen. Patrick Leahy, in conjunction with The U.S. Conference of Mayors. John Legend, five-time Grammy Award-winning R&B singer, songwriter and pianist will be one of the featured speakers at the Congressional Arts Breakfast.

After the breakfast, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Representative Norm Dicks (D-WA) will host a hearing on the importance of funding for the arts. Americans for the Arts organized witnesses to give official testimony including Robert Redford, John Legend, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jonathan Spector, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Americans for the Arts’ president and CEO, Robert L. Lynch. The hearing is titled “Role of the Arts in Creativity and Innovation.”

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Congressional Arts Breakfast - 8:30 am – 10:00 am
Cannon Caucus Room
Room 345
Cannon House Office Building
Washington DC

Congressional Hearing on the Arts - 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Rayburn House Office Building,
Room 2359
Appropriations Committee Room
Washington DC

Speakers at the Congressional Arts Breakfast include:

John Legend, five-time Grammy Award-winning R&B singer, songwriter and pianist
Brian Stokes Mitchell, Tony Award-winning stage, screen and television actor/singer
Rep. Norm Dicks (WA)
Rep. Betty McCollum (MN)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT)
Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY),
Rep. Chris Shays (CT),
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI),
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann,
Robert L. Lynch, Americans for the Arts, President and CEO

Speakers at the Hearing include:
Robert Redford, Academy Award-winning director, actor, producer, activist
John Legend, five-time Grammy Award-winning R&B singer, songwriter and pianist
Brian Stokes Mitchell, Tony Award-winning stage, screen and television actor/singer
Jonathan Spector, CEO of The Conference Board
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann
Robert L. Lynch, Americans for the Arts, President and CEO

Sphere: Related Content

On Behalf of the Marx Brothers

CORRECTION: According to my friend Jon Stancato, who lives on the Upper East Side and knows about these things...well, here's his email:

i spent quite a few years living practically adjacent to marx brothers playground (Playground 96 - Marx Brothers Playground- 2nd Ave. & 96th St). lots of late night basketball games played there.
So there IS something in New York named for the Marx Brothers. But not a street.

All may now read the rest of this post...

I received this morning from my dear friend Jen Ryan (who has got to update her blog!) advising me that there's a strong movement gathering steam to rename a street on the Upper East Side in honor of the Marx Brothers. Can you believe that there's nothing in Manhattan anywhere, it seems, that formally tips the hat to these enduring comic icons?

Here's part of the email Jen sent me. Take action now and sign this petition!

I was shocked to find out there is NO monument to the Marx Brothers anywhere in NYC. They were born and raised on 93rd and Lex and a woman has begun an attempt to name 93rd street between 3rd and Lex "Marx Brothers Place". I thought you may want to publicise this post on your blog. Rik found this online petition that could desperately use some support from the blogosphere, press, and good old word of mouth. I'm sending this to my friend at Bloomberg's office. I would love nothing more than to organize a Marx Brothers parade up Lex on October 2nd, Groucho's birthday.

Sphere: Related Content

Paul Scofield, 1922-2008

Everybody's going to be posting about the death of Paul Scofield today, but I was rather touched by a short blogpost from my good friend Evans Donnell over at Athens South.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Webster Hall Gets Landmarked!

I know this is somewhat out of my usual ken, but I received an email today from the ever-industrious Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and I couldn't be happier for him and for New York. Read the contents below. I have left in all of the many hyperlinks provided in the email for your convenience.

And, well, I suppose I could be happier if Andrew got in touch, as we had become quite friendly, but why quibble in public? (Yes, I know, I'm quibbling in public.) Anyway, give this a read:

Dear Friend,

I wanted to let you know that yesterday the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated Webster Hall at 119 East 11th Street a New York City landmark. This is a designation GVSHP had strongly advocated for, and a building we had done a considerable amount of research on, which was shared with the LPC in order to help make that case. The LPC also designated three other sites in the East Village yesterday -- the former Children's Aid Society Home for Girls at 307 East 12th Street, a former synagogue at 242 East 7th Street, and a former public bath house at 538 East 11th Street -- all of which GVSHP also supported being landmarked.

This designation is so important because in addition to its architectural interest, Webster Hall embodies much about the social, political, and cultural history of downtown and the East Village. Originally a "hall for hire," from the late 19th century through World War II Webster Hall was the scene of labor rallies, drag balls, costume bacchanals, and political protests. After World War II, it became an important performance venue for emerging Latin artists and folk musicians, and then a recording studio used by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Julie Andrews, and for the recording of soundtracks for Hello Dolly and Fiddler on the Roof. Additionally, the zoning for the site would easily allow Webster Hall to be replaced by a 20+ story dorm or hotel, a fate which has befallen too many of its neighbors; landmark preservation should ensure this never happens here.

Read coverage of Webster Hall's landmark designation in the Daily News, the NY Post, Metro NY, NY Sun, and United Press International.

Additionally, I thought you might be interested in a letter to the editor I wrote which was published in this week's Crain's NY in response to their recent editorial supporting the Related Companies plan for Pier 40 and the St. Vincent's/Rudin condo and hospital development plan -- see

To join GVSHP or support our preservation efforts, go to

Sphere: Related Content

New York Theatre Workshop Holds a Panel Discussion!

I also received this PR today:





New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) Artistic Director James C. Nicola and Acting Managing Director Fred Walker have announced that the next event in NYTW’s special series of twenty-fifth anniversary public programs will be “Two-and-a-Half Decades of Serving the Artist,” a discussion exploring the “workshop” component of the theatre’s activities on Monday, March 24 at 7:30pm, at NYTW, 79 East 4 Street, between Second Avenue and Bowery.

The evening will begin with a conversation between James C. Nicola and literary agent, educator, Usual Suspect, and former Associate Artistic Director Morgan Jenness, who together will map the evolution of “workshop” initiatives at NYTW, including the Curators, the Playwright’s Circle, the Mondays @ 3 reading series, the Usual Suspects, the Larson Lab, and the Summer Residencies at Vassar College and Dartmouth College.

A panel discussion focusing on the Vassar and Dartmouth residencies will follow, featuring moderator Linda Chapman (NYTW Associate Artistic Director) and panelists Peter Hackett (Chair of Dartmouth’s Theatre Department), Christopher Grabowski (Director of Theatre at Vassar and former NYTW Associate Artistic Director), Doug Wright (playwright, NYTW Trustee, and Usual Suspect), Lisa Kron (playwright, performer, and Usual Suspect), and Leila Buck (writer, performer, NYTW teaching artist and Usual Suspect).

