Tuesday, December 13, 2005

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Those words, while filled with hope in the context of the actual song, have always struck me as more than adequate for the title of a horror movie as well.

This year we have doom and gloom in the shape of this LA Weekly article; "Squinting into the Sun." The article's main thrust is the continued death spiral of the regional theatre movement. Spearbearer Down Left thinks the piece is overly pessimistic and has an interesting dissection of the article on his blog.

In response to the charge, by the Weekly article, that part of the problem is the ideologically driven erosion of NEA type funding, Spearbearer writes:

"But this statement seems to be about 20 years out of date. From my vantage, though there are calls to reform Social Security, there is far less libertarianism out there in the zeitgeist than there was in the 80's. Despite the occasional calls to cut funding for PBS, and the threats of deficit hawks of the right and left, even Republicans seem to be more comfortable with the idea of a safety net and public assistance to culturally important landmarks. It's true that the arts are in danger, but the bane of their continued existence lies elsewhere than laissez-faire-loving ideologues, in my view."

He continues:

"Maybe I don't read the redneck papers. Someone please tell me what I'm missing. Where are the calls to cut the NEA? Yes, there are congressmen here and there that suggest cutting this or that, but arguments over how we divvy the pie are profoundly different from the kinds of arguments that happened 20 or even 10 years ago, where the question of whether the government should be baking pies at all was in question."

It would appear that Spearbearer's optimism is a little well founded during this Christmas season, at least for some organizations here in New England. The Boston Herald reports on a nice NEA gift:

Twenty-eight Massachusetts arts groups are getting what they want most for Christmas: a total of more than $750,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts. Among the local recipients are: Boston Symphony Orchestra ($75,000 for James Levine’s Beethoven - Schoenberg retrospective); Museum of Fine Arts ($50,000 for “El Greco to Velazquez”); MIT’s List Visual Arts Center ($50,000 for a sculpture by Richard Serra); American Repertory Theatre ($35,000 for Rinde Eckert’s “The Orpheus Project”); Boston Ballet ($30,000 for a new ballet by Mark Morris); Handel and Haydn Society ($20,000 for Handel’s “Belshazzar”); World Music ($15,000 for modern dance programming); Opera Boston ($10,000 for a new Opera Unlimited festival); and Bank of America Celebrity Series ($10,000 for dance performances by the Kirov Ballet and others).

Not to be the downer, but...(cue ominous music) we have this from the Boston Globe on the precarious start for the newest space in town, and the home of the The New Rep.

Three months after its grand opening gala, the $7.5 million Arsenal Center for the Arts is struggling to book its new space and facing the resignations of two top officials.

However, the article does point towards some good news in that New Rep doesn't seem to be the problem with Center's overall financial picture. Artistic Director Rick Lombardo delivers a comforting quote:

''We're having a great fall, the best we've ever had at the box office," said Lombardo, whose company moved from Newton to become part of the center. ''I don't really know much about their internal workings, but I trust that they're telling us they're just going through an operational transition and putting a plan in place."

Almost like our current situation in Iraq, the progress of theatre is a little hard to judge, and to measure. Not to quibble with Spearbearer, but I think the LAWeekly article falls very neatly into the "eye of the beholder category," or the "glass half-_____" realm. Spearbearer seems to see the doom and gloom, others might see it to be an optimistic piece examining how the current structures are giving way to more exciting and innovative works of theatre.

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