2007 Verve Awards

2006 Verve Awards

Best Arts and Culture Blog 2005 Queer Day Awards

Best Gay Blog Nominee 2004 Weblog Awards

Best Arts and Culture Blog Nominee

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Sure, Kushner Says It's A Great Thing, But...

...I'm not so sure that Rocco Landesman -- the Broadway megaproducer who, among other things, implemented legalized ticket scalping with the idea of "premium" seats -- is a great choice to run the National Endowment for the Arts. Sure, he's an out-of-the-box thinker, and that's no doubt why Obama picked him. But at the end of the day, he's a commercial producer, born to the marketplace and to the idea that art is a commercial venture. He is the theatre world's version of Hollywood titans like Jerry Bruckheimer or Brian Grazer...smart and talented men, but not exactly guardians of experimental, challenging, forward-thinking work.

The $161 million dollar question: will Landesman really be able to defend (nay, champion) the idea that art is a reward unto itself, and that its merits cannot be accurately valued in mere financial gain?

I hope so. I've met Mr. Landesman on a few occasions, liked him as a person. I certainly think he's got the stuff to challenge heterodoxy and transform the agency. But will he be a true advocate for creativity in the not-for-profit arena? Cross your fingers.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Labels: , ,


Blogger Esther said...

Well, I only know Rocco Landesman from interviews I've read and seen and he seems like a forceful advocate for theatre (and for other art forms, too, I assume.) I dunno, I don't think you can blame him for acting like a commercial producer when was a commercial producer. But he'll have a different mandate at the NEA.

I understand what you mean about art being a reward unto itself but you know, artists deserve to get paid, to earn a living from what they do.

Sure, there should be room for the experimental but I think good art can be forward thinking and challenging and popular, too.

5/13/09, 3:53 AM  
Blogger ModFab said...

Esther, I agree...to a point. Yes art can be challenging and popular, but most often it is not. (9 TO 5? BILLY ELLIOT? GOD OF CARNAGE? Not exactly shattering the form.)

But those aren't supposed to be challenging or forward-thinking. They are specifically designed as COMMERCIAL entities...a particular type of theatre whose main purpose, from a producer's point of view, is to make as much money as possible.

What I'm worried about is a DIFFERENT kind of theatre...the theatre that is interested solely in exploring the bounds of what is possible in the art form, even if audiences aren't ready to embrace it fully yet. It's not that commercial is bad, it's just not all there is. Heck, in the dance world (which the NEA also oversees), there is NO commercial
product...unless you count Lord of the Dance or something like that.

Commercial work is all Rocco has ever done, to my knowledge. And without a frame of reference for a wider conception of artistic expression and the vital, indispensible need to support that, I worry. Hopefully, as you say, my worries will prove to be unfounded, and he'll recognize his new charge right away.

5/13/09, 10:28 AM  
Blogger ModFab said...

Oh, I also have to address your comment that "artists deserve to get paid." Absoltely true...and that includes artists who aren't merely popular entertainers or causes celebres, but those who are pushing the boundaries, struggling to keep art forms growing. THAT, in fact, is the single most important thing the NEA does...support visionary artists whose work isn't commercially popular.

5/13/09, 10:30 AM  
Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

ModFab, I'm with you.

I thought Jane Alexander was a perfect NEA head during the Clinton years.

5/13/09, 11:55 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home