News and Updates
An Entertaining City Council Hearing
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 12:00 AM

 

A few years ago, I met with Rob Moss, one of the founding members of A.R.T./New York, (originally called the Off Off Broadway Alliance). Rob told me that at one of the Alliance’s first City Council hearings, a member sang a song as part of their testimony. “You could hear a pin drop,” he reminisced. “She had the entire room in awe.”

This past week, A.R.T./New York prepared for a City Council Hearing on March 20th. Typically I present a testimonial on behalf of the artists, but this time, Rob’s anecdote struck a chord with me: Why not allow the artists to speak for themselves, by doing what they do best? So we did just that, and it was a huge success.

Joining us at the meeting were representatives from One Percent for Culture, The Field, Theater of the Oppressed, The Laundromat Project, Exploring the Metropolis, Elders Share the Arts, and Dance/NYC, who each gave their own creative presentation. The non-traditional testimony was kicked off by artist Mahayana Landowne, representing the Interactive Art Collective, Calling All Parties. Mahayana interviewed attendees while wearing an artist original “Red Carpet” inspired accessory; a funky, red, statement hat resembling a cascading red carpet. Interviewees such as Heather Woodfield from One Perfect for Culture stopped to discuss the importance of culture with Mahayana while arriving to the Hearing.

Other presentations included Girl Be Heard’s excerpt from the haunting piece, "Mama, You're the Soldier," by Aya Abdelaziz, in which performers Ashley Marinaccio and Jackie Torres executed a beautiful vocal and movement piece that shook up the space. The Laundromat Project shared spoken testimony by Kemi Ilesanmi and 2 artists (Betty Yu, Stephanie Dinkins) under the theme "Imagine if...." and handed out cards, produced by The Laundromat Project Alum Chloe Bass, that asked "What can you imagine?"

The Field displayed several large portraits from Kate Browne’s ongoing project, Cocoon (as seen in the photograph just above), while she explained her approach and subject matter; and Guy Lawrence, a representative from Elders Share the Arts, shared a moving testimony on the personal impact of his company’s work on his life. Composers, Nina Siniakova and Ian Ng, spoke on behalf of Exploring the Metropolis, thanking said Organization for securing free space where they could compose, while violist, Eric Lemmon, performed a piece so moving that Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer used his iPhone to record the performance! Finally, Maaji Newbold from Theatre of the Oppressed performed an excerpt from the play “The Housing Circus,” in which she, while juggling her obstacles, described the hoops she had to jump through for public assistance with housing and health.

All twelve of the speakers, including Holly Block (Bronx Museum and the Cultural Institutions), and Tamara Greenfield (FAB), made the same request: $30 million more for Culture, to be divided equally between the Cultural Development Fund and the Cultural Institutions Group. And this time, we were heard—because no one can better describe the power of the arts than the artists themselves.

 

-Ginny Louloudes, Executive Director

 
Ginny reflects on Curtain Call 2015
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 12:00 AM

Executive Director, Ginny Louloudes // Photo by Robert Kidd

Last week at Curtain Call, I discussed my concerns for the health and spirit of our city after the Eric Garner verdict, the shooting of Officers Liu and Ramirez by a mad man in retaliation, and the behavior that followed these events. I explained that, for me, the image of the Woods in the Sondheim musical, Into The Woods, symbolizes a place where we can take risks, learn about the deepest parts of ourselves, and grow. I also shared that I have found myself stumbling in the Woods, and invited you to come with me, so we can demonstrate the power theatre has to foster necessary conversations on race, inequality, and diversity together. I noted that post-performance discussions could enhance the power of plays with themes of social justice to a greater level, and cited examples. I also mentioned Darren Walker's essay, “A New Testament of Hope”, in which Darren shared the resurgence of hope he felt during the protests at the sight of hundreds of diverse young people who joined the marches.

