Thursday, July 31, 2008

Should This Be An Ad?

Seems to me the answer is obvious.

Sphere: Related Content

Arts Advocacy Update LII

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of July 30, 2008:

Group: Montana near bottom of widening philanthropic gap
Missoulian (MT), 7/22/2008
"The philanthropic gap has widened even further between the 10 states with the most private foundation assets and the 10 states with the least, including Montana, a Helena group said Monday. In 1988, the average total foundation assets in each of the top 10 states was $9.26 billion, compared with an average of $63 million in Montana and the nine other states with the least foundation assets, according to the Big Sky Institute for the Advancement of Nonprofits of Helena. . . . The latest statistics - for 2005 - showed the top 10 states with foundation assets averaging $36.8 billion, compared with the bottom 10 states' average of $766 million. . . . In 2005, the top 10 states averaged $171 per capita in making grants, while the 10 bottom states averaged $34, for a gap of $137."
And yet, according to the polls, Obama is ahead. I'm not suggesting there's any kind of relationship between Obama and the philanthropic shortfall in Montana, but I just find it interesting.

Indiana Arts Commission Revises Funding Formula
Inside Indiana Business, 7/25/2008
"The Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) has established a new regional funding formula to distribute public arts funding more equally around the state. The adjustments to the IAC's regional block grant distributions are designed to more fairly reflect the geographic size and population of each region. The new formula will be introduced in stages. Fifty percent of the change will be implemented in fiscal year 2010 and the rest will take place in fiscal year 2011."But the total funds is...? Interestingly, unless I missed it, the article doesn't say. If memory serves, Indiana is not one of the nation's more lavishly giving states when it comes to arts appropriations.

Looking for Equity in Arts Financing
New York Times, 7/24/2008
In New York City, the Cultural Equity Group has asked city officials "for $15 million in the city budget that would go to so-called culturally specific organizations, serving blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and American Indians. The money — to be used for things like programs and administrative support — would be separate from financing awarded by city agencies, like the Cultural Affairs Department. That agency’s grant panels do not use culturally specific criteria when awarding money. . . . [T]he Cultural Equity Group’s quest has reignited a lively debate in the arts world about just what cultural equity means."
To what degree, if at all, is it racist or sexist or white-ist to find this offensive? I'm not saying I do, I'm simply asking for comments.

Shaking Down Philanthropies\
Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2008
"A proposed bill [in California] would have required foundations with more than $250 million in assets to report the racial, gender and sexual orientation of their board members, staffs and grantees. The bill's sponsors recently agreed to drop the issue in return for a political payoff of millions of dollars from 10 of the state's biggest charities. . . . The message, from the bill's supporters, he says, was that 'well-heeled philanthropy is too busy spending money on opera and museums of fine art to make their resources available to minority and low-income communities.'" The article warns, "With similar legislative initiatives being discussed in New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and even in Congress, the great philanthropy shakedown may be coming soon to a neighborhood near you."
Wow. What the hell? "...and sexual orientation"? Who the hell has a right to know that? What about the sexual orientation of legislators?

How to make a live/work space a reality in your house
New York Daily News, 7/29/2008
Artists spaces in suburbia: "Although commuting to work has become a part of the American cultural landscape, recent sharp increases in the price of gasoline and other energy fuels now has many people who would have never considered living and working in the same space thinking seriously about doing just that. As a result, the demand for live/work space has begun to outrun the supply of buildings that can be remodeled to fit the needs of those who want to take advantage of the idea. That could change soon, however, now that a growing number of developers are looking to create live-work spaces in suburban areas."
Great story. Doesn't entirely make me want to live in suburbia, but at least there are maybe going to be options in the future that don't quite exist today, especially if the economy really tanks more than it already has.

Editorial: Cultural Affairs Office\
Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/23/2008
The Philadelphia Inquirer applauds Mayor Nutter for reopening the city's cultural affairs office. "In launching the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy on Friday - and naming an experienced leader in New Yorker Gary Steuer as culture czar - Nutter took another concrete step toward making the city's arts a focus of his administration. . . . For Nutter, restoring the office is a case of his arts policy following public dollars already pledged toward cultural grants by his administration. The mayor's first budget included a $2 million bump in the city's Cultural Fund, fulfilling another campaign pledge."
Good for Nutter and good for the Inquirer.

Massachusetts House OKs tax breaks for film companies to build studios; measure moves to Senate
Patriot Ledger, 7/25/2008
"After a fierce and lengthy debate, the state House of Representatives voted Thursday night to give new tax credits to the film industry. The bill, which passed on a voice vote, would offer tax breaks to film companies that build studios in Massachusetts and is intended to solidify Hollywood’s growing presence here."
Should have been a slam-dunk.

Pols should yell ‘cut’
Boston Herald, 7/28/2008
The Boston Herald speaks out against a bill approved by the state House that "would provide a 20 percent tax break for the cost of building new studios and production facilities. . . . The fact is that the film tax incentives are a proven lure to the industry, which happily doesn’t then have to make Vancouver look like Boston, and they are issued only when the cameras start rolling. With the studio credits, the state would be taking a chance that they won’t turn out to be empty monuments to big Hollywood dreams, courtesy of the struggling taxpayers."
They're wrong. Next!

Sphere: Related Content

A Fourth Review of "Historic Photos of Broadway"

This review of Historic Photos of Broadway comes courtesy of my good friend and compatriot Evans Donnell in Nashville. It's quite effusive and it made me blush. I'm deeply honored.

If I may, here's a tease:

....It's true that theater brings spoken words and living images to us in a way no book can. But an unbalanced chronicle of Broadway that has too many words or too many pictures keeps us from a sense of what shows we never saw were like and how shows we saw should be remembered. This volume happily avoids those extremes.

Jacobs uses thorough research, a deft writing style and selections from the extraordinary photo collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts' Billy Rose Theatre Division to tell us how Broadway came to be the Broadway we know today. His compilation manages to educate and entertain at the same time....

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Review: [title of show]

In New York Press.

Here's a tease -- taking from the end of the review rather than the lede:

Bowen’s bouncy tunes, Bell’s clever lyrics and three-out-of-four fine performances notwithstanding, I think what’s being celebrated here isn’t the insight of that aforementioned lyric but perhaps something even more powerful: the idea that dreams still can come true.

And [title of show] almost pulls it off. If, during the run at the Vineyard, the chief problem was that it never had a satisfying end, Bowen and Bell could now freeze their project where it is if they wished to. Bell appears, however, resistant—his cheeky, smirky, too-cute, look-how-brilliant-I-am performance has a fetid air of arrogance, self-righteousness and over-entitlement to it, and it’s a turn-off. At least Bowen appears to be humbled by the Broadway firmament; Blackwell and Blickenstaff are so good in their supporting roles that anyone with a pulse is probably writing musicals for them right now. What will Bell do then? Write a musical about that?

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Saturday, July 26, 2008

New Review: Ralph Fiennes in Samuel Beckett's "First Love"

Here's a tease:

In the film All About Eve, Bette Davis is seen at the end of the curtain call for a play that her character, Margo Channing, appears in. As the curtain rises one last time, we only see her back. As the applause swells, Margo turns, "discovers" the audience, expresses false modesty, and humbly bows.

For the man whose back is the first image of First Love, a theatrical version of a 1946 short story by Samuel Beckett (staged by Michael Colgan, artistic director of Dublin's Gate Theatre), being discovered by outsiders is the last thing he wants. Nor does he wish to be touched, loved, or acknowledged. Still, under the hazy lights designed by James McConnell, he's in our sights. Reluctantly turning to face us, we plainly see that the man is actor Ralph Fiennes, but then again, it isn't. That shaved head, those sallow cheeks, those eyes as melancholy as a murder victim — this man is infinitely more haunting. In an hourlong monologue that shifts from hostility to reticence to firearm-lethal sarcasm, we learn just how soul-deprived this fellow is.

Sphere: Related Content

New Interview: Elaine Szewcyzk, "I'm With Stupid"

If you haven't gotten your copy of Elaine Szewczyk's new comic novel, "I"m With Stupid" yet, you're stupid.

But you have a chance to be smart: read the interview I did with the author -- a Nielsen colleague of mine over at Kirkus Reviews -- for She's a hoot in person and I hope it comes through in the interview.

Sphere: Related Content

A Radio Interview -- With Me! -- About "Historic Photos of Broadway"

Last week -- July 19, to be exact -- George Bodarky of WFUV-FM had me as the guest on his weekly show, Cityscape, to talk about Historic Photos of Broadway. I had a great time and I think George did, too.

