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Thread: jeff simon nails it!!!..

  1. #1
    Unregistered bigpoppapuff's Avatar
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    jeff simon nails it!!!..

    from the 3/1/08 Bflo news....


    Commentary: In the end, Studio Arena lost its soul
    By Jeff Simon ARTS EDITOR
    Updated: 03/01/08 7:34 AM

    Studio Arena Theatre closed this week, possibly due to its risk aversion in choosing plays.
    David Hare is a brilliant British playwright, screenwriter and film director.

    Hare’s play “The Vertical Hour” from 2006, involves a dramatic face-off between an American media type and a Scottish doctor over the Iraq War and America’s penchant for policing the globe.

    It was supposed to be Studio Arena Theatre’s next production. I was looking forward to getting away from film briefly and reviewing it — not only because of my high regard for Hare but because I found it an interesting and extremely challenging choice for a troubled Studio Arena Theatre season. I also found it inherently dramatic that the Studio Arena’s production of “The Vertical Hour” was going to star David Lamb, whose Kavinoky Theatre has been one of two major recipients of season ticket buyers fleeing Studio Arena in droves (they’ve lost 3,000 of them in the last five years). I’ll never get the chance.

    Studio Arena went dark. Crippling debt stopped it completely and put it into Chapter 11. If you read the News’ Tuesday front page story about it carefully, you might have translated some of the more bureaucratic mumbo jumbo about “the business model being followed” and come to one conclusion — that “The Vertical Hour” was long considered the ideal place to kill the entire season.

    You couldn’t ask for a better specimen under glass of the kind of exploitive, mediocre thinking that has enraged so many potential Studio Arena benefactors for years and caused them to switch allegiances to the Kavinoky and Irish Classical theaters.

    There you have it all — the risk aversion which is ultimately the biggest risk of all, the suicidal insistence on playing it safe and the shameless pandering which, for so many years now, has made so many people in Buffalo soul-sick about the continuing operations of Studio Arena Theatre.

    A dedicated cultural benefactor I know — a man in a position to write a useful check to any floundering arts organization — wrote me recently that he and his wife had indeed been among the many to switch season ticket allegiances to the Kavinoky Theatre.

    If the Studio Arena debt is indeed $3.5 million, we’re probably down to a literal handful of people inside the Buffalo city limits who could write that check without flinching and let Studio Arena start over.

    And of those who could, who on earth would want to? And why would they? Fond and nostalgic feelings for the theater’s history going back to Jane Keeler’s school at Lafayette and Hoyt Street? Distant historic nostalgia didn’t save the Erlanger Theater building at Delaware and Mohawk, so it’s not likely to save the Studio Arena either.

    A more immediate and understandable affection for the Neal DuBrock and post- DuBrock era when you could see a production of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” starring Jon Voight — or “Lady of the Diamond” starring Christine Baranski and featuring a young, astonishingly svelte John Goodman?

    That’s widespread feeling for sure. It’s also the source of no small anger from former Buffalonians (especially in the TV business) I’ve talked to recently whose work took them away from the hometown they still love.

    It seemes to me the same thing killed Studio Arena that killed the Tralfamadore as a jazz club — the brutal insistence on downtown Buffalo as a profitable “theater district,” i.e., a real estate development.

    The reason Ed Lawson’s original Tralfamadore became a legendary place to begin with is that its proprietor didn’t flinch at taking a financial bath on an evening of solo piano by Mal Waldron (the assembled crowd could have fit BEHIND the bar with room to spare). The minute real estate developers and public money entered the picture, though, that particular vision of the Tralf was doomed. The only question was when. That’s what happens when a real institution is debased into a mere brand name.

    The same with Studio Arena Theatre, which has been nothing but a brand name since DuBrock’s successor David Frank departed. When those who need to be pleased are only developers, bankers, pols and media types, culture turns into television and the Internet and excellence takes a permanent back seat to popularity.