New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW), now celebrating its 25th season, is a leading voice in the world of Off-Broadway and within the theatre community in New York and around the world. NYTW has emerged as a premiere incubator of important new theatre, honoring its mission to explore perspectives on our collective history and respond to the events and institutions that shape our lives. In addition, NYTW is known for its innovative adaptations of classic repertory. Each season, from its home in New York's East Village neighborhood, NYTW presents four to six new productions, over 80 readings, and numerous workshop productions, for over 45,000 audience members. Over the past twenty-five years, NYTW has developed and produced over 100 new, fully staged works, including Jonathan Larson's Rent, Tony Kushner's Slavs! and Homebody/Kabul, Doug Wright's Quills, Claudia Shear's Blown Sideways Through Life and Dirty Blonde, Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told and Valhalla, and Caryl Churchill's Mad Forest, Far Away, and A Number. The 2002 remounting of Martha Clarke's seminal work Vienna: Lusthaus and subsequent American tour was one of the longest-running productions in NYTW's history. NYTW supports artists in all stages of their careers by maintaining a series of workshop programs including work-in-progress readings, summer residencies, and minority artist fellowships. In 1991, NYTW received an Obie Award for Sustained Achievement and in 2000 was designated to be part of the Leading National Theatres Program by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Public Programs at New York Theatre Workshop are supported in part by The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Senator Thomas K. Duane, The Grand Marnier Foundation, and the Edith C. Blum Foundation.

Tickets to this event are free to all NYTW members, students, and the general public. To reserve your tickets, please visit the NYTW Box Office at 79 East 4th Street (between Second Avenue and Bowery) on Tuesdays – Saturdays between 1pm – 6pm. For more information about New York Theatre Workshop, please visit

Sphere: Related Content

Waterwell is Back!

I received this PR today:







Waterwell, the acclaimed anarchic New York theater troupe, presents its Third Annual Cabaret Benefit: a one-night-only performance of music from The/King/Operetta on Monday, April 7 at Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette Street). This special performance of Waterwell’s acclaimed musical event about one of America’s most loved and misunderstood figures, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., will also include never-heard-songs from the musical.

This special performance of The/King/Operetta will feature Elisa Davis (Passing Strange) as Coretta Scott King, Alison Pill (Lieutenant of Inishmore, reasons to be pretty) as Joan Didion, Jay O. Sanders (Stuff Happens) as Lyndon B. Johnson, John Eric Parker (Rent) as Huey P. Newton, Taylor Mac (The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac) as J. Edgar Hoover, Sarah Saltzberg (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) as Toni Fortuna, and The Apple Sisters as the Hula Hana Girls, among others. The/King/Operetta will also feature Waterwell ensemble members Rodney Gardiner, Arian Moayed, Hanna Cheek and Kevin Townley.

Waterwell’s Third Annual Cabaret Benefit will be hosted by Hanna Cheek and Kevin Townley and will feature a tribute to Anne Mollegen Smith. The evening will begin with an open bar, hors d’oeuvres and Popular Silent Auction at 8:00 p.m., with the Cabaret at 9:30 p.m., and post-performance party with the artists immediately following.

Created by Waterwell and directed by Tom Ridgely, The/King/Operetta premiered to critical praise last July as part of a musical summer at the Barrow Street Theatre. Originally, more than 30 pop, rock, folk and funk songs were written for the show. But for the sake of a 9:30 p.m. performance time, some of them had to be cut. On April 7 in an intimate cabaret setting, the complete score will be performed in its entirety.

Waterwell is a company of artists dedicated to the collaborative creation of new works for the theatre. The company is equally dedicated to making those works as accessible as possible and offers free and subsidized tickets to all its performances. Founded in 2002, Waterwell has produced eight original plays, two cabarets and a staged reading. It has been nominated for three IT Awards, the Drama Desk and NY Magazine Culture Award. Variety calls Waterwell “A top-notch ensemble”; the Associated Press hails the work as “Affecting and wholly original” and The New York Times calls the work “Brilliant and inspired; alive enough to surprise even the performers themselves.”

The Cabaret Benefit will help underwrite Waterwell’s upcoming Untitled #9, premiering in early 2009, and advance its mission of creating artistically and financially accessible new works for the theater. For more information, visit

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 14, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update XXXII, XXXIII, and XXXIV

Whew! I had three weeks of email blasts to get through in order to put together a bunch of Arts Advocacy Updates -- specifically XXXII, XXXIII, and XXXIV.

All the content, as always, is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv.

Because we're getting ready to go away tomorrow for part of the weekend, I'm now going to just post everything, including all the descriptions that Americans for the Arts uses. I will be posting my commentary, but as there are 30 stories here, I figure I shouldn't make y'all wait.

FCC Head Says Action Possible on Web Limits
Washington Post, 2/26/2008
"The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission yesterday sharply questioned Internet service providers who control consumers' Web access over their networks, and suggested the agency could intervene against the practice. Kevin J. Martin made his remarks at an unusual off-site hearing to address complaints that cable provider Comcast restricts the flow of content -- such as video and music clips -- through file-sharing service BitTorrent."

San Francisco Culture Czar Prioritizes Affordable Housing for Artists
San Francisco Sentinel, 2/20/2008
While introducing San Francisco's new Director of Cultural Affairs, Luis Cancel, Mayor Gavin Newsom "pledged arts funding, drawn from sales and hotel tax revenues which continue to rise, will not be diverted from the arts to the City Budget General Fund." Describing his agenda, Cancel spoke specifically of affordable living and work space for artists, which he fought to provide during his tenure in New York City.

U.S. Mayors Develop 10-Point Plan Which Includes the Arts!
TCG Bulletin, March 2008
"The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently developed a 10-point plan, titled Strong Cities, Strong Families for a Strong America. Alongside such priorities as climate protection, fighting crime and rebuilding infrastructure, is a focus on tourism and the arts."

Cate Blanchett leads Australia arts brainstorming meet
Washington Post - Reuters, 2/25/2008
Australian actress Cate Blanchett "has been picked to head a think-tank on the future of arts in her home country." Blanchett "has been picked by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to head an arts panel at an April summit that will also deal with other challenges facing the country such as climate change. Blanchett, the co-artistic director and a board member of the Sydney Theatre Company, will lead 100 of the country's best minds in a brain-storming session on the subject 'Towards a Creative Australia.'"

Indy's Arts, Culture Communities Fret Over Possible Budget Cuts (Indianapolis, IN), 2/25/2008
In Indianapolis, "[m]any in the arts and culture community are concerned that the new mayor will first turn to the arts to make cuts as he charts the waters of the city's economic woes. . . . Arts groups had grown accustomed to and applauded former Mayor Bart Peterson's vocal and visible support for the arts. Now they want to know if they stand a chance in the Ballard administration."

