Results tagged “office of arts culture and the creative economy” from Drama Queen

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Okay, I'm re-posting this entry that I originally posted before the story took a strange turn (strangeness, by the way, being fairly characteristic of the Prince Music Theater's operations of late), and began bubbling over with editorial opinion from within our theater community.

Here's the latest, a rebuttal claiming reports of the Prince's death were greatly exaggerated. However, considering the theater's complicated financial entanglements, next season is still a world away, and 2011, when Pig Iron's big plans are supposed to come to fruition (read on) is even farther. Either way, maintaining the house solely as a rental hall would be a darn shame, and a waste of one of the finest, newest and best-located theater spaces in this city.

The original post: 
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.


July 21, 2009 10:07 PM |
Ok, back to business. 

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Exciting news from Philly's City Hall Friday, as Mayor Michael Nutter announced the opening of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (Henceforth, OACCE), a Frankenversion of the old Office of Arts and Culture (OAC). I've blogged about it before, recalling Nutter's campaign promise to re-animate the office somewhere between his inauguration and lunch of that afternoon. The closing of the OAC, shuttered by Former Mayor John Street four years ago, left Philly, as Inquirer writer Patrick Kerkstra noted "the biggest city in the country to lack a cultural affairs office." 

Street's lack of faith in a scene just beginning to garner national attention put a real dent in everyone's confidence. So during the last mayoral primary and election, the city's arts community threw its support behind arts- and gay-friendly Nutter (you can't have one without the other, he wisely realized; Street, however, alienated both groups), hoping to rekindle some of the Ed Rendell-era fire that once lit up the Avenue of the Arts. 

And, people figured, anyone in this town brave enough to call attention to the fact that the Phila. Muesum of Art's annual attendance is higher than attendance for birds games (Eagles games to you)--DURING his campaign!--might be crazy enough to make a difference. But six months into the new honcho's tenure, when the office remained closed, Philly's arts leaders were left wondering if they were suckered. 

Well, now it looks like they weren't. What's promising about this new version of the OACCE is the addition to its title, an assertion that civic support for the arts is integral to the region's economic health. Heading up the office is Gary Steuer, former New York-based veep of Americans for the Arts. The organization advocates for public-private arts partnerships and tracks congressional activity and other public policy related to the arts. (Their weekly news digest also makes great companion reading with your daily ArtsJournal newsletter.) 

Perhaps not coincidentally, Americans for the Arts held its national convention here last month, and it just so happens that their mandate appears pretty darn close to the mayor's promises, right on down to reinstating music and art education in the public schools.

But that's not all. Nutter also re-opened the city's Cultural Advisory Council, a group that advises the mayor and his administration on cultural and artistic issues, and said he hopes to make the OACCE a model for cities across the country. So good for him, and better for us. The economy's nosedive just might serve as the ideal petri dish to prove once and for all whether or not the arts--and its attendant "creative economy"--really can save us all.

Nutter's Delight: wherein the mayor rocks the inaugural mic (Obama, take note).
July 20, 2008 8:55 AM |
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