If you want to listen to the show, click here. Click on the July 19 episode and listen. It lasts about a half-hour.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, July 25, 2008

Photo Call II

These are a few of the long-promised photos from my 40th birthday party. I'm not going to identify anyone -- but they all know who they are.

Sphere: Related Content

Photo Call I

So everyone thinks there's nothing more to me than theatre and the book and fighting the good fight for good causes and making friends and enemies?

Well, my gosh, my gosh, how little some of y'all know me.

I decided I'd put up a bunch of photos tonight just to shed some light into other areas of my life.

For example -- my little cousin Derek! He's my aunt and uncle's son, lives in Pennsylvania, is a scary-smart kid if there ever was one, and is such an imp. Here he is with me -- he insisted he had a better vantage point with his plastic gun if he had a little more height.

And here is crawling on the floor -- to terrorize my mom, dad, aunt and uncle -- with Kenny.

Sphere: Related Content

You may say that I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one

Just imagine the next president of the United States -- a brain instead of braggadocio, a sense of humanity instead of a sense of senseless murder.

Sphere: Related Content

Arts Advocacy Update LI

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of July 23, 2008:

Movie and TV crews help Louisiana recover
USA Today, 7/16/2008
"A record number of major feature films and television pilots are being filmed in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana, creating an economic boost to a region rebuilding from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina three years ago."
Jobs, jobs, jobs, baby. Very important story.

Arts Plan Could Cause Funding Gap, Study Says
Washington Post, 7/23/2008
"In the midst of a contentious and politically turbulent first year as D.C. schools chancellor, Michelle A. Rhee drew near-universal acclaim with one goal: to place music, art and physical education instructors in all public schools. But a study by a coalition of public education advocates says that the rigid financial formula Rhee imposed to fulfill that promise would trigger unintended consequences -- including teacher shortages, large class sizes and per-pupil funding gaps between some schools in low- and high-income areas of the city."
Oh, so nix the arts?

A Portrait of Art As a Tax Deduction
Wall Street Journal, 7/22/2008
Since Congress capped deductions donors can take for so-called fractional gifts of art almost two years ago, museums have seen an enormous reduction in new fractional gifts. "Now lawmakers, under pressure from museums, are mulling easing some of the restrictions." Mike Spector explains the tax benefits of fractional gifts, the current restrictions, and how Congress might change the law. "The Schumer-Grassley plan would ease some . . . restrictions, but would add others, according to the people briefed on the negotiations. Collectors would once again be allowed to take bigger deductions over time as their art appreciated. But higher art values, for tax purposes, would be restrained by any deductions taken previously, under one option being discussed."
Not sure I understand what a fractional gift is. Article is interesting but doesn't really help that much in that regard. The article says:

Here's how it worked: The donor would take a deduction based on the first contributed stake -- say, $4,000 for donating a third of a $12,000 painting. If the collector donated another one-third stake later, and the $12,000 painting had appreciated to $30,000, the next deduction would be $10,000. The donor could continue to take advantage of this until he gave away the entire interest in the artwork, and he could take as many years as he wished to do so.
But what I don't understand is who decides that the painting has appreciated to $30,000 -- do you have to submit multiple appraisements, for example? How is fraud avoided in such a situation -- after all, you could, if the numbers were big enough, get all kinds of people to appraise all kinds of artwork for all kinds of prices. How would anyone know what's authentic?

City's arts office reopen for biz
Philadelphia Daily News, 7/19/2008
"Declaring the arts a key part of a thriving city, Mayor Nutter yesterday reopened the city's arts office and appointed a New Yorker as chief cultural officer. More than 200 supporters cheered as Nutter signed an executive order creating the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. A similar office was closed in 2004 by then-Mayor Street."
I guess that's what you call Nutter butter.

Economic woes force 12 percent cut in N.J. arts funding
Cherry Hill Courier Post (NJ), 7/23/2008
"Against a backdrop of cutbacks, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts reduced by 12.6 percent its funding for arts organizations, programs and projects on Tuesday. The council awarded $18.8 million in grants for fiscal year 2009, some $2.7 million less than the $21.5 million handed out for the last fiscal year. . . . It could have been worse, said council chairwoman Carol Herbert. Through a statewide lobbying campaign, arts leaders joined with educators and businessmen to convince legislators to restore more than half of the 27 percent funding cut in the budget that Gov. Jon S. Corzine submitted earlier this year."

Caught in a Money Trap
On the Commons, 7/10/2008
"Once more, when times are bad and the potential pot of contributed dollars shrinks, the arts are dying on the vine. However, it is not the economy that needs fixing—but the arts system that is dependent upon and trapped in a tenuous relationship with it," says an essay by Kathleen Maloney.
I'd be curious to know what Mike Daisey thinks of this article. Frankly, it strikes me as missing some key points. Mike?

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Review: Kicking a Dead Horse

For New York Press. Went online awhile ago. Here's a tease:

Until now, on the roster of American playwrights that can be expected to assault audiences with heavy-handed metaphor, Sam Shepard has always ranked dead last. Yet in the puzzling wake of Kicking a Dead Horse, the playwright’s first new work to premiere at the Public Theater since Simpatico 14 years ago, he’s shooting to the top of the list.

Sphere: Related Content

Alicia Hurley, Complicit in NYU's Campaign of Lies and Deceit About the Provincetown Playhouse, Savaged Anew

I received the following, below, via email. Since it was written as a letter to New York magazine in response to the magazine's recent piece on the controversy surrounding the landmarking (or not landmarking) of NYU's I.M. Pei-designed Silver Towers -- and the sense, however tenuous, that my alma mater might actually be realizing how much blood boiling and hatred they have generated in their surrounding community -- I felt it wouldn't be inappropriate to publish it, especially as I suspect top New York editor Adam Moss wouldn't let such a long piece see print.

Whatever else one might say or not say about the historian Gail Cohen, who wrote the letter, she does her research. Read the whole thing and you'll see why, among other things, NYU's Alicia Hurley is, in my view and in the view of most observers, a despicable and deceitful liar.

Of course, some of the blame this time around has to go to the members of Community Board 2, some of whom, I have heard it alleged, were bought off, literally or figuratively, by Alicia Hurley and her henchfolk at NYU. I do not know whether that is true or not, but they certainly seemed rather compliant at the community board meeting I attended.

Anyway, I left in the capitalized words for effect. The makers of Bayer aspirin can pay me later.

John Sexton, Alicia Hurley, Scott Stringer, the Villager, Community Board 2, and the Off-Broadway League are committing TREASON AGAINST GREENWICH VILLAGE, our THEATRE HERITAGE, and our AMERICAN HERITAGE by their Revised Plan to demolish most of the Provincetown Playhouse, and all of the historic buildings next to it that were the heart of bohemia in the teens and 1920's - in order to build new offices, and a Law Research Center on the site and property of the historic Provincetown Playhouse.

John Sexton has tried to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse for years. His first plan in the 1990's was to make it into classrooms. That plan was successfully fought, and assurances were given that it would not be destroyed. Then in April of 2008 NYU released their plan again to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse. There have since been two other plans. The Revised Plan by NYU just saves the current facade and some walls while destroying the rest of the building, and all of the other historic buildings next to it on MacDougal Street. They hired the architect 9 months before they released their plan in April to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse. They have not sought any alternatives of other properties to build their new Law Research Center on though their exists a multitude of choices to build or renovate on a different location.

Without telling anyone, NYU's School of Education that had control of the Provincetown Playhouse in 1997 destroyed the original historic stage and dome built by the Founder of the Provincetown Players that had been there all those years. People only recently found out about this, and Alicia Hurley only admitted it several weeks ago. She said they destroyed the original historic stage to put in air conditioning. So much for their Tribute to, and Honoring a Cultural Institution as stated in the NYU Revised Plan for the Provincetown Playhouse property.

NYU kept the Provincetown Playhouse dark for 6 years. The legendary African-American Director, Woodie King tried to have use of the Provincetown Playhouse after 1984 when the School of Law purchased it. He was denied putting on professional plays at the theatre. Then around 1994, James Houghton, Founder of Signature Theatre was about to sign a lease with John Sexton who was then Dean of the School of Law. At the last minute before the signing of the lease, John Sexton stopped all contact with Signature Theatre. They were told by others that NYU was going to sell the building or gut it back then. As far as I know the Tisch Graduate
Theatre Department has not had use of the Provincetown Playhouse. That has been NYU's response to those in Professional Theatre.

