National Arts Journalism Program
2950 Broadway, Mail Code 7200
New York, NY 10027

tel: 212.854.1912, fax: 212.854.8129

Presented by The National Arts Journalism Program
and Columbia University's School of the Arts

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
October 29–30, 2001

Summary | Program | View the publication


Conference Summary

Theater is the most important arena of live performance in our electronically mediated culture, yet in New York--a city in the midst of major political, cultural and economic change--it is enmeshed in a web of practical challenges. The survival and vitality of the art form depends on the answer to several questions: How will audiences be replenished, expanded and diversified? Will appropriate venues be found in a notoriously expensive and unforgiving real estate market? What sort of public subsidies or incentives could promote artistic diversity and counteract rising operating costs? Can theater draw new reserves of energy from the fact that a new arts and entertainment industry is taking shape in New York, one that merges commercial and nonprofit modes of operation, reflects the convergence of once-distinct performing arts and media forms and formats, and that connects established stage traditions with new technologies? What is the outlook for a vigorous, intelligent, multifaceted critical debate in the press?

In the wake of the tragic events of September 11, previously unimagined concerns have only compounded the ongoing issues facing the theater world. Artistic innovation alone cannot answer such challenges. "Wonderful Town: The Future of Theater in New York," a conference at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, will explore the issues with a focus on attainable goals and obstacles to be overcome. Organized by the National Arts Journalism Program in collaboration with Columbia's School of the Arts, with support from the Office of the Vice-Provost and the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the meeting will bring together theater managers, producers, city administrators, policy scholars, journalists and arts funders to examine how the theater community so integral to this city can thrive in its future environment.

Participants will learn about fresh research, hear from noted experts, and participate in breakout discussions aimed at generating policy recommendations that posit steps toward a healthy future. The NAJP is preparing a comprehensive report in conjunction with the conference, drawing from an overview of existing research data, interviews with dozens of leaders in the New York theater community, and insights gained during the day-and-a-half-long event.


Conference Program

Monday, October 29

3:00 p.m.

4:00 p.m. Introduction and Welcome

Michael Janeway
, National Arts Journalism Program and Evangeline Morphos, Columbia University School of the Arts

4:15 p.m. Remarks
Schuyler Chapin
, New York City Commissioner of Cultural Affairs

4:30 p.m. Updates and Initiatives
Jed Bernstein, President, League of American Theatres and Producers
John F. Breglio, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
Virginia P. Louloudes, Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York

5:00-6:15 p.m.
Reports from the Research Frontlines
A number of released reports attempt to remedy the dearth of systematic research about the social and economic underpinnings of the theater. An overview of the findings provides a picture of national and local trends.

Andras Szanto, National Arts Journalism Program

Randall Bourscheidt, President, Alliance for the Arts
Karen Hauser, Director of Research, The League
of American Theaters & Producers
Kevin McCarthy, RAND Corporation, The Performing Arts in a New Era: The RAND Report, commissioned by Pew Charitable Trusts
Christopher Hawthorne, preliminary findings from Wonderful Town: the Future of Theater in New York, a report of the NAJP
George A. Wachtel, President, Audience Research & Analysis

6:30 p.m. Reception

Tuesday, October 30

8:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m. Coffee and registration

9:00 a.m.-10:15 a.m. New York's Public Policies: Scenarios for the Future

The health of New York theaters depends in part on the particular institutional and regulatory environment created by city government, and on the outlook for future public support. Examining issues of labor, financing and taxation, "cultural tourism," transportation and education, this discussion explores potential policy approaches that could maximize benefits to artists, managers, audiences, and the city as a whole.

Robert Marx, The Samuels Foundation

Confirmed Panelists:
Jed Bernstein, President, League of American Theatres and Producers
Alan Eisenberg, Executive Director, Actors' Equity Association
Marian A. Godfrey, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Kathleen Hughes, Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, programming
Virginia Louloudes, Executive Director, Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York)
Fran Reiter, Executive Director, New York Shakespeare Festival
Bruce Weber, The New York Times

10:15a.m.-10:30 a.m. Break

10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m. Room to Breathe: Real Estate, Neighborhoods, and Urban Renewal

The history of theater in New York has always been tied to the struggle for space. Access to real estate, in turn, is subject to the vagaries of supply and demand, rental cost, and on New York's elaborate system of zoning. Recent revitalization plans in Manhattan, Brooklyn and elsewhere have put theater at the center of ambitious urban planning initiatives. A panel of experts examines the implications of these policies and initiatives from a real-estate and an artistic-programming standpoint.

Laurie Beckelman

Confirmed Panelists:
Charles Bagli, The New York Times
Susan Chin, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
Suri Duitch
, Center for an Urban Future
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director, External Affairs, Roundabout Theatre Company
Harvey Lichtenstein, BAM Local Development Corporation
Paul G. Wolf, Principal, Denham Wolfe Real Estate Services Inc.

11:45 a.m.-12 noon Break

12 noon -1:15 p.m. Brave New World: Imagining Theater in New York in a New Arts and Entertainment Environment

Old distinctions between commercial and nonprofit theater are breaking down. So are the organizational and creative boundaries separating live theatrical performance from film, television and other electronic media. Can theater draw new reserves of energy from the fact that a new arts and entertainment industry is taking shape in New York, one that merges commercial and nonprofit modes of operation? How do these changes reflect the convergence of once-distinct arts and media forms? How do they connect established stage traditions with new technologies?

Evangeline Morphos

Confirmed panelists:
John F. Breglio, Lawyer, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison
Barbara Hauptman, Executive Director, Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers
Margo Jefferson, The New York Times
Frank Pugliese, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Film Division, Columbia University School of the Arts
Theresa Rebeck, playwright
Fisher Stevens, Partner/Creative Director, GreeneStreet Films
Leslie Urdang, New York Stage and Film; Universal Studios
Jack Viertel

1:15 p.m.-2:15 p.m. Lunch

2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. An Open Forum on the Challenges Facing the Theater in New York – 

Kinshasha Holman-Conwill, Management Consultant

4:00 p.m.-4:15 p.m. Break

4:15 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Hypothetically Speaking: News Media Coverage in the 21st Century
As much as theater in New York relies on the media for reviews, for the airing of aesthetic debate, and to cover its news, the connection between New York's theater community and the press is uneasy at best. Need it always be so? A Socratic panel of theater producers, editors, critics, artists and practitioners from related fields will explore scenarios for media coverage of the performing arts in the 21st century.

John D. Callaway

Confirmed panelists:
Chris Boneau, Boneau/Bryan-Brown, PR
John Darnton, New York Times culture editor
Frank Deford, author and sports commentator
Jeff Folmsbee, Producer, "Egg," PBS
Barry Grove, Executive Producer, Manhattan Theater Club
Elizabeth I. McCann, Producer
Michael Riedel, New York Post, Theatre Talk
Gerald Schoenfeld, Chairman of the Board, The Shubert Organization
Robert Viagas, Editor,
Linda Winer, Newsday

6:00 p.m. Closing remarks, agenda for further research and action

6:15 p.m. Adjourn

NAJP : Events : Conferences and Symposia : Wonderful Town