The Playgoer: Mr. EST, RIP

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007


A touching tribute by Michael Feingold to the legacy of the late Curt Dempster at his Ensemble Studio Theatre:

The results, for such a small and seemingly offhand enterprise, have been astounding. It's doubtful that any other producer in New York can lay claim to having offered the public 6,000 new plays, but under Dempster's leadership, EST did just that. While giving renewed credibility to the short-form with the theater's annual one-act Marathon, he also led in the exploration of plays based in science, and festivals of plays in development (an area far too many theaters conceal from their audience). Though EST often conveyed a "straight white guy" posture not unlike Dempster's own, it gave constant opportunities to women, gays, and ethnic minorities. Celebrity writers and actors cropped up often, side by side with near-unknowns and outright novices. Up the dusty stairs of that drafty building on that once-desolate block of West 52nd Street, Curt Dempster welcomed, nurtured, and showcased them all.

Note: Despite my headline, no one is talking about EST becoming "RIP" anytime soon notwithstanding the loss of their founder.

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