The Revised Plan is not per se about the Provincetown Playhouse. It is about one thing - building the NYU School of Law's Research Center. The politicians have all played along with this terrible deed. That little row of buildings that also house the Provincetown Playhouse is responsible for Greenwich Village BEING the Village. The reason why people initially flock to NYU with a sense of that important heritage. STOP NYU FROM DESTROYING THE HISTORIC PROVINCETOWN PLAYHOUSE which has been declared by the New York State Preservation Officer eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. This happen before Community Board 2 met, yet they stilled voted to go along with NYU's Revised Plan as did Scott Stringer. Everyone else spoke against the NYU Revised Plan.

I can tell you that this deed that NYU plans to carry out in the near future is a mistake on their part. HISTORY WILL HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE. NYU is not a neighbor at all. For months, Alicia Hurley continually stated that the entire building was gutted in 1940 when the facade was altered. This was totally untrue, and only admitted by NYU in recent weeks. A good neighbor does not lie. A good neighbor does not intentionally destroy the neighborhood, and certainly does not destroy as they already have an historic building such as the Provincetown Playhouse that was responsible for the rise of the American Theatre as we know it today. The Provincetown Players (1915 - 1929 the last from the original group) had as its members the entire Intellectual World of the teens and 1920's.

There is an entire African-American Heritage at the Provincetown Playhouse - from the first African-American in a major dramatic role (Charles Gilpin), to Paul Robeson, and the entire cast of major African-American actors of the period that acted in IN ABRAHAM'S BOSOM by Paul Green which in 1927 was awarded the Pulitzer-Prize (Rose McClendon, Abbie Mitchell, Jules Bledsoe, Frank Wilson and Stanley Greene).

There is an extensive history at the building after the Provincetown Players, and the Experimental Theatre Inc. that followed them. Edward Albee's play ZOO STORY premiered there, as did plays by John Guare and David Mamet. Producer Harold Prince, and others have advocated that the Tisch Graduate Theatre Program or professional theatre group be given use of the Provincetown Playhouse, and not the School of Education as planned which destroyed on purpose the original stage that hosted the giant playwrights, actors, directors, stage designers of the times. Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Edmund Wilson, Max Eastman, Mike Gold, Ida Rauh (the Duse of MacDougal Street), Mary Blair, Robert Edmond Jones, Cleon Throckmorton, James Light, Susan Glaspell, Floyd Dell, Jasper Deeter, John Reed, Louise Bryant, Aline Bernstein and others. Their memory is being assaulted by John Sexton, Alicia Hurley and the Architect. I was privileged to know some of the Provincetown Players. What NYU is doing is wrong on all fronts, I can assure the readers of this magazine.

Please contact the NYU Board of Trustees, their donors, and politicians. John Sexton and NYU must be stopped from proceeding with their Revised Plan for the Provincetown Playhouse. John Sexton is not a neighbor, though the politicians might see him as such NYU being one of the largest employers in New York, ad buyers in media etc. John Sexton is running a Global expansion of NYU, and not just in Greenwich Village. This expansion should not include the historic PROVINCETOWN PLAYHOUSE, and other Historic Buildings on MacDougal Street. Just because they have already destroyed the Provincetown Playhouse significance by getting rid of the original stage and dome does not qualify NYU to continue building, and rebuilding. That little row of buildings means much to many. It is only seen as real estate to John Sexton. It is real estate that still inspires us today. As the plaque in front of the Provincetown Playhouse which co-founder and Pulitzer-Prize writer Susan Glaspell had melted down for the WWII effort stated as a tribute to George Cram Cook, her husband, "And we shall make this cold world all dance and music. The dance of flame obedient to dream."

John Reed etched on an old hitching post at the theatre that had been a stable - HERE PEGASUS WAS HITCHED. Let Pegasus remained hitched at that very building that symbolizes our aspirations, and what life can become when we bring our caring to bear upon our ways of doing. A Law Research Center is not appropriate for that historic property.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Third Review of Historic Photos of Broadway

This one comes courtesy of Elyse Sommer at, and I'm really very flattered by all the kind things she has to say. Here's the link.

Here's a tease:

....Naturally, historic photos of Broadway's showplaces and show people need a historian to guide us through these pages with facts and anecdotes, and Leonard Jacobs is just the man to make these pictures come to life. Jacobs picked over 240 images out of an awesome total of 3 million. He astutely organized his selections chronologically so that the text could flow briskly and organically, giving readers the sense of thumbing through a photo album with long-ish captions, yet providing enough meat to induce them to return for cover to cover reading....

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Estelle Getty, 1923-2008

Good night, beautiful Sophia.

Sphere: Related Content

New Reviews: A Roundup of DC Theatre

After I returned from the national conference of the American Theatre Critics Association in Washington, D.C., I wrote a long review (over 2,000 words, it turned out) for Back Stage of just about all the productions I saw there. Here's the link. I'm actually rather proud of this piece and its epic length.

Here's a tease:

Capitol Crimes and Missed Demeanors
July 18, 2008
By Leonard Jacobs

It seems a cliché to suggest that all theatre in the Washington, D.C., area has a political slant. But at times it appeared as if the tickets being offered to the visiting members of the American Theatre Critics Association, which held its annual conference from June 17 through June 22 in and around the D.C. metro area, were for productions seeking to prime the pumps of polemical debate. Critics were offered opportunities to see up to 10 shows (well, 14 if you squeezed in errant matinees and stayed in town a little longer), plus four panels, four dinners with artistic directors, and various other colloquia, readings, and events.

The Bethesda, Md.-based Round House Theatre's remounting of Russell Lees' prickly and pulsating satire Nixon's Nixon (closed June 29) — first presented by the company in 1999 — was among the more overtly political works on the agenda. It was originally produced Off-Broadway under the auspices of MCC Theater (then called the Manhattan Class Company) in 1995; it is set on the eve of President Nixon's resignation from office. While it has been widely reported that Nixon's secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, decided to visit the embattled 37th president in the Lincoln Sitting Room that night, what transpired remains a mystery. As Lees insightfully imagines their chat, the play is equally compelling for the volumes left unsaid.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, July 21, 2008

From the Brilliant Mind of Mark Cabus?

Oh, that crazy Mark Cabus, down in Nashville running his Naked Stages and pairing up with Nashville Shakespeare on a production of Coriolanus. Watch the video and tell me if you're not amused enough to at least consider a Nashville trip. A little Opry, a little food, a little Bard, right? (I also hear through the grapevine that Mark is going through some trying family stuff right now -- hang in, baby, you're in my thoughts and prayers.)

Sphere: Related Content

Another Blog Review of My Book: American Theater Web

A big, big, big shout-out to my friend Andy Propst for his very kind review of Historic Photos of Broadway on the new and ever-improving American Theater Web.

I appreciate the "full disclosure," too, of course.

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Blog Review of My Book -- Historic Photos of Broadway

My PR contact at Turner Publishing alerted me yesterday to one of the first reviews for my book, Historic Photos of Broadway. Click here for the review. Truth to tell, Everything I Know I Learned from Musicals is a new blog to me, but hey, I'll put it on my blogroll and keep on keepin' on. Here's the bio of the blogger:

Chris Caggiano is a writer, editor, and teacher who lives in Boston. He teaches the history of musical theater at the Boston Conservatory of Music. He also serves as unofficial dramaturg, lyricist, and all-around showtune fanatic for the Boston Gay Men's Chorus. He has a cocker spaniel named Oliver who is completely out of his mind, but nonetheless adorable.
Anyway, thanks for the review! And I hope to get to see your insane cocker spaniel one day. Also, sorry you felt the book's title is boring. We decided simple was best. But I hear ya.

Sphere: Related Content

The One Thing About Second Stage Theatre's Acquisition of the Helen Hayes Theatre No One's Discussing

Below I'm pasting in the text of the press release, sent out on Thursday just in time for Friday reportage, announcing the Second Stage Theatre will be purchasing its first Broadway house -- the Helen Hayes -- and taking over its programming as of 2010. But there's one thing in this release, which is as sunny and optimistic as you'd expect, that is contained in the actual release. No, it's buried in Robin Pogrebin's coverage of the announcement in the New York Times:

Second Stage will raise $35 million to buy and renovate the theater, the company’s founding director, Carole Rothman, said. The Helen Hayes is likely to be renamed.
Can't you see the headline?:


What a total outrage. I'm going to start a campaign to stop Rothman before she even starts to think about it. What, she'll allow it to be renamed for some tenant-raping real estate developer? Where the hell are her manners? For now, here's the release. Trust me, I'm not going to let this issue rest.


