13 May 2009
Rocco Landesman (the set designer's ex-husband) has just been named Chairman of the NEA. The NYTimes article goes into a number of reasons as to why this is an exciting but quizical choice--he took a chance on shows like ANGELS IN AMERICA (though that statistic is a little misleading, as ANGELS had been produced in LA and London previously to considerable acclaim), but he also started the $480 "premium" ticket and is generally commercially minded. In any case, he is clearly someone who doesn't mind thinking about things in a new way, which will only benefit the essentially impotent NEA. (To be perfectly frank, I didn't realize they even HAD a chairman until today. I mean, seriously, what do they do?). My question is not how will a commercial producer in a non-profit sector shake things up, but rather, how will having a THEATRICAL producer shake things up? Of the 9 previous chairpersons, only 1 (the first) has been a true theatrical producer. Others have been laywers, writers, composers, or Jane Alexander (I know, right?). But can Rocco use his post to get more suuport for, specifically, the performing arts? Should he? How equipped is he to assess the needs of the other arts? And again, does any of this really matter? Will the NEA become vital and central figure in the American Arts scene? Or will it just be another grant (with more hoops to jump)?