Lawmakers seek to increase arts funding
Stamford Advocate (Stamford, CT), 2/24/2008
"Skeptical of the state's long-term commitment to funding arts organizations, [Massachusetts] lawmakers are introducing a pair of bills they say will help attractions statewide and the financially strapped Stamford Center for the Arts in particular. One bill would provide tax incentives for theater productions, while the other bill would share hotel sales tax revenue with municipalities to fund tourism initiatives.",0,7261852.story

A Capitalist Jolt for Charity
New York Times, 2/24/2008
Steve Lohr explores the trend of charities that "are changing their spots and making use of some of capitalism’s virtues. The process is being pushed forward by a new breed of social entrepreneurs who are administering increasing doses of bottom-line thinking to traditional philanthropy in order to make charity more effective."

Conference to explore how to capitalize on arts districts
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/2/2008
Seeking to replicate some of the success of Paducah, Kentucky's award-winning Artist Relocation Program that "has lured artists to transform its once-blighted Lowertown neighborhood," Cleveland hosts a conference for developers, real estate professionals, lenders and community development corporations called 'From Rust Belt to Artist Belt.'"

Crunch Predicted in Nonprofit Sector
Washington Post, 3/3/2008
"The nonprofit sector is facing what experts call an unprecedented crisis in leadership, with organizations in the Washington region and across the country struggling to recruit and retain talented staff. Even as baby boomers retire, nonprofit groups stand to lose ambitious young employees who feel underpaid, overwhelmed by long hours and demanding responsibilities, and frustrated by a lack of career progression, according to a major study," titled "Ready to Lead? Next Generation Leaders Speak Out" and conducted by the Casey Foundation, the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and the online job site

Fractured Atlas Offers Affordable Aetna Advantage Plans for Artists
Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS), 3/3/2008
"Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit organization that serves a national community of artists and arts organizations, announced today that Aetna Advantage Plans are now available to its members in 29 states and Washington, DC. According to the U.S. Department of Labor and research conducted by Fractured Atlas, there are roughly 300,000 uninsured artists in the United States."

MacArthur Foundation Boosts Support for Chicago Arts Groups, Creates International Connections Fund
Philanthropy News Digest, 3/1/2008
"The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced that it is increasing the number of Chicago-area arts and culture organizations it supports and is creating a fund to help its Chicago grantees expand their international connections." Its new $1 million International Connections Fund will help existing grantees in the Chicago area "to send staff to international conferences, establish partnerships with organizations in other countries, and/or perform outside the United States."

Cuts knock patrons of arts onto the canvas
New Jersey Star-Ledger, 2/27/2008
"Gov. Jon Corzine's proposed budget will slash aid to the New Jersey State Council on the Arts to $16 million, a $5.9 million cut that reduces state arts funding to 2004 levels. Arts leaders say the cut will hurt already struggling theaters, museums and musical ensembles, and they argue that it violates the spirit of the 2003 law creating a hotel-motel tax to fund the state's cultural institutions. Also included in the $33 billion budget plan are $2.7 million for the state Historical Commission and $500,000 for the New Jersey Cultural Trust. Those agencies received $3.8 million and $720,000, respectively, for this fiscal year, which ends June 30."

GOP lawmakers to trim governor's budget
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3/4/2008
In Missouri, Republican lawmakers with less optimism about the next fiscal year plan to "slice about $200 million from new and expanded state programs that Gov. Matt Blunt proposed for next year. . . . Blunt is counting on general revenue growth of 3.4 percent, or $273 million, in the next fiscal year. He also called for spending all but $50 million of the $506 million cushion carried over from last year. The extra money allowed him to seek increases in scores of outlays," including the arts.

Hollywood is here, but is price too high for state?
Providence Journal, 3/3/2008
"Critics are asking how much Rhode Island is getting in return for the $52 million in personal and corporate income-tax credits it has promised, and the $30.8 million in credits it has already awarded the motion picture, TV and commercial production industry. . . . After a 15-month records fight with The Journal, the Rhode Island Film & Television Office has for the first time provided a glimpse at what Rhode Island has gotten for its money. And to the extent it’s documented, it’s not much. Consider: The state provided $2.65 million in tax credits to the production company that spent 26 days here filming 'Hard Luck.' . . . That represented 25 percent of the roughly $11 million the company reported spending in Rhode Island on the production. But only $1.9 million of the $11 million went to 'Rhode Island vendors or residents,' according to the company’s cost report."

The arts of the campaign trail
Los Angeles Times, 3/4/2008
"[T]his presidential primary season, people who work at the crossroads of politics and culture say the arts have attained a higher profile than usual -- and the push for an arts agenda has established a foothold in the campaign landscape." What's behind the change? Much credit is due to "a $127-million gift from Ruth Lilly, heiress to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune" to Americans for the Arts, which increased the organization's yearly budget from about $8 million to about $14 million. "[T]hose extra millions helped give clout to ArtsVote, a part of AFTA's political arm, the Arts Action Fund.",0,6628652.story

Highlights of Foundation Giving Trends
Foundation Center, 2008
"The largest U.S. private and community foundations increased funding for all major subject areas in 2006, with a record 386 grants of $5 million or more helping to drive this growth. Overall, grant dollars rose 16.4 percent between 2005 and 2006—from $16.4 billion to $19.1 billion—and six out of the 10 major fields posted double-digit gains." For arts and culture, grant dollars increased by 13.4% and the number of grants increased by 7.5%.

Arts groups turn to shared database to attract more fans
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3/9/2008
"Nineteen of St. Louis' largest theaters and museums will share information about their audiences in hopes of boosting tickets sales and memberships. The database of the arts, called DART, is the brainchild of the Regional Arts Commission and is similar to the cross-sell model that has worked so well for Amazon."

In First for Studios, Paramount Offers Snippets of Movies
Washington P0st, 3/11/2008
"Paramount Pictures is chopping its feature films into short scenes, some as little as a few seconds, and distributing them free on the Internet, becoming the first major movie studio to answer consumers' desire for repeat viewings of short-form video on such sites as YouTube."

Internet in jeopardy as neutrality erodes
Seattle Times, 3/12/2008
A Seattle Times editorial frets about threats to net neutrality. "The Internet has developed into a clean canvas for all to play on and create. The cable and telecommunication companies that dominate broadband in the United States are fighting any network-neutrality law that would ensure the Internet stays this way. Consumer groups, and many Internet users, are worried that network providers want to disrupt competing services or content. There are a number of recent examples of this happening. . . . The issue moves beyond censorship. There is well-founded fear that network providers want to degrade content, or charge companies more to use their networks. Inevitably, an extra charge to a company gets passed on to the consumer."

Mastering the art of luring the arts
Indianapolis Star, 3/8/2008
"The goal: make Indianapolis a mecca for arts and music groups, as it already is for auto racing and amateur sports. Up-and-coming civic leaders heard the pitch for that vision last week and learned that city leaders already have made low-key but substantial progress. Several national groups already have their headquarters and conventions here, and the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association hopes to land more. Groups such as the American Pianists Association and the Percussive Arts Society don't attract the same level of attention of a major sports event like the NCAA finals. But Mark Miles, president of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, contends that a cluster of these arts groups could be as vital to the city's progress as the 1980s campaign to attract amateur sports events and organizations."

