On Broadway: Art and Commerce on the Great White Way

By Steven Adler | Go to book overview
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4
When Worlds Collide

What is commercial producing these days but being the first to take something from a not-for-profit to a commercial venue?

—Roy Gabay, producer and general manager

You cannot afford the luxury any longer of thinking of two distinct, isolated worlds of theater. Economics have been the driving force between profit and nonprofit, or taxpaying and nontaxpaying, as I call it.

—Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Shubert Organization, in the New York Times, June 15, 2000

If you happen to do a project that's hopefully true to your artistic mission, and it's a big success, then I'm all for exploiting it to the absolute maximum and getting every possible benefit for your company, because the environment for not-for-profit theatre companies is so difficult. You need to do everything you can to survive and prosper.

—Terrence Dwyer, managing director, La Jolla Playhouse

In 1974, in Princeton, New Jersey, a gathering of theatre makers from the not-for-profit and commercial worlds met for four days to discuss the state of the art—or arts, as quickly grew apparent. The fortunes and aesthetics of these two theatrical spheres of interest seemed polar opposites. Convened by Broadway producer Alexander H. Cohen, the First American Congress of Theater brought together disparate artists, managers, and producers to bridge the wide chasm that separated them. According to writer Jeremy Gerard,

Cohen…like most of his colleagues, had seen his fortunes suffer considerably in the sixties and seventies, when Broadway came to be regarded as just another outmoded Establishment institution worthy of disdain.…What little adventurous work was making it to Broadway, even back then, was coming from the Public, as well as theaters like Washington's Arena Stage and Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum… Alex Cohen knew the [Broadway] business was in trouble—and he knew where salvation lay.…The goals were lofty and the expectations

-102-

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