Third Home Will Be Only Broadway House Dedicated
Exclusively to Producing Contemporary American Theater
Programming in the Helen Hayes Will Begin in 2010

(New York, NY—Thursday, July 17, 2008)—Second Stage Theatre today announced that it has acquired the right to purchase the historic Helen Hayes Theatre, located at 240 W. 44th Street. With this new home, Second Stage will be the only theater company on Broadway dedicated exclusively to the development and presentation of contemporary American theatrical productions. Second Stage will also become one of only four non-profit theater companies that own and operate theaters on Broadway. The new theater will become Second Stage’s third venue in New York.

Second Stage will continue to lease and operate their original theaters on the city’s Upper West Side and in Midtown Manhattan. They have also entered into the quiet phase of a capital campaign to acquire, renovate, preserve, and operate the new facility and to start an endowment for the organization. Programming in the Helen Hayes will begin in 2010. Until that time, the current owners, Martin Markinson and the late Donald Tick, will continue to operate the theater.

Since its founding nearly 30 years ago, Second Stage has distinguished itself as a champion and leading producer of American theater, committed to developing and staging new work and nurturing up-and coming playwrights, directors, designers, and actors. It is known for its consistent focus on contemporary American playwrights and for mounting and initiating innovative productions such as Edward Albee’s Peter & Jerry, Jitney by August Wilson, Crumbs from the Table of Joy by Lynn Nottage, Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants, Coastal Disturbances by Tina Howe, Jar the Floor by Cheryl L. West, and Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl.

Second Stage has also discovered and nurtured new talent such as Cynthia Nixon, Julie White, Mark Ruffalo, Amy Ryan, Tim Daly, Laurence Fishburne, and Chandra Wilson. In the past six years alone, a number of Second Stage’s notable productions, such as Metamorphoses, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and The Little Dog Laughed, have gone on to extended Broadway runs. Second Stage is also distinguished for its commitment to mounting ‘second stagings’ of recent works that merit further exposure to audiences.

“Acquiring the Helen Hayes is the natural, yet amazing next step for Second Stage in bringing our mission of presenting innovative American theater to the heart of Broadway,” said Carole Rothman, Second Stage Theatre’s founding director. “With this acquisition, we have both the tremendous opportunity and responsibility to help ensure that contemporary American theater remains a vibrant part of Broadway and, in turn, benefits from the power of Broadway to draw and excite new audiences across the nation.”

“Over its lifetime, Second Stage has built a community of artists, and has nurtured literally thousands of theater people,” said Second Stage board co-chair Tony Kiser. “Second Stage has a proven record of success, both artistically and financially, an enviable position for a New York non-profit organization.”

Second Stage board co-chair Stephen Sherrill commented, “Building on thirty years of fiscal responsibility and support, the Theatre is on solid financial footing, allowing us to take this important investment in our artistic development. It’s not often a Broadway house becomes available, but because we have achieved and maintained artist and audience loyalty and financial vitality, we are in a position to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“When I joined Second Stage two years ago, one of my main objectives was to find the company a permanent home,” said Ellen Richard, Second Stage’s executive director. “Opening our third home in a building which we will own provides a firm foundation for long-term planning and financial stability, which is especially important to the health of a not-for-profit theater company.”

“This is the perfect theater for Second Stage,” said Martin Markinson, Helen Hayes Theatre owner since 1977. “The size is well-suited for the presentation of new and innovative work, as we have had the good fortune to realize over the years, and it resonates with the history of the theater as an incubator for innovative works. I think it’s important that original, American drama has a strong presence on Broadway, so I’m thrilled that Second Stage will establish its permanent home at the Helen Hayes Theatre.”

When it opened in 1912, the Little Theatre (as it was then known) had only 300 seats and was built as an intimate house to present new playwrights and experimental dramas that were deemed too risky to stage in large Broadway theaters.

The Helen Hayes Theatre
In the 1920’s, theater architect and designer Herbert J. Krapp redesigned the space to increase capacity to nearly 500 and improve the acoustics. In 1931, the building was sold to the New York Times and converted into a conference hall renamed New York Times Hall. CBS used the theatre as a radio facility for a time, but it was reconverted by ABC into a legitimate theatre in 1958, once again as the Little Theatre. When not being used as a theatrical venue, the building was leased to CBS Radio and the Westinghouse Corporation, among others and housed television and radio shows for ABC and CBS, among them The Dick Clark Show, Who Do You Trust with Johnny Carson, and the Merv Griffin and David Frost shows. After the original Helen Hayes Theatre on 46th Street was razed in the 1980s to make way for the Marriott Marquis Hotel, the Little Theatre was renamed the Helen Hayes to honor the then still-living legend. Notable engagements include a five-year run of Albert Innaurato’s Gemini, Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-winner Torch Song Trilogy, Tony-winner The Last Night of Ballyhoo by Alfred Uhry, Dirty Blonde, Golda’s Balcony and many others. Currently home to Xanadu, the venue remains the smallest house on Broadway and is independently owned and operated by Martin Markinson and the late Donald Tick. In 1987, it was designated as a Landmark Site by the City of New York’s Landmark Preservation Commission.

Second Stage Theatre
Director Carole Rothman founded Second Stage Theatre in 1979 to give ‘second stagings’ to contemporary American plays that originally failed to find an audience due to scheduling problems, inappropriate venues or limited performance runs. Since then, Second Stage has evolved from a small theatre into an Off-Broadway institution dedicated to developing plays, artists and audiences. In addition to its original mission, the theatre provides emerging authors with their Off-Broadway debuts and produces world premieres by America’s most respected playwrights. Through both the production of new plays and long-term residencies that focus on artistic process rather than product, artists find a supportive environment in which to try new roles, production designs and writing techniques.

Audiences are an essential factor in program development at Second Stage Theatre, which is nationally known for its dedication to building future audiences by educating teens about the art of contemporary theatre and encouraging their participation in the cultural life of New York City.

For nearly three decades, Second Stage Theatre productions have launched the successful careers of numerous directors, actors, playwrights and artists, many of whom regularly return to work at Second Stage. The company’s mission also has expanded to the commissioning of a body of multigenerational plays; the creation of a training base for young directors and a home base for mid-career directors; and the development of educational projects that are integrated with the ongoing artistic work at the theatre.

Second Stage Theatre’s Original Two Homes
Second Stage Theatre’s original home is the McGinn/Cazale Theatre. The first three seasons were presented in a 99-seat house located in the penthouse of a West Side Hotel. The unorthodox Upper West Side location proved a critical asset in building an audience and a loyal subscriber base, and added a new segment to the theatre-going public. In 1984, when Second Stage built its first permanent home on Broadway at 76th Street - the 108-seat McGinn/Cazale Theatre - it deepened its roots as a fixture of this neighborhood where so little theatre was otherwise available. The McGinn/Cazale Theatre is currently the home of Second Stage Theatre's Uptown series, dedicated to producing American plays by a new generation of theater artists.

Second Stage Theatre expanded into a second home in April of 1999, marking the twentieth anniversary of the company, and enabling the company to further its mission of rediscovering great American plays while broadening its range of productions. The17,000 square-foot space was designed by renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, in collaboration with New York-based architect Richard Gluckman. A converted historic bank building, the new space tripled Second Stage’s audience capacity to 296 seats and significantly increased the production facilities for large-scale shows.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, July 18, 2008

This One Goes Out to Andrew Barrett

And he'll know why. I first saw this on VHS ages and ages ago. And then I meant to post it and forgot for literally months. So, finally, while I'm thinking of it...

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pondering the Clay Tablet

For about a week or so -- well, ok, maybe a little bit longer -- I've been carrying around the New York magazine tribute to Clay Felker, the legendary creator and editor of the magazine. I was at work when I learned that Felker died and I gasped though I knew he hadn't been well. The truth is, not many editors are household names, even across the provinces of American journalism, where the canonizing of a leader is the final and greatest possible achievement. Tina Brown, sure. (Sorry, folks, she came to mind first. If that offends, stop reading now.) Abe Rosenthal at the Times, naturally. David Remnick -- when The New Yorker publishes a clever cover that inflames political passions -- but not always otherwise. Remnick's long-ago precedessors at The New Yorker, Harold Ross and William Shawn. Oh, yes, both those titanic totems in their totality. Ben Bradlee, clearly. Graydon Carter, alas. Henry Luce, goose. You get the idea.

I should note that it isn't necessarily the writing in the central piece, Tom Wolfe's essay "A City Built of Clay," that got me thinking. But it's worth noting that it's very jazzy:

Clay handed me an article entitled “La Dolce Viva,” by Barbara Goldsmith, the very one who had lent him $6,500 to buy the name New York from Jock Whitney in the first place. With it was a photograph.