The arts: no longer priceless
Hutchinson News (KS), 3/7/2008
"The Kansas Arts Commission plans to take a closer look at how the arts affect the economies of the state's communities. The agency has commissioned research, which will conclude late this year, to review parts of the state not covered by recent studies of Salina, Wichita, Junction City and Wyandotte and Johnson counties. Results there indicated nonprofit arts ventures and the people who come to see their productions are generating millions of dollars in local commerce."

Dubai sets up Cultural and Art Authority
Gulf News (Dubai, United Arab Emirates), 3/8/2008
The ruler of Dubai has called for a Cultural and Art Authority whose aim "will be to enhance the international status of Dubai, which will participate in developing and forming the cultural and heritage scene of the 21st century in the region and around the globe. . . . The launch of this authority is part of Dubai's 2015 strategy which aims to place Dubai on the international cultural and heritage map. . . . [T]he authority will strive to boost Dubai's position as one of the world's most diverse cultural cities, where East meets West."

A regional funding source for our cultural assets
Kansas City Star (MO), 3/8/2008
A Kansas City Star editorial favors a "a small sales tax approved by voters on both sides of the state line" to support cultural institutions in the region. "A regional one-eighth-cent sales tax lasting seven years could raise more than $210 million. That would help finance healthy endowments and provide operating funds for institutions that are significant to the region’s future."

Begalka: Illinois arts budget woes hitting close to home
Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake,IL), 3/5/2008
"The Illinois Arts Alliance is issuing a call to arms, following Gov. Blagojevich’s gutting of the Illinois Arts Council’s fiscal 2008 budget. Blagojevich’s decision to cut arts funding from $19.7 million to $15.2 million bodes ill for all of us. A survey of organizations that received Illinois Arts Council grants this year found that 73 percent of the 435 respondents plan to reduce or eliminate education, outreach and free public programs. About 49 percent anticipate reducing or eliminating programs. Forty-four percent of mid-sized organizations said they likely will have to cut staff, and 5 percent expect it will force higher ticket prices."

It could be a solo act for the arts in Va. when making a play for funding
Virginian-Pilot, 3/9/2008
In Virginia, "[a]s lawmakers hustle to complete the state budget, a key funding source for arts groups still appears quite likely to get zero dollars, or a pittance. However, the state's other significant source of arts funding, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, is holding steady at $6.6 million for each of the next two years."

Landrieu: Budget hurts parks, libraries
Advocate Capitol News Bureau (Baton Rogue, LA), 3/11/2008
"State parks and library operations are threatened if [Republican] Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed budget is allowed to stand, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said Monday. Jindal’s budget proposal would cut $10.6 million in state funds from his office and the Office of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, Landrieu said. . . . Landrieu, a Democrat, said it is particularly disappointing because the Jindal budget includes more than $500 million in spending for 'new and innovative programs' at a time of 'unparalleled (budget) surplus.'"

London Mayor, With Spacey's Support, Plans Arts Fund
Bloomberg News, 3/11/2008
"London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who is running for re-election in May, said he was setting aside 1.4 million pounds ($2.8 million) to fund cultural projects in the U.K.'s capital. 'Nobody will visit London this year to see its bankers. They will come to see its art and culture,' Livingstone told reporters. . . . The mayor also rolled out a 'cultural audit' of London -- which cost 30,000 pounds -- showing that the U.K. capital has more museums, theaters, concert halls and music venues than New York, Paris, Shanghai, or Tokyo. That lead should be maintained and developed, Livingstone said."

State tax officials want to limit film tax credits
Providence Journal (RI), 3/11/2008
"With critics questioning how much Rhode Island has benefited from the $52 million in tax credits the state has offered — and the $30.8 million in tax credits it has already provided the television and movie industry to film here — the state’s Division of Taxation yesterday morning proposed new curbs on the operations of the three-year-old incentive program. In a move aimed, at least in part, at boosting the measurable benefits to the Rhode Island economy, state tax officials have now taken the position that an expense only counts toward the credit if it was performed, purchased, provided or rented by a Rhode Island resident or vendor. After a 15-month records fight with The Journal, the state Film & Television Office late last month provided the first glimpse of how much of this out-of-state production money was going to Rhode Island residents and businesses. And to the extent it was documented, it wasn’t much."

Irvine Foundation Awards $3.15 Million to Boost California Arts Scene
Philanthropy News Digest, 3/7/2008
"The San Francisco-based James Irvine Foundation has announced $3.15 million in grants to eight community foundations to support local arts efforts as the second phase of the foundation's Communities Advancing the Arts initiative, which is designed to foster grantmaking and individual donations to arts organizations in targeted communities. The new grants are designed to help advance gains made in involving local arts donors since the initiative was launched. From 2004 to 2007, the foundation awarded $4.75 million to enable participating community foundations to mobilize $59 million in assets for the arts — a 48 percent increase in assets dedicated for that purpose — and helped create 181 new funds at participating community foundations."

Kresge Foundation Shares Results of 'Grantee Perception Survey'
Philanthropy News Digest, 3/5/2008
A report that the Kresge Foundation commissioned to assess grantee perceptions has found the institution lacking in key areas, such as understanding of grantees goals and strategies and its contribution to organizations' long-term capacity or sustainability — "the basis for all Kresge grantmaking." Kresge president Rip Rapson announced changes within the foundation, including a reorganization of program staff "into field-specific teams that are charged with acquiring deep knowledge in their respective disciplines."

Sphere: Related Content

Red Bull...Charges!

Got this press release yesterday and wanted to make sure everyone knew:

Presented To

For Its Production Of Thomas Middleton’s’ WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN

The 2008 TONY RANDALL GRANT, presented annually by the TONY RANDALL THEATRICAL FUND, will go to the RED BULL THEATER for their upcoming production of Thomas Middleton’s’ WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN opening late 2008.

The Tony Randall Grant is a $100,000 award given annually to a Tri-State area non-profit Equity theatre company for the production of a classic play, an adaptation of a classic play or a work inspired by the classics.

A $10,000 grant will also be awarded to the Classic Theatre of Harlem ($10,000) for its production of Moliere’s TARTUFFE, opening off-Broadway this fall.

This year, the Theatrical Fund received over 45 proposals from area theater companies. The 2008 Tony Randall Grant beneficiary was selected from a finalist pool of 10 very deserving companies. The 2008 Tony Randall Grant Selection Committee Members included Jed Bernstein, Martha Clarke, John Guare, Doug Wright, Jack Klugman, Brian Murray, Laila Robins, and Gary Springer.

