Magazine article Variety

Two-Party Production System at Play

Magazine article Variety

Two-Party Production System at Play

Article excerpt

CASUAL VIEWERS of the June 12 Tony Awards might be forgiven for wondering if the Broadway-centric telecast represents the bastion of commercial theater in America, then why is one of the night's trophies going to that standard bearer of federal funding, the National Endowment for the Arts?

The NEA's special award is just one marker of the fact that ever since the regional-theater movement swept the country in the 1960s, the not-for-profit realm has had an increasing impact on the work that gets seen on Broadway - and beyond.

The numbers tell the story. A whopping 27 of this year's Tony nominations went to work produced on Broadway by Roundabout ("She Loves Me," "Long Day's Journey Into Night ""Noises Off") or originally produced Off Broadway by the company ("The Humans"). Twenty-two went to productions that originated at the Public Theater ("Hamilton," "Eclipsed"). And the NEA takes home the trophy for its ongoing fiscal support of theater, totaling $331 million over its 50-year life span (including funds for both the Public and the Roundabout).

It's also worth noting that the unprecedented diversity of the 2015-16 Broadway season, and the industrywide conversation that it's fueled, chimes with the diversity initiatives that have been part of the Public Theater's mission statement since it was founded in 1954. And "Dear Evan Hansen," the buzzy Off Broadway musical set for a Broadway transfer this fall, has a book written by Steven Levenson, who got his start in the Roundabout Underground series of programming from rising artists.

"Broadway wouldn't look like it does right now without the nonprofit," says Greg Reiner, the NEA's director of theater and musical theater.

Over the years, as New York nonprofits grew and organizations like the Roundabout, Manhattan Theater Club and Lincoln Center Theater claimed Broadway stages for their own, commercial producers grumbled. ("There's no profit like nonprofit," Gerald Schoenfeld, the late head of the Shubert Organization, used to say.) "It's still a little contentious," notes Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes.

But these days, the antagonism seems to have been superseded by the general consensus that the give-and-take between the two sectors is largely a good thing. …

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