I was standing up when I started reading—and found I was unwilling to interrupt myself long enough to sit down. What I had in my hands was dynamite. Tout le monde knew about the famous Andy Warhol and his famous Factory full of helpers and hangers-on. But Barbara Goldsmith’s was the first story to capture the campy creepy K-Y vaseline-y queasiness of it … the Warhol style of life—a classic example, incidentally, of what Weber meant by a status group generating a style of life … (Not only that, for an even 40 years now St. Andy’s has remained the dominant style of the lives of the artists in New York.) I looked at the photograph. I had never seen anything like it. It was a portrait of one of Warhol’s “superstars,” as he called the unknown actresses in his high-camp movies. She went by one name, Viva, the same way real celebrities such as a Liz (Taylor), Jackie (O.), and Andy did. In the photograph, Viva was reclining nude upon a ratty version of a Récamier sofa. This vision was not what one would call arousing. She looked like a hairless rabbit. You could see her entire rib cage beneath her skin except where a pair of tiny shrunken breasts were in the way. Seems she was a sometime model. She had rolled her eyes up under her skull, as if she were stoned, as being high on drugs was called at that time. Somehow the defining touch was an empty milk carton on the coffee table in the foreground. Not a syringe, not a stubbed-out reefer, not even an empty liquor bottle—but an empty milk carton. Somehow that milk carton was the perfect objective correlative, as the literary critics of the 1950s and 1960s used to say, of the
mental rubbish the picture captured. The photographer’s name was Diane Arbus.

Quite frankly, I very nearly pasted in a totally different graph in which Wolfe uses ellipses about 14 times. I mean, what I wouldn't write for a magazine...that celebrates...ellipses. I also nearly elected to write a series of posts, each dealing with a different aspect of New York's coverage: the as-told-to from Felker himself; the typically shoot-for-the-moon, settle-for-overreaching Kurt Andersen piece; the selection of cheeky covers, including those up above. (Speaking of Andersen, you can see Spy magazine in embryo, don't you think? Or maybe 7 Days? Yeah, no, maybe not 7 Days.)

Anyway, what's been burrowing itself like a Cole Porter-esque needle under my skin is more than that, all that, more than the swinging-on-the-clapper-of-a-belfry-bell style that is uniquely and most gloriously Wolfe's. Sure, it's a highly enviable style, even beyond his perpetual putzing around for puns and perceived and proclaimed perditions. (Wolfe always avoids alliteration.) It's even more Felker himself -- the image of the man as a purely self-made creation. Even though I know to open this can of worms in the blogosphere, on the Internet, where Warhol's 15-minutes-of-fame idea has basically come to pass, is basically ridiculous, it's this: In this pitch-black hole of history called America, 2008, will we ever really have mavericks like Clay Felker in our midst again? I'm not sure we will.

Something about New York's articles and their tone, with their fond and lavish remembrances, their high tide of warm feelings, their overdue forgiveness for odd personality quirks and stress-inducing idiosyncracies, left me terribly sad not only for Felker's death, but more broadly for the void his death signifies. It's a void, if you ask me, that has likely been under our noses for years.

How horrid for Felker, nearing the end of his life, no longer the shaker of social salt he once was, to watch the beginning of the cataclysmic end of media, of newspapers, of magazines, of holding the printed page in our hands the way we used to. Or at least that's what people are saying, and I think they're probably right. It's dying. Or so many of us fear.

There are excellent editors out there; there is one in particular who I greatly respect and who I think is maybe one of the few out there who, given the tools and resources of yesterday, could reinvent the magazine genre just as Felker did. But I fear it's all well past the sell date on that score. Newsroom cuts are everywhere. And in a world in which news is unyielding and analyses are on hyper-warp speed, the notion of a weekly, a monthly, God, even a daily, is apparently all but outmoded. Every day I read about ad sales falling the floor and editorial jobs that will never be replaced. Journalism, ladies and gentlemen, is dragging its heels on the Bataan Death March.

So I sit at home and read about Clay Felker, or I carry New York magazine in my bag for a week or more, re-reading about Clay Felker, and if nothing else I give him the tip of my hat for great timing, for exquisite timing. What I wouldn't give to have been born when the likes of him were around. Perhaps someday the same shall be said about me or about those I admire. Something in my gut, though, tells me that the end of the story won't have such an O. Henry twist, that it'll be more like a straightforward line you, the reader, sensed was coming and almost inevitable all along.

Sphere: Related Content

Arts Advocacy Update L

This, my friends, is the 50th Arts Advocacy Update. Hooray!!

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of July 16, 2008:

Heaviest users of Web face limits on 'unlimited'
Chicago Tribune, 7/12/2008
"For as long as consumers have had high-speed Internet at home, they have surfed the Web as much as they wanted, downloading any content while paying their service provider a flat monthly fee. Those days may be ending. Internet service providers, especially cable companies, are eyeing new pricing models to address the rapidly growing popularity of such applications as streaming online video and the sharing of large files. These programs can eat up bandwidth and cause bottlenecks, slowing service across networks. Companies such as Comcast and Time Warner also fear becoming a 'dumb pipe'—providing the conduit for data-intensive Internet activity but not managing the flow or making any money from it."
Apparently they didn't get the memo from the creators of Avenue Q: "The Internet is for porn." Seriously, this sucks. Damn media conglomerates. They should all get what they have coming to them.

NYC sets formal rules for filming on city streets
Washington Post - AP, 7/14/2008
"Filmmakers and photographers who shoot on New York City's streets and sidewalks now have a clear set of rules dictating when they must obtain permits, after years of relying on loose guidelines that civil liberties advocates said were too vague. The rules, which were to appear Monday in the City Record, now state clearly that productions must have permits and at least $1 million in insurance if they plan to take over a lane of traffic or leave less than eight feet of open space on a sidewalk. Permits and insurance also are required for shoots that involve vehicles or use equipment other than hand-held devices or cameras on tripods _ items like props, sets, lights, dolly tracks, screens and microphone devices. . . . [P]hotographers, filmmakers and civil liberties advocates were stunned by the first set of rules drafted last summer by Bloomberg's film office. Under that proposal, any group of two or more people who were filming or taking pictures for more than 30 minutes on city property would have needed a permit and insurance."
This seems far more realistic. The original set of rules were onerous and demonstrates and profound lack of understanding of the filmmaking process and the importance of at least a sheen of open society.

Big theater: It's time for S.L. to bring Broadway lights downtown
Salt Lake Tribune, 7/15/2008
An editorial in the Salt Lake City Tribune supports the idea of a new 2,400-seat playhouse. "Mayor Ralph Becker and other community leaders are right that a state-of-the-art theater large enough to attract touring productions of shows like 'The Lion King' and 'Wicked' is the next logical act in the drama of downtown redevelopment. . . . The Downtown Theater Action Group, a committee appointed by the mayor and headed by his brother, Bill, himself a Broadway producer, is also right that the theater would draw tourists from the region and multiply spending in restaurants and hotels. In addition, the revenues generated from touring shows could, if wisely managed, help to subsidize the theater and, perhaps, local productions."
One of the things that has surprised me is the strength of the arts community in Salt Lake City. If only we could export them to the more diehard Republican parts of the state, to cure them of their right-wing illness.

Foundation Collaborative Provides Support to Minnesota Arts Organizations
Philanthropy News Digest, 7/15/2008
"ArtsLab, a collaborative of the McKnight and four other Minnesota foundations, has announced the selection of seventeen nonprofits for participation in a three-year training and development program. A $1.85 million venture of the Bush, F.R. Bigelow, Mardag, McKnight, and Saint Paul foundations, ArtsLab will go beyond traditional capacity-building approaches and work to improve individual leadership capacity within the state's arts sector. Among other things, the initiative will work to increase the leadership pool for the arts sector in Minnesota, strengthen the presence of visionary small arts organizations in both urban and rural communities, and use the power of the arts to enhance community vitality and engagement."
Great news this is. No snark here -- I totally support this.

'Cultural amenities' tax floated in Durham
News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), 7/14/2008
"It's uncertain whether there's enough support in the state Senate for a bill that would allow Durham County voters to decide whether to implement a 1 percent tax on all prepared food and beverages. . . . Local leaders want to use most of the several million the new tax would generate on "cultural amenities," including a proposed Minor League Baseball museum."
There you go. It's not about the arts. It's about baseball. I love baseball, but is the memo about sports never generating as much economic impact as the arts not getting to the major, um, players in this discussion?

Sphere: Related Content

Welcome to Mark Blankenship's The Critical Condition

Where criticism is never, in fact, in critical condition.