The 2008 Tony Randall Grant is the third annual award. The prize was initially presented to the New York Theatre Workshop for its production of Martha Clarke’s KAOS. Last year’s recipient was The Mint Theater Company for its production of Leo Tolstoy’s 1886 tragedy THE POWER OF DARKNESS.

“The Tony Randall Theatrical Fund was created to honor Tony's memory as a producer and performer in the classical theatre. I strive to marry his sensibilities with the needs of the current theatre and our ever-evolving need to interpret the classics in a way that reaches a modern audience." states Heather Randall.

“We are absolutely honored to receive this amazing gift! This award is a wonderful testament to Tony Randall’s extraordinary and enduring impact on and in the American theater, and Red Bull Theater is thrilled to join the ranks of remarkable New York theater companies that have been lucky enough to be selected for support by the Tony Randall Theatrical Fund. We are excited to be able to use this grant to carry on Mr. Randall’s legacy of dedication to the classics by presenting a great, rarely-produced play by one of Shakespeare’s most prolific contemporaries, Thomas Middleton, in a production of his masterpiece, a tragicomedy of sexual oppression, WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN.” Jesse Berger, Red Bull Theater Company

WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN, by Thomas Middleton, is a rarely performed piece which speaks with a shockingly contemporary voice about sexual politics and women's rights. A Romeo and Juliet for adults, Livia, a widow, pursues sexual independence and in the process she destroys not only herself, but the innocent lives of those around her. WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN is a timely examination of the inherent pitfalls of a society that does not treat women equally and that treats love as a commodity.

Red Bull Theater is dedicated to the presentation of vital and imaginative productions of heightened language plays and to the development of new plays written in a similar vein. With a special focus on the Jacobean plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, Red Bull Theater aspires to challenge the intellect and engage the imagination of today’s theatergoers through company-created, resonantly provocative staging of great classic stories. Named for a London playhouse of the seventeenth century, the original Red Bull was the first of the English theaters to reopen after years of Puritan rule during which plays were banned. Founded in 2003, today’s Red Bull Theater embraces this rejuvenating spirit and aims to lead a renaissance of language-based classical theater in New York.

The National Actors Theatre was formed to produce the great classics of the theatrical cannon, performed by the world’s greatest actors. With Tony’s passing in 2004, his wife Heather founded the Tony Randall Theatrical Fund to continue his dream of supporting great theater. The Theatrical Fund gives donations to wide array of arts organizations encompassing the worlds of the performing arts, those that service the arts community as well as those that educate the young artist. The Tony Randall Grant was inaugurated in 2006.

Among recent recipients of The Tony Randall Theatrical Fund grants are: The Actor’s Center, The Actors’ Fund of America, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Drama League, Elysium Between Two Continents, Ethical Culture Foundation, Gorilla Repertory Company, Guggenheim Museum, Manhattan Theatre Club, Martha Graham Dance Company, Mint Theater Company, Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre, New Victory Theatre, New York International Ballet Competition, New York Theatre Workshop, Paper Bag Players, Raleigh Charter High School, Red Bull Theater, Rent 10, Starworks Foundation, Target Margin Theater, VOICE Experience Foundation, Voice Foundation.

For more information on the Tony Randall Theatrical Fund and the Tony Randall Grant please visit the web site at

Sphere: Related Content

New Review: Dead Man's Cell Phone

I was sick for much of the early part of the week and totally forgot to post my New York Press review of Dead Man's Cell Phone. Sorry to come so late to the, uh, party?

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Enduring Gift of Al Hirschfeld

I received this press release yesterday, and in addition to the fact that I have a real soft spot for Al Hirschfeld (I learned to count the Ninas when I was certainly less than 10 -- and I remember waiting to see the newest one every Friday in the Times), I also met Mrs. Hirschfeld at the press junket for Busker Alley late last year. She is simply the nicest person -- and I say that for a few reasons. For one thing, she didn't at all wear her identity on her sleeve. Over lunch at a big table with lots of different people, she was highly inquisitive about me, and after about three or four questions I finally had to ask who she was, at which point my jaw fell open. What a charming and smart and very, very dear person she is. I'm thrilled with this announcement.

The New York City Department of Education
The Al Hirschfeld Foundation
The Al Hirschfeld Project

The New York City Department of Education and The Al Hirschfeld Foundation announced today the launch of The Al Hirschfeld Project for public school educators (K-12) that explores the arts through the lines and shapes of artist Al Hirschfeld. A reception will take place Thursday, March 13th at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre (302 West 45th St.) to formally announce the curriculum.

The Al Hirschfeld Project has been created to allow a new generation of New Yorkers access to Hirschfeld’s work and discover how the use of line conveys the spirit of the arts. Through Hirschfeld’s drawings, teachers of dance, music, theater and visual arts will educate students about the performing arts over the last century. A new generation can “count the Ninas” as teachers weave the Blueprint-based resource into their classroom work.

The Hirschfeld curriculum was developed specifically to complement the Department of Education's Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts, a set of clear standards outlining what students should know and be able to achieve in the four arts forms from pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade. The program is an ongoing course of study leading students to develop skills and knowledge in the arts.

“I would like to thank the Al Hirschfeld Foundation for sharing his legacy with our students,” said Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. “I look forward to seeing the many creative ways that our teachers use this new resource as a tool to engage students and enrich their understanding of the history of the performing arts in New York City.”

“We are so pleased the NYC Department of Education has embraced the curriculum for daily use this year,” said Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, President of The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. “The curriculum is like a botanical garden where the arts will grow and nourish the children of New York City.”

The Al Hirschfeld Foundation promotes interest in the theater and dramatic arts by supporting not for profit museums, libraries, theaters and similar cultural institutions. The Foundation will accomplish its purpose by making grants to such organizations, by mounting shows of Al Hirschfeld’s artworks at museums and other not for profit organizations and by donating or lending Al Hirschfeld’s artworks to such organizations for exhibit.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Brutish Judas Named Bruno

You know what, Joe? You want to stand there like an obnoxious, double-dealing, profit-from-lobbyists twerp and let your war-for-a-lie, blood-of-Americans-dripping-from-your fingers Republican colleagues demand impeachment in 48 hours or else? Yeah, they'd never demand that for a president who sent tens of thousands of Americans and Iraqs to their deaths on the basis of lies.

So, let's have impeachment. Charge Spitzer with a crime. Try him. If you think that's best for New York State, do it.

Or, let's say Spitzer resigns. Fine. You think we're not going to go after you, you lying, cheating, ethically deficient son of a bitch?

Don't believe that for a minute. Don't believe that for a minute.

Oh, and in my world, we use the legal system to go after people. We don't participate in tipping off corrupt federal governments to engage in wiretapping to bring down our enemies. I hope you were wearing your brown shirt and practicing your "Sieg Heil" when you got the news.

Eliot, rot in hell. You betrayed my vote.
Joe, rot in hell. You betrayed my nation.