    Soon to be lost forever seems the idea that excellence is a good all its own — and that it breeds its own kind of popularity. We’re not talking about a stadium or arena screaming themselves hoarse for the Who, the Stones or The Bills, but rather the discerning audiences who now seem to trust the Kavinoky and Irish Classical Theaters to know who they are and not pander to them, exploit them or present them with garbage.

    We’ve spent years now watching Studio Arena change from the Walking Wounded to the Walking Dead. We’ve watched as the crassest of mad doctors assembled a monster Franken-theater out of dead pieces of this and rotten pieces of that.

    We’ve seen a board fill up with those who mostly wanted the credit on their civic resumes. We’ve seen out-of-towners go there for their own reasons — Richard Maltby Jr., for instance, whose deal with the Studio Arena is said to have been such that the theater wouldn’t have profited much even if “Ring of Fire” had been a Broadway smash. Or former Buffalonian and schoolmate of Kathleen Gaffney’s, Tom Fontana of TV’s “St. Elsewhere” and “Homicide,” who seemingly couldn’t wait for a destroyed Franken-theater to benefit his alma mater, Buffalo State College.

    Philanthropy in Buffalo has changed utterly. No one who was actually able to just write a check and save the theater wanted to do so. Very few people cared, when you get right down to it. That’s the horror movie of Studio Arena Theatre season’s extinction.

    And why on earth would they — with angry bankers, real estate developers, politicians and peevish media types all storming the castle at midnight with torches and pitchforks for the poor monster’s final hours and chanting “MONEY! BOX OFFICE! POPULISM! MONEY! BOX OFFICE! POPULISM!”

    That’s not the way art is created. Nor is that how excellence happens. It tends to be much simpler. The “model” that’s served our species for a thousand years or so is that someone with deep pockets and no concern whatsoever for profits writes a check (or proffers the sacks of gold). Someone else who cares only — or, let’s say in fairness, mostly — about excellence uses that money to create it.

    You build it. And they come. Eventually.

    And if they never do, you’ve still done something that replenishes the world rather than something that steals from it or just exploits another piece of it.

    Try this “model” — Seymour Knox’s wallet plus curator Gordon Smith’s taste equals the beginning of the community-transforming collection at the Albright Knox Art Gallery.

    It’s a model that seems to have virtually vanished from the city in which we live. Philanthropy in Buffalo has changed completely. Often, it bears a gruesome resemblance to the exploitation of robber barons. Only Ani DeFranco seems to actually enjoy just writing a public check for the things she loves without knowing EXACTLY what that check will buy.”

    So Studio Arena is going into Chapter 11 and the horror movie is finally over. And what a tragic end for the monster it was.

    The best we can hope for now is a Studio Arena reorganization, and a sequel, even if we know that the real thing, in fact, died. If we’re lucky we’ll get a “Bride of Franken-theater” or a “Son of Franken-theater.”

    We’ll get a mini-season of god only knows what — more adaptations from the high school reading list, perhaps or, uhhh, “crowd pleasers.”

    Meanwhile, the theaters whose lively competition hurt Studio Arena so badly will continue at their own less cumbersome size and will probably flourish.

    Only excitement now can revive the patchwork monster of regional theater in Buffalo and make it seem as if it’s dancing. Only excitement of some sort is going to get enough patrons under the age of 50 to make the monster a living thing.

    Otherwise, it’s just another cackling overactor screaming, “It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE!”

  2. #2
    Member Daisy H's Avatar
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    Nov 2004

    Mazel Tov!

    Woops...sorry..I thought the name of this thread was, "Jeff Simon Gets Nailed!!!.."

  3. #3
    Member wheresthesun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daisy H
    Woops...sorry..I thought the name of this thread was, "Jeff Simon Gets Nailed!!!.."
    That will likely not happen, ever...

  4. #4
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    I always liked going to Stratford. They have excellent playbills and something for everyone and everyone's budget. Why can't Buffalo do that?
    First Amendment rights are like muscles, if you don't exercise them they will atrophy.

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