Sphere: Related Content

New Review: The Marriage of Bette and Boo

This actually went up on line a few days ago and is in the current print edition.

Here's a tease:

Henri Bergson, the French philosopher and author of a famous tract on laughter, once observed: “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” If this is so, the mind of playwright Christopher Durang is prepared to the point of absurdity. For beyond the ridiculousness in his autobiographical 1985 play, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, currently being revived by the Roundabout Theatre Company, there’s unrelieved savagery. This tale of two clans linked by the titular pair’s long, woebegone marriage contains virtually no character able to see reality as it is, as opposed to the reality they pray for.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sprecher, Forlenza Birth Global Broadway

I received this press release yesterday. Of course, Sprecher doesn't acknowledge in his bio that he's the reason the Variety Arts was demolished in favor of a horrible monstrosity of a condo, a tacit admission that the Off-Broadway commercial business model is completely dead, more or less.



Producers Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza announced today the formation of GLOBAL BROADWAY PRODUCTIONS INC., a new production entity created to develop and produce new musicals for Broadway, the road, and international stages. The company comes into existence with three major musicals on its production slate: Little House on the Prairie, Rebecca and Havana. Capital for the development and production of the shows will come from a select group of investors. GLOBAL BROADWAY’s day to day operations will be handled by Sprecher and Forlenza.

Little House on the Prairie, with a book by Rachel Sheinken (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), music by Rachel Portman (Oscar-winner for her score for the film Emma), lyrics by Donna DiNovelli and direction by Francesca Zambello (The Little Mermaid), will have its world premiere on August 15 at the renowned Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, where it has already broken box-office records. Melissa Gilbert, beloved to audiences for her performance as Laura Ingalls Wilder on the NBC series Little House on the Prairie, stars as ‘Ma’ in the musical. A Broadway bow is planned for the 2008-09 season, with a subsequent national tour.

Rebecca, based on the classic Daphne Du Maurier novel (and later turned into an Oscar-winning film by Alfred Hitchcock) features book and lyrics by Michael Kunze, music by Sylvester Levay, direction by Francesca Zambello. Rebecca had its world premiere in 2006 in Vienna, where it has played to sold-out houses and is also currently playing in Tokyo and will open in Berlin and Helsinki in the next several months. GLOBAL BROADWAY aims to open Rebecca on Broadway in the spring of 2010.

Havana, a new original musical set in the days leading up to Castro’s takeover of Cuba, features music by Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll and Hyde), lyrics by Jack Murphy (The Civil War) and book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Nilo Cruz (Anna and the Tropics). Kathleen Raitt, William Franzblau and Jerry Frankel will co-produce this project. A director will be named in the coming months. Havana is planned for the fall of 2010 on Broadway.

BEN SPRECHER founded the Sprecher Organization in 1997, an independent theatrical production and general management company. He has produced Eugene O’Neil’s Moon for the Misbegotten starring Eve Best, Kevin Spacey and Colm Meaney; James Kirkwood’s comedy Legends! starring Joan Collins and Linda Evans; the Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple starring Nathan Lane and Mathew Broderick; the Tony Award-winning Broadway production of Fortune’s Fool starring Alan Bates and Frank Langella; Larry Gelbart’s hit Broadway comedy Sly Fox starring Richard Dreyfuss and Eric Stoltz; the Tony award winning production of Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain Tonight and the Broadway thriller Voices in the Dark. His upcoming productions are the revival of David Mamet’s American Buffalo. Prior to the creation of The Sprecher Organization, Mr. Sprecher was at the center of Off-Broadway. He reconstructed and operated the Theatre de Lys (now known as the Lucille Lortel Theatre) from 1981 until 1999. In 1982, he built and began operating the Promenade Theatre which was in continuous operation until 2006. In 1992, he built and began operating the Variety Arts Theatre which was in continuous operation until 2005. With the Shubert Organization, he was integral in construction of the Little Shubert Theatre which opened in 2004 and for which he continues to be responsible for its booking and operation. His shows have received two Tony Awards, two Pulitzer prizes, eleven New York Drama Critics Awards, fourteen Outer Critic Circle Awards, five Lucille Lortel Awards and numerous Obie Awards.

LOUISE FORLENZA most recently produced last year’s acclaimed production of A Moon for the Misbegotten. Prior to that production she produced the Broadway musical Lennon celebrating the music of John Lennon. Next season she is producing the Broadway revival of both David Mamet’s American Buffalo and Stalag 17, directed by Spike Lee. Louise Forlenza has, for the past 10 years, provided audit consultancy, management advisory, and tax planning services to a diverse group of corporate clients. She serves on the Board of the publicly traded company INNODATA-ISOGEN INC and is Chairperson of the Audit Committee as well as serving on the Compensation Committee. As a real estate developer and real estate manager, she acquired the southwest corner of 42nd Street and 9th Ave in the early 80’s in anticipation of the current re-development of Theatre Row and the residential development along the 42nd Street corridor. She participates actively in various not-for-profits and philanthropic organizations including The Acting Company, the world renowned New York City based theatre organization which was created to promote arts and literacy, founded in 1972 by actor John Houseman. She serves as The Acting Company’s Treasurer. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of The Foundation for Gender Specific Medicine.

Sphere: Related Content

Queens College, The Actors Company Theatre Birth New MFA Program

Earlier today I received the following press release:

The MFA in Creative Writing and Translation at Queens College, CUNY joins forces with The Actors Company Theatre

We are pleased to announce that the MFA in Creative Writing and Translation Program at Queens College, CUNY is joining forces with The Actors Company Theatre/TACT of New York City to create a new, innovative two-year MFA program in Playwriting. Students will have the opportunity to study with a gifted and diverse faculty at Queens College and have their work developed, deepened and performed by the critically acclaimed The Actors Company Theatre at their Manhattan studio. No other Master of Fine Arts program offers a student the opportunity develop scripts with professional actors in the center of the theatre world: New York, New York.

Since 1992, our partner, The Actors Company Theatre, has been producing plays of literary merit by focusing on creating theatre from its essence: the text and the actor’s ability to bring the written word to life. Led by director/playwright Scott Alan Evans and award winning actors, Cynthia Harris and Simon Jones, TACT’s is an ensemble of professional theatre artists whose cumulative experience includes roles in scores of Broadway shows, hundreds of Off-Broadway plays and over a thousand regional theatre productions. Hailed as one of the city’s “most valuable troupes,” TACT has one of the few true repertory companies in the city.

The new Queens College MFA in Playwriting, headed by award-winning playwright/lyricist Richard Schotter, offers students the rare interplay of intensive workshop training and practical theatre experience. Students will also benefit from the chance to cross genres and study with the other members of the acclaimed Queens College MFA faculty in poetry, fiction and translation.

The deadline for application to this exciting new program for the 2009-2010 academic year is February 15, 2009. For further information see the QC MFA website and The Actors Company Theatre’s website.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update XLIX

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of July 9, 2008:

Entering Cultural Communities
Rutgers University Press, 2008
From the publisher: The chapters in this book draw on interviews with leaders, staff, volunteers, and audience members from eighty-five nonprofit cultural organizations to explore how they are trying to increase participation and the extent to which they have been successful. The insiders’ accounts point to the opportunities and challenges involved in such efforts, from the reinvention of programs and creation of new activities, to the addition of new departments and staff dynamics, to partnerships with new groups. The authors differentiate between “relational” and “transactional” practices, the former term describing efforts to build connections with local communities and the latter describing efforts to create new consumer markets for cultural products. In both cases, arts leaders report that, although positive results are difficult to measure conclusively, long-term efforts bring better outcomes than short-term activities.
They really do want you to buy this book -- when you click on the link, there's not much more other than the abstract above.

Let's aim for the cultural omnivore
The Australian, 7/4/2008
The Australian shares an excerpt from Diane Ragsdale's July 3 keynote address at the Australia Council for the Arts marketing summit in Melbourne. "What if performances and exhibitions from all of Melbourne's arts organisations were aggregated by a website called What if that website could send emails to potential ticket buyers, making personal recommendations from the array of cultural activities on offer in the city? In much the same way as online dating services use surveys to gather information and match up people, a community-wide website could collect data on customer preferences - favourite composers, actors, directors, authors, styles, types of experiences, books, movies, television shows, radio programs - and develop a sophisticated system of recommendations. Coupled with a social networking site and reviews, these tools could help people make more informed decisions, make recommendations to each other and perhaps even entice them to try performances they may not otherwise have sought out."
Nice idea, but there must a reason no one is trying it. What is it?