New Yorkers -- take your goddamn government back and get rid of these idiots before you betray my hope.

Sphere: Related Content

New Review: Conversations in Tusculum

New policy: I'm going to quote from the first 2-3 paragraphs of my reviews -- but you'll still have to click on over to read the rest. Because I like to tease.

My review of Conversations in Tusculum in Back Stage:

The relationship between Julius Caesar and a sea of adversaries — Cato, Cicero, Cassius, Brutus — takes time to sort through in Richard Nelson's Conversations in Tusculum. After all, some of these men later conspired to kill Caesar. But Nelson's nose doesn't smell evil in ancient Rome as much as parallels between Caesar's effect on the Roman republic and a Republican's, George W. Bush, on the United States.

For Act 1, Nelson plunges into the world of Tusculum — a country enclave outside Rome where the elite meet to summer — in 45 B.C., imagining what Caesar's vanquished enemies, worried for their nation's future, said and feared about him. Using a few of Thomas Lynch's set pieces, Nelson delicately shuffles his six-actor cast around the Anspacher Theater stage, permitting the audience to feel as if it's listening to wiretaps of private chats. Given the dialogue's pitched urgency — and several well-rendered performances — Nelson gently prods the audience to infer Caesar-Bush comparisons. Then, in Act 2, Nelson takes out a hammer and bludgeons the audience with it.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 10, 2008

Eliot Spitzer: You Son of a Bitch

Goddamn it, you broke my heart. Resign. And rot in hell.

You stupid, hypocritical liar.

I don't care that you consorted with whores. I care that you got caught. And that you needed to in the first place. You set yourself up as some moral avatar and there you are. You are so very, very American.

You broke my heart.

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Giving the Liberty Theatre Liberty

I strongly advise everyone to give John Clancy's blog post about the Liberty Theatre a read. Yes, John, the Liberty needs to be saved.

And a photograph of the Liberty is one of the 240 photographs in my book -- which, I am pleased to announce, can be preordered on Amazon. (The cover image will be forthcoming and the issue date is May, not March 14.)

Anyway, here is some of the caption copy I wrote on the Liberty:
The 79 performances of the Ziegfeld Follies of 1907 played in three theatres: the Jardin de Paris (part of Oscar Hammerstein I’s Olympia Theatre complex), the Liberty Theatre and the Grand Opera House, a now-forgotten West 23rd Street venue. Of these, only the Liberty’s façade is still extent. Built in 1904, the Liberty hosted Cohan’s Little Johnny Jones (1904); a Shubert-produced, Ada Rehan-starring revival of The Taming of the Shrew (1905); George White’s Scandals of 1921, one of George Gershwin first shows; and Lady Be Good (1924), pairing George with his lyricist brother Ira Gershwin. But the Liberty, as pretty as it was, was hardly a distinguished house, and was converted to a movie theatre in the 1930s, which it remained for over 50 years. This photo shows it dark in the early 1920s, its marquee advertising silent films.
Of course, if we -- IF WE GET UP AND DO SOMETHING -- have a chance now, as John says, to make it a distinguished house.

The images are from the NYPL's collection. I love the one from the perspective of the stage door.

Sphere: Related Content

Rem Koolhaas in Dubai: Where are the Theatres?

I was totally intrigued by this Times story on architect Rem Koolhaas' upcoming work in Dubai:

Designed for one of the biggest developers in the United Arab Emirates, Nakheel, Mr. Koolhaas’s master plan for the proposed 1.5-billion-square-foot Waterfront City in Dubai would simulate the density of Manhattan on an artificial island just off the Persian Gulf. A mix of nondescript towers and occasional bold architectural statements, it would establish Dubai as a center of urban experimentation as well as one of the world’s fastest growing metropolises.
But of course, as you can see, where are the theaters? Gone? Yeah, probably.

Sphere: Related Content

On Lincoln Center Theater and Arthritic Demographics

Well, if you read between the lines in this piece in the New York Sun, it seems as if Lincoln Center Theater artistic director Andre Bishop is recognizing that the graying of New York audiences is something of an understatement. And so the organization, arguably one of the five most monied theatre nonprofits in the city (the other four being the Public, Roundabout, MTC, and, I'd guess Playwrights Horizons) has established LCT3, beginning with two productions at the Duke for $20 apiece. (Does anyone remember when LCT came back from the dead in the mid-'80s and all tickets were $20 -- or something like that -- and you could still get on their subscription list? Today you've got to scan the Times obituaries and run like hell in order to get on that list.)

Anyway, check this quote from the story:

The artistic director of Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, said the goal is to replenish Lincoln Center "with new generations of writers and directors and designers and audiences" and to "broaden the scope and diversity" of the work the theater produces.
And speaking of Paige Evans, who is heading up the program:
Ms. Evans said she saw the position as "an incredible opportunity." Asked if she had a staff to read the scripts that will no doubt start pouring in the door from playwrights and agents, she said that "at this point, I'll be doing it all myself." She said she was eager to work with downtown theaters and small theaters around the country to share information about up-and-coming artists.

Like many theaters, Lincoln Center Theater has worries about the "graying" of its audience. Mr. Bishop said he was confident that the audience would be replenished, but that it would take time.
Now, let's be clear about a few things, especially for the nonprofit haters out there. LCT can do this because they have the funds. And they cannot bring the work of "downtown theaters and small theaters around the country" because the denizens of Geezerville will bolt. And this, I grant you, is one of the real problems with large institutional nonprofits: they can't take the kinds of chances that small theaters can because they've got tens of thousands of people to make happy every year. But at least Bishop is recognizing this problem, and recognizing his demographic problem, and attempting to do something about it.

As for whether Evans will have any taste, or be out 12 nights a week seeing new work, or actually suggest work that would recognize the extraordinary indie theater talent -- well, that remains to be seen. The question, too, is whether the indie theater world will GET UP AND DO SOMETHING and approach her as well.

Sphere: Related Content

On Mac Rogers, Praxis Theatre, and Roaches

Well, this much is for sure: Mac Rogers didn't, um, duck any questions when the Theatre is Territory people decided to fire their 10 questions at him. That photo of him is hilarious.

Just one thing, though, Mac. Comparing me (and Scott Walters and Don Hall, et. al.) to roaches? That's pretty, er, Kafka-esque, no?

All in all, good reading.

OH -- but why don't those people ask me some goddamn 10 questions, hm? Nothin' worse than a pissy roach.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 07, 2008

New Article: James Earl Jones

This is my national cover story for Back Stage profiling the extraordinary James Earl Jones.

