I imagine there will be few muffled sobs among Philadelphia's dramascenti today with news of the Prince Music Theater's demise
. Its shuttering was announced in a manner keeping with its confused identity of late
; during closing ceremonies at last night's QFest
--a gay and lesbian film festival--the crowd was told they were attending the house's final performance. Thus the curtain fell on an institution that has recently been behaving like it ought to be institutionalized. The company's past few seasons have been a schizoid scramble of children's theater, cabaret, David Brenner, and precious few new musicals... Or seasons, really. During one incident, a show was cancelled without explanation just before its premiere; the Prince's press agent resigned shortly thereafter.
All this is to say that no one is really too surprised about the Prince's apparent closing, although many feel it was overdue, the company having betrayed its birthright as the American Music Theater Festival
years ago. (I reviewed the AMTF world premiere of Floyd Collins
in 1994, and recall feeling a swell of pride at what seemed the maturation of Philly's theater scene. Little did I know that era was more like the junior prom compared to what we've got today.)
I'll leave it to other writers with more time to investigate what went wrong and how and when, and instead ponder the future of that big beautiful building on Chestnut street with its marquee, offices, mainstage and cabaret space. There's no shortage of itinerant companies in this city, and I'm guessing any of them would salivate--probably are salivating right this minute--at the opportunity to call the Prince their own.
But one of those, Pig Iron Theatre Company, is thinking big. Founding member Quinn Bauriedel
has announced plans to open the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training here in 2011. The company envisions a two-year, certificate-granting institution modeled on Paris' Ecole Jacques LeCoq
, but steeped in Pig Iron's unique multi-disciplinary methods. This city, in league with its grant-funding institutions and major donors could do worse than to see that the company is able to continue to work its magic for years to come in a setting that rewards them locally for the damn-near-flawless reputation they've been garnering nationally.
Of course, who knows if Pig Iron even wants the place? (Not me.) But wouldn't it be grand if rather than allowing the house to rot--as the city did in the years between its closing as the rundown Midtown movie theater and its rebirth as the Prince--it took this just-off-the-Avenue beauty and allowed it to reclaim its promise as a premiere showplace for innovative new work? Mayor Nutter just installed a fancy new Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy
. The Prince Music Theater just handed them a perfect opportunity to show their stuff.