Weak economy forces festivals to rethink, cancel
Associated Press, 7/8/08
"From a hot air balloon festival in Jackson, Mich., to parades in Clearwater, Fla. to a seafood festival in Annapolis, Md., organizers grappling with the effects of a weakening economy are calling it quits. Or at least putting off their events until next year. Corporate sponsors are pulling out as they worry about their own financial well-being, let alone donating money to a festival. Organizers are reluctant to raise ticket prices since families shelling out $4-a-gallon for gas may not want to pay the extra money. And costs for hiring bands, vendors and renting grounds are rising."
And today I was reading about a bank run in California. Not good, my friends, not good.

Mayor: Denver strong, poised for even better days
Denver Post, 7/1/2008
In his recent State of the City address, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper called attention to the importance of the arts and culture. "Hickenlooper said city and arts-committee collaboration was helping to attract cultural investments. 'Culture provides a competitive advantage' for Denver, he said, citing the upcoming opening of the 31,000-square-foot Clyfford Still Museum."
And the Democratic National Convention, which will have actual creative people, not Republicanbots.

Artists network asks Kent council for funds, Seeks 1 percent of construction projects' budgets
Ravenna Record Courier (OH), 7/8/2008
"The Artists Network of Kent [OH] has asked Kent City Council members to consider adopting a program to allocate 1 percent of funding for all of Kent's capital construction projects to support public art. . . . According to the Americans for the Arts' Public Art Network, more than 300 public art programs exist in the United States at the federal, state, and local level."
How big is Kent? Is that too personal?

SCFD: Sea change on arts-funding decisions in Denver
Denver Post, 7/6/2008
"The [Denver] Scientific and Cultural Facilities District has awarded $1.4 billion to metro-area arts organizations since 1989, but the recent severing of one of its longest and smallest beneficiaries marks a sea change in the way tax dollars will now be doled out to all Denver County arts organizations. Now, what you do for your community counts more than what you do for your audience's souls. . . . [T]he new formula doesn't take into account a company's longevity, nor does it even attempt to determine artistic merit, because of its inherent subjectivity."
I refer my right honorable friend to the link two up from this one, in which Denver mayor Hickenlooper waxes optimistic about Denver. It takes a Village, I guess. Two separate ones, apparently.

State okays $6.5 million for cultural facilities fund
Boston Business Journal, 7/3/2008
"The Massachusetts Cultural Council announced Thursday the state Legislature has approved a $400,000 budget increase for the organization, and approved a $6.5 million budget for the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund for fiscal year 2009, which started July 1, 2008."
Awesome. Good deal!

Without plates, arts, roads would suffer
The Tennessean, 7/8/2008
Tennessee state senator Mark Norris writes in support of the state's Specialty License Plate Program and the Tennessee Arts Commission, which is funded by the program. He explains, "Since 1983, Tennessee law has authorized the sale of premium-priced license plates bearing special logo types to raise revenue for specific agencies, charities, programs and other activities affecting Tennessee. Half the profits go to the nonprofit groups publicized on the plates. Forty percent goes to the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the remaining 10 percent goes to the state's highway fund. Last year, the program generated $4,408,698 for the Arts Commission. . . . Seventy-six percent of its budget is funded by the plate program."
It's such a smart idea. Glad a politician came out and supported it so strongly.

For-profit fundraisers collect loads, but nonprofits see a sliver
Los Angeles Times, 7/6/2008
According to research by the Los Angles Times, "[r]ecords filed with the California attorney general's office show that over the last decade, for-profit fundraisers for the nonprofit kept more than 94 cents of every donated dollar." However, "[t]hose that specialize in nonprofits with long-standing patron networks tend to offer better returns. New York-based telemarketer DCM Inc. works exclusively for arts groups, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, targeting ticket buyers and former donors. It enjoys one of the best records in the business, returning, on average, 72 cents per dollar raised."
94 cents of every donated dollar to pay for the fundraising? That's obscene. This sort of thing really ought to be regulated.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sweatin' to Sondheim II

Oh my God, it's a trend. This is Sweatin' to Sondheim Act II Cardio Edition.

Sphere: Related Content

A Moratorium on Shakespeare?

Well, that's what they're talking about (and talking about and talking about) over at Theatre Is Territory.

The only thing I'd like to add to this is that this was a hot subject almost exactly 10 years ago. When I was running, I started a story on Macbeth by referring to Matthew Warchus' advocating such a position.

And here is one of the stories that I read about this, back in 1998, in the Times.

Here's another reference to it, and here's another, sort of.

What I've never understood is how far this moratorium would be spread and who would enforce it.

Sphere: Related Content

Kudos to American Theatre Web

The ever-industrious and intrepid Andy Propst, guru of American Theatre Web (and with whom I was privileged to teach at the O'Neill this past weekend), pointed me to two articles concerned with the state and the future of arts criticism, which was a big topic over the weekend, as one might expect. It was also a huge topic when I attended the national conference of the American Theatre Critics Association in DC a few weeks ago.

So first, if you're not acquainted with ATW, get thee there immediately.

And specifically, get thee to the page with links to the two articles. And discuss.

Sphere: Related Content

In Case You're Still Asking "What's the Demolition Review Amendment?"...

Thanks to Susan Hefti, I have obtained a PDF that contains the complete text of what is being proposed and hopefully presented to the various lawmakers on the City Council as well as, I guess, the Council as a body.

All this presumes Councilmember Melinda Katz believes in representing the best interests of New Yorkers, not real estate tycoons who'd sell their mothers to make a buck, and probably already have. (Come on, Councilmember Katz, we know your heart is with what is right. You know you were raised to be kind to decent folk. Can't you just prove it?)

But before you read the text of the Amendment:

Please first read the following text, provided to me by Susan. This will help you, should you want to get involved or state your support in the name of preservation, to do just that.

Dear Friend,

Please take a moment today to show your support for the Demolition Review Amendment currently under consideration by NYC Council Members !

Simply cut and paste the note below, adding your name and street address (as politicians only pay attention to voters). It doesn't matter if they all get the same exact message—they just count heads!

The message should be addressed to:
Council Member Melinda Katz (, Chair, Land Use Committee,
Council Member Jessica Lappin (,
Council Member David Weprin (,
Council Member Dan Garodnick (
Council member Tony Avella (

Please cc:
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (
Counsel NYC LPC, Mark Silberman (

so we can keep track of this important correspondence. The other recipients of the amendment can be copied or blind copied by cutting & pasting the email list below this sample message:

SUBJECT LINE: Demolition Review.

That way, the Council Members will see the same subject coming in from different NYC residents and they will pay more attention.


Dear Council Members Katz, Lappin, Weprin, Avella and Garodnick,

I strongly support the Proposed Amendment to the NYC Zoning Code known as "Demolition Review" and submitted on June 9, 2008 by the 93rd Street Beautification Association.

Without this necessary change, NYC's historic structures and neighborhoods, along with their history, will disappear, destroying what we know as the City of New York.

I strongly urge the NYC Council to immediately adopt the "Demolition Review" Amendment before NYC's neighborhoods are completely stripped of their character, cultural heritage and architectural history.

Thank you for your interest in the concerns of NYC's residents.

With best regards,


Here are more recipients you can cut and paste into the cc section of your email:

And now the proposed Demolition Review Amendment

Legislative History:
In the wake of an unprecedented number of construction accidents, and an overwhelming number of applications for demolition in New York City, it has become clear to the public that a more vigilant review is an imperative to ensure the public safety, the city's physical environment and the historic character of the city's neighborhoods and streetscapes.

In response to unchecked development and the enduring vulnerability of New York City's remaining historic housing stock, the 93rd Street Beautification Association urges the New York City Council and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to take immediate action for the betterment of our city's future by fostering a more thoughtful and comprehensive development approach and by adopting the proposed Zoning Code Amendment found here below.

The Amendment, known as 'Application for Demolition' or 'Demolition Review', is modeled upon the like zoning amendment adopted by the City of Boston, there known as Article 85.


Article #_____. Application for Demolition must be submitted to the NYC LPC as follows:

New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
One Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007

It is the responsibility of the applicant to submit a complete, signed application and to factor the review and potential delay period into the project schedule.

The Process:
Once received, the application is reviewed by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission staff in accordance with Section *, Article # .

The LPC staff shall have ten (10) days from the date of the submittal of a complete application to determine whether a demolition permit may be issued or whether a hearing is required.

If the property is determined not to be significant, no further review will be required and the LPC staff will issue a determination authorizing the Department of Buildings to issue a demolition permit.

If the property is determined to be "significant" as described by the legislation, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing within forty (40) days of submittal of the application to decide whether the property will be subject to demolition delay. The LPC staff will notify the applicant regarding this hearing.

