Results tagged “budget” from critical difference

The autumn weather was perfect the other night for a stroll through Midtown. So when the theater let out on 45th Street, I headed a few blocks south, cut through the holiday maze of Bryant Park, and crossed Fifth Avenue to the Mid-Manhattan Library. It was late, but there was no need to hurry: The library was open 'til 11 p.m.

Even as I plucked the book I needed from a shelf in the fiction section, I felt a sort of warming gratitude. The New York Public Library fought hard earlier this year to fend off budget cuts that would have devastated its ability to provide services just when demand for them is highest. Its success says a lot about the city's priorities -- and about its wealth, too.

Elsewhere in the nation, the recession is having an ugly effect on libraries. Today's papers alone tell stories of numerous struggles. In Pittsburgh, several branches of the Carnegie Library face closure if funding isn't found to keep them open, and in Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Times, "the city of Colton shut down its three libraries and laid off nearly 60 employees to help plug a $5-million hole in its budget." The city of Ventura plans to close its most heavily used branch.

It's vicious out there -- for the populace and for our libraries, whose worth we recognize most clearly in bad economic times. So those of us who live in a place where the public library is not only open seven days a week, but open late as well, have reason to marvel.

It isn't a luxury, but it feels that way. Who could fail to cherish that?
November 19, 2009 1:29 PM | | Comments (2)
For a good chunk of my life, there's been a theater I've particularly cherished for its taste and daring, its embrace of the new, its fervent belief that playwriting and performance are vital to our conversation about the world. It's never been a wealthy operation, but that's part of its charm: that for years it's staged some of the best, smartest, funniest theater I've ever seen, and it's done that on a shoestring.

So when the e-mail announcing its upcoming season arrived a while ago, I opened it eagerly -- and discovered that, for the very first time, there's absolutely nothing this company is staging that I want to see. The season looked, of all things, boring to me.

That's because the artistic director, like many of his peers, is spooked by shrinking budgets and suddenly less-generous patrons. He's playing it safe, or so it would seem: choosing scripts whose track records -- on or off-Broadway, in the West End, regionally -- make them look like sure crowd-pleasers. But the crowd that fills his theater's seats has always been drawn by freshness and edge. What's tried and true elsewhere is probably not going to do the trick.

That sort of common sense may be going by the wayside right about now, as theaters struggle not to lose their foothold in an uncertain economic landscape. An actor friend put it this way in an e-mail, which he's given me permission to quote:

"'This economy' seems to be driving theatres in all sorts of crazy directions and it feels to me as if companies are blindly reacting without taking the time to examine what it is that people really want to see. There is this perceived wisdom that dumbing down or doing more familiar and safer material is the answer to shrinking audiences. I have yet to see the research to back this supposition."
May 6, 2009 2:23 PM | | Comments (3)
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