 

Then, this week I got to see all of those themes in action when A.R.T./New York Board Member and Artistic Director of Downtown Art, Ryan Gilliam, invited me to her production of To Kill A Mockingbird. One of the joys of attending a Downtown Art production is that Ryan always shares her motivation with the audience through a written thought piece. For To Kill A Mockingbird, she wrote this:

 

Atticus Finch says, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

There’s both hopefulness in that…and tragedy.  Tragedy because you know and I know that this is the only skin I’ll ever actually wear.  Hopefulness because it means that understanding relies on imagination – a detailed, in-depth, fully realized imagination.  And that’s hopeful because human beings love imagining.

Read the rest of Ryan Gilliam's speech

 

To help demonstrate this point, Ryan directed a cast of seven girls, (black, white, Asian and Latino), who seamlessly moved from one part to another. Through this method, each girl got to know what it felt like to be in the skin of all the characters, from Scout to Atticus, to Calpurnia.

 

The simple yet beautiful production was followed by a moderated post-show discussion, with special guests from El Puente’s Center for Arts and Culture. El Puente’s young actors come from all 5 boroughs, and their teacher taught them to question everything. While the young artists from Downtown Art and El Puente saw that in some cases, the racism depicted in To Kill A Mockingbird continues today, they also saw hope. "I always say good morning to the police who watch my building," said one girl, adding, "I posted on my FaceBook page that the police helped a lot of people on 9/11." Like Darren Walker, these young people gave me a burst of optimism. 

 

According to Ryan, Downtown Art had several local activists and organizers there who also chose to stay silent in order to listen to them. She told me, "It was a night I will definitely remember for quite a while."  

 

And so will I.

 

-Ginny Louloudes, Executive Director

 
Curtain Call 2015
Friday, February 27, 2015 12:00 AM

Executive Director, Ginny Louloudes // Photo by Robert Kidd

There is something special about Curtain Call, our annual member event, which is worth giving up a precious free Monday night for. There is a certain quality to the evening that makes us all forget the bitter cold outside. There is a magic to it. Curtain Call is a singular evening because we so rarely take a step back and truly celebrate and honor the work we do as a community.

Todd Haimes kicked off the evening with a warm welcome. It was a delight to see him emerge from the gorgeous set of Fiasco Theater's production of Into The Woods. What better place could there be to celebrate theatre than on a stage brimming with theatrical possibility thanks to Roundabout's presentation of Fiasco's thrilling work. As Todd introduced Ginny Louloudes, we were reminded of a reason many of us are so committed to the theatre: lifelong friendships.

A.R.T./New York Executive Director, Ginny Louloudes, gave great care to her speech Monday evening. Refining and editing it until the final moments. Some of us even saw her with a pen and note cards, fine-tuning her speech in the lobby before the house opened. Her dedication shined through in a speech that highlighted the power of theatre to create social change and what we can accomplish when we work together. She left us with Sondheim's famous lyrics, "Someone is on your side. No one is alone."

The DeWitt Stern Local Hero Awards are always a delight. Architects, restaurateurs, massage therapists, press reps, and fashion designers were among this year's eclectic group of local heroes. Awards in hand, the heroes lit up the stage as José Cheo Oliveras’ and DeWitt Stern's Joseph Bower’s charm warmed the room.

While we work in the trenches of nonprofit theatre, it can be easy to forget that what we do is worth celebrating. Perhaps that is why the first big idea of Lear deBessonet's keynote speech, "theatre is a public good," resonated so strongly with the crowd. Lear introduced us all to radical inclusivity and redefined the idea of a V.I.P. She stirred the crowd and left us thrilled about the possibilities of theatre as we flooded into the lobby for a reception full of laughter and intense conversation.

Even as the A.R.T./New York staff began to clean up, camaraderie and excitement permeated the theatre. Staff and members alike spilled out into the streets, pubs, and apartments of New York still talking about the ideas of the evening. That is the magic of Curtain Call. It is an evening that brings the community together and focuses us, energizes us. It was an evening that prepared us for the hard and rewarding work ahead.

 

-Kati Frazier, Communications and Membership Coordinator


 All photos by Robert Kidd

 
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