Before you click on over -- as I know you all will -- let me just say that the hour I spent with Mr. Jones was one of the most interesting and unusual times I've ever spent with another actor. Some of what he said was just on this side of unprintable -- and not because he spoke about anyone or anything in the pejorative, because that's not his style, believe me. Rather, I think he's at a place, at 77, where honesty is more his calling card than ever, and he lets fly with his feelings and his attitudes in a way that's so real and so refreshing that, frankly, it took me aback. Most actors at his level are guarded, perhaps understandably so. But he was freespirited and kind and warmhearted and fiercely intelligent. You cannot spend time with him without becoming utterly besotted. I don't usually post what I think of the subjects I interview for BS but this guy was just unforgettable. Hope you like the piece.

Sphere: Related Content

New Podcast: The Leonard Jacobs Show, Episode III

The newest episode of The Leonard Jacobs Show -- episode III -- is now available for your downloading and listening delectation.

You should also visit the link at

Here is the blurb (with my thanks and love, as always, to Martin and Rochelle Denton):

Leonard Jacobs, National Theatre Editor of Back Stage, returns with a two segment episode. Leonard’s guests are Shay Gines and Nick Micozzi of the New York Innovative Theatre Awards and Jen Ryan of Punch 59, a sketch comedy group.

NYITA gives three honorary awards, the Caffe Cino Fellowship Award, the Stewardship Award, and the Artistic Achievement Award. Leonard serves as chair of the committee that oversees these awards. Shay and Nick speak with Leonard about what these awards are, some changes in ‘08 to the application process, and what goes into making a successful application.

In the second part of this episode, Leonard introduces us to Jen Ryan, artistic director of Punch 59 and a quick and naturally funny person. Punch 59 is a sketch comedy group. Jen explains that their work is fully scripted, and leaves nothing to chance. Punch 59 began in Florida in the ’90s and has been up and running in NYC since 2007. Jen lapses occasionally into one of her favorite characters, Betty Holland.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

My Peep Jonathan West

One of my bestest bestest bestest college friends, Jonathan West -- who is still, miraculously, my friend after all these years -- has been making his own splash in BlogWorld of late.

Check out his Artsy Schmartsy -- and not just so you can read about him and Mike Daisey and me and yadda yadda. He's also got a great post on The Adding Machine composer Joshua Schmidt. All in all, awesome read.

Sphere: Related Content

Young Theatrical America

I got an email yesterday from a colleague named Zev Valancy, who is based in Chicago. Back in the halcyon days of Back Stage covering regional theatre (after the invention of the wheel, before the invention of Prozac), Zev was one of my two main critics in Chicago. He's an incredibly bright and well-educated young writer, and though he was, back then, finishing up his undergrad work at Northwestern, I was always pleased to get his copy and ultimately thrilled to take a chance on him. In fact, I deliberately used to send him to tons and tons of different stuff -- stuff, if possible, outside the norm, outside the mainstream -- because I think one of the best ways to create good critics is to expose them to as much varied work as possible. That's how you develop critics, as opposed to whoring reviewers. And the more you can challenge a critic by what you expose them to, the better critic you can ultimately make out of them. It takes years. I don't think I've gotten to be very good until the last few.

By way of a gauzy memory, when I was an intern at the long-defunct TheaterWeek magazine 18 years ago (oh my friggin' God), the editor, John Harris, sent me to unbelievable things, things I didn't know existed or could exist beyond some very vague notions (I was 21). There was one week when I had to review two one-acts at a Tribeca venue, Home for Contemporary Theatre and Art, that sort of morphed some years later into HERE. If I remember it correctly, David Greenspan's II Samuel 11 had a masturbation scene (I didn't know jack about that), and the second piece, Reef and Particle, was by Eve Ensler. It was about a woman who simply could not be satisfied sexually by her husband no matter how hard he tried. Finally, he resorted to various and sundry vegetables, with the climax of the play (pardon the pun) coming (pardon the pun) with the husband arriving on stage with a rather large eggplant. (These are my memories. Time hasn't been kind to my brain.) Another week: a new Bob Merrill musical Off-Broadway at the Vineyard, Hannah...1939, starring Julie Wilson. Another week: Spiderwoman Theater at Theater of the New City. Another week: Capitol Cakewalk, a musical directed by Hair legend Tom O'Horgan. And who knows what else.

I'm saying all of this because of the contents of Zev's email. Zev and I have gone back and forth a bit as to whether he would (or should) post the contents as a comment, or whether I should (or would) post the contents simply as a post from me. With Zev's permission, I'm posting it because here's a fellow who is active in the Chicago theatre as a practitioner and as a critic, and he has been piqued, for good or ill, by this fric-a-frac about new models.

Zev writes:

Man, next time I'm wasting time at work, remind me that your blog is a danger. First because it's well written and extremely readable, which is always a problem when you should be working. Second because it lets me in to the seething world of worried theatre people. I think your response to Mike Daisey was mostly on point (though I believe that living in a yurt is a bit extreme), but what's most discouraging to me is the idea that theatre is broken, broken, broken, and nothing but junking the current model will be of any help. This simply doesn't track with what I see--there is so much that seems worth excitement, so much great work. There's a lot to be improved--more government and private funding, drastically slashed ticket prices, more adventurous and interesting work, bigger casts, to start--but a lot that's really exciting. And for those who say new work isn't getting done, come on. It's EVERYWHERE these days. Few regionals in America fail to produce at least one world premiere per season, along with a number of plays getting early productions. Sure, some playwrights are done a whole lot, and some of the plays seem like we've already seen them, but once in a while an Itamar Moses or a Jordan Harrison can come out of nowhere and be just galvanizing....

And any of those artistic directors desperate to retire? Call me. I'll take your job in a heartbeat.So basically, explain to me why I'm getting into this field, and why it's not a terrible idea.
Zev represents the next generation that will benefit from meaningful change, however we define it. Being in Chicago, where the theatre scene is perhaps healthier, hotter, and more fertile than anywhere else in the country at the moment, how interesting that there isn't quite so strong a feeling, apparently, that the nonprofit system is, in absolute terms, terrible -- that everything is awful -- so let's blow it all up, let's march on the Winter Palace, let's shoot Mussolini in the public square, let's burn all the books, let's sacrifice all the animals, let's hide in a cave and let's blow up the cave while we're at it. It's not that he's naive. He simply understands that throwing the baby out with the bathwater is the equivalent of assuming that all Baathists must be terrorists and so let's disband the entirety of the Iraqi army. We all know what flowed from that decision.

And I'm not posting this because Zev said nice things about my blog. It's because Zev, slightly more than half my terrifying age, is for whom all this chatter, all this hope, all this dreaming, all this idealism, all this change -- change, change, change -- is meant. I want a theatre for him 25 times better than any I've ever seen or will ever see.

To get there, it means we have to start doing something. NOW.

Sphere: Related Content

Shout Out to The Mirror Up to Nature

A big shout-out to The Mirror Up to Nature for taking notice of my recent post on Louise Kennedy's story on American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass.

