Monday, September 27, 2010

Four Seasons and Still Kicking

American Repertory Theater of Western New York is proud to be entering into the fourth season and, as the Executive/Artistic Director for the company, I find this to be an amazing accomplishment.

In December 2007, just before ART became an official 501 C3, this country entered into one of the worst economic collapses since the Great Depression. To compound the lack of fiscal resources were accelerated cuts in Federal and State funding of the Arts as well as limited investments by foundations and individuals.

Additionally, it was becoming increasingly apparent that established Cultural 501 C3's were the main focus of the public and private sector investments. Whatever crumbs left over were to be greedily fought over by the less prominent Cultural entities. Newcomers who lacked the history and reputation were left to find progressive ways of generating income without this support.

In this economic climate, Cultural organizations were placed in a Darwinian contest of strength and weakness with the winners being those with the loudest voice and the biggest reputation. Sadly, being the "most fittest" did not amount to being the best in what was presented on stage.

In this vacuum of quality, ART has been able to survive.

ART does not depend on celebrity endorsements to justify their works nor lives off the reputation set forth by one's grandparents to support the works. ART survives because of the dedication of presenting a good story with a careful eye on presentation without trendy gimmicks or pretension.

And this approach seems to be working because despite the lack of government funding, deep-pockets for marketing or generations of subscribers, and with several local nominations and an award for theater excellence, ART is still kicking.

Onto our fourth season!

I am excited about our fourth season because we have chosen to salute the Golden Age of American Television.

Before American TV gave itself over to programming for ratings and not quality, this creative engine produced numerous and endearing American cultural icons as well as some of the most creative American writers and filmmakers in our pop-culture history which has directly influenced characters, TV show themes and films of the late 20th and early 21st century.

ART has chosen to do three works that all differ in style but best capture the essences of the Golden Age of American Television.

The first in the season is an stage adaption of the classic, Sci-Fi meets Morality Play, Twilight Zone entitled Twilight Zone Redux. Adapted by Drew McCabe and co-directed by Kristin Bentley, three classic TWZ stories are rendered for theater presentation with careful attention to the pathos of each characters as well as dedication to the writing style that made these TV shows classic.

Second show of the season is a homage piece to Alfred Hitchcock written by Gary Earl Ross entitled Murder Squared. Mr. Ross does a wonderful job capturing the nuance of the famed suspense writer but also the film-noir of early American TV. Honest and compelling, this piece is right out of the script-rooms of NBC.

The last production of the season features the semi-biographic story of Neil Simon's experiences as a junior writer for the TV variety show, Your Show of Shows, featuring the legendary Sid Caesar. Laughter on the 23rd Floor mixes both the sharp wit of Simon with the all-but-accurate characterisations of famed American writers, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and Carl Reiner. Laughter on the 23rd Floor is a comedic, historical insight into American TV during a time when networks began to put ratings over quality.

Overall, this season should be entertaining to say the least. Whether you were able to watch these programs or just a gleam in your grand-father's eyes, this fourth season has something for you.

We'll see you around.

Matthew LaChiusa is the Executive/Artistic Director for American Rep Theater of WNY and is excited to be co-directing with Robert Ball of Ujima Theater with "Murder Squared"