Prior to the hearing, the applicant shall conduct a community meeting, open to the public, at which the applicant shall make a good faith effort to present an alternative, or a range of alternatives, to the proposed plan that includes preservation and reuse of the building or buildings proposed for demolition.

The community includes but is not limited to, civic and neighborhood associations, the public-at-large, and interested entities such as preservation organizations and historical societies.

The applicant shall contact the Mayor's Office to confirm names of appropriate civic and neighborhood associations to be notified of the meeting.

The applicant shall also notify property owners within 500 feet of the building to be demolished.

The applicant shall notify the appropriate neighborhood associations and property owners of the meeting in writing at least a week before the meeting is to take place.

The meeting must be held in a location and at a time that is convenient for people affected by the project.

The applicant must submit a list of people who attended the meeting, and their addresses, to the LPC before the LPC hearing.

If there is no civic/neighborhood association meeting at which the demolition and proposed project can be presented prior to the Article # hearing, the Mayor's Office will assist in scheduling a meeting.

If the initial community meeting cannot be held in the time allotted, the Article # applicant may submit a letter to the LPC waiving the right to a determination within 40 days (see Article #, section #. subsection #) and requesting the next available hearing date after the initial community meeting.

If the applicant has already presented the proposed demolition and development plan at a community meeting or meetings (before submitting the Article # application) and can obtain a letter (s) from the civic or neighborhood association (s) which hosted the meeting (s) or a response from the Mayor's Office to LPC staff summarizing the meeting and the outcome, this provision may be waived at the discretion of LPC staff.

If the Mayor's Office reports that the outcome of a prior community meeting or meetings (before the submittal of the Article # application) included a strong preference to preserve the existing building (s), but no alternatives to demolition were presented to the community, the applicant will be requested to hold a follow-up community meeting before the initial Article # hearing in order to present an alternative plan incorporating preservation and reuse of the existing building (s) into the proposed project.

If the Mayor's Office reports that the outcome of a community meeting resulted in community support for the demolition of the existing building or buildings, the LPC may choose to waive demolition delay at the scheduled hearing.

While the LPC will consider community and inter-departmental input as outlined above, the decision to invoke demolition delay will ultimately lie with the Commission.

Dates and Deadlines:
Applications must be submitted, in full, and a copy of the notice of the scheduled public meeting must be received by LPC staff (14) days prior to a hearing date in order to be scheduled for the upcoming agenda.

Note: Meetings are subject to change due to holidays or cancellations. Please check with the Commission staff to confirm correct dates.

New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Staff:
The Commission staff is available to discuss applications, documentation requirements and the review process.

Article # Summary

Demolition Review

The New York City Zoning Code is hereby amended to include a demolition review policy (Article #, Chapter # of the Zoning Code as amended).

Demolition Review provides a predictable process for reviewing requests to demolish buildings by:

1.) establishing an appropriate waiting period during which the City and the Applicant can propose and consider alternatives to the demolition of a building of historical, architectural, cultural or urban design value to the City;

2.) providing an opportunity for the public to comment on the issues regarding the demolition of a particular building; and by

3.) minimizing the number and extent of building demolition where no immediate re-use of the site is planned.

Demolition Review pertains to applications involving the total demolition of buildings located within the city's limits.

The staff of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission shall have ten (10) days from the date of the submission of a complete application to apply the criteria below and determine whether a demolition permit may be issued or whether a hearing is required.

Location and Age Criteria Subject to Review
All buildings located within the New York City limits at least fifty years of age.

Criteria for Determination of Significance
A. The building is identified as: (i) listed on the National Register of Historic Places; (ii) recommended for such listing; or (iii) the subject of a request/pending application for such listing.
B. The building is the subject of a request/petition to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for designation as a New York City Landmark.
C. The building is historically or architecturally significant because of period, style, method of building construction, or important association with a famous architect or builder.
D. The building has an important association with one or more historic persons or events, or with the broad architectural, cultural, political, economic, or social history of the City.
E. The building is one whose loss would have a significant negative impact on the historical or architectural integrity or urban design character of the neighborhood.

Public Hearing for Significant Buildings
A Landmarks Preservation Commission public hearing is scheduled within forty (40) days of application date to determine whether a significant building will be subject to Demolition Review.
The review is invoked if the Landmarks Commission finds that it is in the public interest for the building to be preserved or rehabilitated rather than demolished. In making such finding, the Landmarks Commission considers the following criteria:
1.) the building's historic, architectural, cultural and urban design significance;
2.) whether the building is one of the last remaining examples of its kind in the neighborhood, the City, or the region; and
3.) the building's condition.

Early Determination of "No Feasible Alternative to Demolition"
Applicants are requested to present information concerning alternatives to demolition at the public hearing. This information may include:
1.) the outcome of the community meeting held prior to the hearing;
2.) the cost of stabilizing, repairing, rehabilitating, or re-using the building;
3.) any definite plans for the re-use of the property if the proposed demolition is carried out, and the effects such plans would have on the architectural, social, aesthetic, historic, and urban design character of the surrounding area, as well as on the economy of the area of the City as a whole;
4.) any conditions the Applicant proposes to accept for the redevelopment of the site that would mitigate the loss of the building;
5.) the availability of other sites for the Applicant's intended purpose or use.
Although a building may be evaluated as meeting the demolition review criteria, the Commission may consider information presented at the hearing as grounds for issuing a determination of "no feasible alternative to demolition."

Demolition Review Determination
If the Landmarks Commission issues a determination that a significant building is subject to demolition review, the Department of Buildings is notified not to issue a demolition permit until ninety (90) days have elapsed following the close of the public hearing.

The Landmarks Commission also shall invite the participation, on an advisory basis, of the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings, the Director of Housing Preservation and Development and any individual or representative of any group whose participation the Applicant requests, or approves, in writing.

Evaluation of Alternatives to Demolition and Determination of No Feasible Alternative
In evaluating alternatives to demolition, the Landmarks Commission may consider such possibilities as: the incorporation of the building into the future development of the site; the adaptive re-use of the building; the use of financial incentives for the rehabilitation of the building; the removal of the building to another site; and, with the owner's consent, the search for a new owner willing to purchase the building and preserve, restore, or rehabilitate it.

If, based on its evaluation of alternatives, the Landmarks Commission is satisfied that there is no feasible alternative to demolition, the Commission may issue a determination prior to the expiration of the review period authorizing the Department of Buildings to issue a demolition permit.

Demolition Review Expiration and Notification
Upon expiration of the review period, the Landmarks Commission will issue a notice in writing stating that such review period has expired, and the date of such expiration. This notice will be mailed to the Applicant, with copies to the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings, the Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development and, where applicable, to any individual or group that the Landmarks Commission has invited to participate in an exploration of alternatives to demolition.

Article # Required Documentation
The following is a list of documents that MUST be submitted with this application. Failure to provide accurate documentation will cause a delay in the review process and will result in a rejected application. All applications MUST be signed by the owner of record, and must include verification of property ownership (copy of deed or assessing bill).

PHOTOGRAPHS - 3x5 or larger photographs of the property and surrounding areas and properties affected by the proposed demolition must be labeled with addresses and dates and included with this application.

Major elevations of the building (s) and any deterioration or reason for demolition should be documented. All photographs must be keyed to a map (see below) to provide a thorough location description. Photographs may be substituted with slides at the Commission hearing.

MAP - A locus map containing the location of the property affected by the proposed demolition must be submitted with this application. Locus maps should highlight the property and area location.

PLOT PLAN - A plot plan showing the building footprint and those of buildings in the immediate vicinity must be submitted with this application.

PLANS and ELEVATIONS - Plans must be submitted for site improvements. If a new structure is being planned, plans and elevations of the new structure must be submitted.

SIGNATURES and/or PROOF OF OWNERSHIP - Both the applicant's and the owner-of-record's signatures (if different) must be notarized. Failure to supply notarized signature (s) will result in a rejected application. Proof of ownership must also be submitted with the application.

Depending on the scope of the project, additional materials may also be requested for the hearing and should be included with this application:
1.) Adaptive reuse feasibility studies
2.) Structural analysis report
3.) Availability of alternative sites for the proposed post-demolition construction.
4.) Effects of post-demolition plans on the community
5.) Other materials that may help the Commission evaluate whether the property is subject to delay.
6.) An attorney's letter stating whether the proposed project requires zoning relief.

NOTE: Copies of all documentation submitted with this application (photographs, maps, plot plans, etc.) should be retained by the applicant should additional copies be necessary for the commission hearing.

Sphere: Related Content