Also a big shout-out to Tom Garvey, who commented as well. I have never met Tom, but he welcomed me to the blogosphere via his Hub Review very warmly when I started this blog in earnest 11 months ago, and while he and I don't necessarily agree vis a vis Kennedy, I do read his blog and very deeply respect his opinion.

Thank you both!

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 03, 2008

Trying to be Everyone's Friend, Some People Look Spineless

You know what makes me nuts? When certain bloggers, whom I won't link to, talk about how there are all different kinds of change, small change and large change and -- well, let's have a moment here for a Gypsy-style lyric a la Stephen Sondheim -- spare change and hair change and quick change and sick change, as if to say "Why can't we all get along?" From what I can tell, it isn't about little changes leading to big changes. It's about people not arguing their asses off over at, say, the listserv, or blogging soothing remarks about "kinds of change" and getting off their asses and doing something!

"We're doing our art." Yes, yes, ok, glad you've settled for that and that alone. After all, doing art is doing something. But is that really what we mean? You want to lead a movement? Start f-ing leading.

Sphere: Related Content

New Article: Gay Cruising

Here's part one of my piece on The Economics of Cruising. And here's part two.

I wrote this for (Gay Financial Network), which is overseen by my friend Paul Haber.


Sphere: Related Content

New Review: Paradise Park

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, March 02, 2008

50 Thoughts on Theatrical Criticism Coming

I haven't worked on this feature in awhile, but I'll be putting this up shortly.

Sphere: Related Content

You Want to Worship at the Shrine of Repertory Companies? Read This Article

I just came across Louise Kennedy's fascinating piece in today's Boston Globe. While the people in the blogosphere have been talking about change and new models and revolution and whatever else they think is going to transform the American theatre into something they can't articulate in a single sentence, one model that still seems to get a decent reception (or less antipathy) is the repertory theatre model.

Kennedy's piece, about ART in Boston, should thus be required reading. Read this paragraph:

....ART is at a critical juncture in its decades-long history as a Harvard affiliate, with a university search committee apparently stalled in its quest for an artistic director to replace Robert Woodruff, whose contract wasn't renewed by the university last year. I know nothing about how that process is going, beyond that Anna D. Shapiro, a respected director from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company whose "August: Osage County" is now on Broadway, turned the job down, and that the search is continuing. But I do know that the committee has no hope of finding the right artistic director if it doesn't have a very, very clear sense of the artistic direction it wants the ART to take.
Now, this raises the question: If the blogosphere still feels the repertory theatre model might be desirable, what is its point? What are its goals? Or what should they be? Is it, as some have said, to create new work? Does everyone feel ART and similar groups need resident playwrights? Or are there other aesthetic goals that may be desirable as well?

Meantime, there's another part of Kennedy's piece that I have a problem with -- the two graphs preceding the one cited above:
My frustration, I think, has some of the same roots as my admiration. Before becoming the Globe's theater critic, I spent nearly five years as an arts reporter, often writing preview features in advance of a show's opening. As it happened, many of these previews concerned the ART, so I've spent a lot of hours in the company's basement rehearsal space at Zero Church Street, in its offices at the Loeb Drama Center, and in conversation with many of its staff members, directors, and actors, as well as in the audience at the Loeb and the new theater space at Zero Arrow.

Some might argue that that's too much inside information for a critic to have, and I'll admit that it's sometimes challenging for me to write a strong critique of work by people I have come to like as well as respect. (Of course, since becoming the critic I have no longer attended any rehearsals or other "backstage" events.) But I also know that having observed the process, not just the productions, at the ART has given me a deep appreciation of the company's passions, its vision, and its creative ferment. And that's why I know it could be better than it often is.
Well, perhaps some might argue "that that's too much inside information for a critic to have," but I'd argue that Kennedy is doing ART, as well as her own profession, a disservice by refusing to continue attending such events. By erecting a wholly artificial wall between critics and artists, Kennedy neither helps her readers, nor helps ART, nor helps herself as a critic.

To be clear, I have no problem with Kennedy airing her concerns about ART within the public sphere. In fact, as a nonprofit that likely receives one or more forms of public subsidy (from the city of Boston, state of Massachusetts, or the federal government), one could easily argue that it's a matter of the public's right to know.

But Kennedy, like it or not, I believe has a moral responsibility to act like the member of the theatrical community that the Boston Globe theatre critic must must must -- she is, indeed, an essential and irrevocable part of that community. By separating herself from artists, she loses the valuable insight she had gained as a result of her earlier interactions. That helps no one.

Now, perhaps the Boston Globe's policy prevents Kennedy, at the mouth of a gun or whatever, from consorting with those horrid artists, lest it give the appearance of corruption or otherwise taints her objectivity. If so, it's theatre artists who ought to be outraged by this. Of course, they won't express that outrage -- artists are just as guilty as critics for the adversarial relationship between the two.

By the way, I know several editors who disagree with me, and that's their issue -- or bias, or lack of vision, or insecurity, or terror, or whatever it is. I believe that to support the separation of critics and artists is to drive a stake into the heart of the art form. Period.

Sphere: Related Content

Punch 59 is Back!

And while we're waiting for all the advocates of change and "new models" to actually comment as to whether they're going to put their money where their mouths are and go to the National Performing Arts Convention (as per my post yesterday)...

Punch 59 is Back!

You've got THREE chances to see New York's BEST SKETCH COMEDY in MARCH! Punch 59!

Tuesday, March 11th &
Wednesday, March 26th

@ 8:00pm
Gene Frankel Theatre, Downstairs
24 Bond Street
(#6 train to Bleecker, F/V to B'Way Lafayette)
Tickets $10

as NYC's gutsiest comedy troupes
go head-to-head in a
winner-take-all throwdown...
and YOU decide the winner!


Monday, March 31st

@ 7:30pm
The Sage Theatre
777 Seventh AvenueIn the heart of Times Square, at 48th Street
Tickets $15

It's the return of AMERICAN MIDOL,
NYC'S favorite variety show,
featuring twisted magic, music,
and sketch comedy from PUNCH 59!

Jen Ryan*, Erika Woods, Rik Sansone*,
Adam P. Murphy, Noel Hunter, Jill Butterfield,
Melisa Breiner-Sanders, Rachael Marie Shaffer
(*AEA member)

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Are You Going to the National Performing Arts Convention?

Is everyone planning to go to the National Performing Arts Convention in Denver in June?

If you want to generate some change, you should at least know about this. Or better yet, go. And start talking, networking, demanding planning cohesion. Or will people refuse to put their funds where their mouths are?

This is one example of what I mean by GET UP AND DO SOMETHING.

I'm going.

Sphere: Related Content

Notes from an Angry White Guy in Chicago

Excellent post from Don Hall in Chicago on how to create new models. Of course, I appreciate the shout out in the post!

Sphere: Related Content