The Playgoer: NEA Surprise

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NEA Surprise

Well I didn't see this coming.

Rocco Landesman is going to run the NEA. Rocco Landesman, Broadway producer, head of Jujamcyn Theater chain, and noted outsize personality.

Then again, he also happens to be Rocco Landesman, DFA from Yale Drama!

What to say? That Obama, he's a mischievous one. The first phrase that comes to my mind is "so crazy it might work." At least we know Rocco will not be some career bureaucrat trained to adjust to political "reality" and thus roll over at every Republican phony anti-arts outrage. He seems less likely to just accept that the NEA must be marginal because some congressional blowhards say it is. At the very least the man's a fighter.

Now, will he fight for nonprofits as hard (or as well) as he fought for Jujamcyn's dividends? Commercial producing is a really different branch of the arts world. And as the Times article reminds us, he was the guy who gave us the "Premium" ticket price on Broadway and has gone on record many times criticizing nonprofit theatre companies for their stealth commercial practices. (Hmm, then again, so have I...)

Here's another asset though the article neglects to raise--the man sure knows how to raise money. So whatever he can't get from Congress, expect him to hit up his many rich private sector sources. (I mean, if he can get them to invest in Tale of Two Cities, he can get them to cough up for anything!)

So, to our President I say, hats off, sir. All in all, plusses and minuses considered, well played. You took "the enemy" by surprise by giving them a real businessman to contend with. And you signalled you're serious about the NEA making some noise for a change.

Let's just hope the man makes it through the confirmation process.

PS. It is interesting to read in the article that Rocco also just happened to be a major Obama donor during the campaign...


Abigail Katz said...

I think this is fantastic! Rocco Landesman has an artistic leg to stand on and he has an excellent record as a businessman. This is not a bad thing for the arts, especially now. Non-profit or for-profit is irrelevant, brains and muscle is what we need.

Aria said...

Have you read this essay Landesman wrote for the NYT in 2000? He clearly has a sense of why non-profit theater matters, and exhibits a concern for that type of theater that is really wonderful. here's the article: