$125 million for performing arts education


Theater Column

February 17, 2005|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

The Kennedy Center in Washington has announced a new $125 million commitment to performing arts education.

"The size of this financial investment is an indication of the Kennedy Center's commitment to arts education," Michael M. Kaiser, Kennedy Center president, said yesterday. "With the expansion and development of these programs, we hope the arts will become an increasingly integral part of the lives of people everywhere."

Among the many facets of the five-year plan are:

A new 320-seat theater due to open in December and designed to accommodate performances for young audiences;

A program created by the Kennedy Center, Disney Theatrical Productions and Music Theatre International to develop musicals in the schools;

Internet components such as a jazz Web site and interactive arts programs for teachers and students;

Career development for aspiring artists, such as a summer program in which student musicians study with members of the National Symphony Orchestra;

Enhanced arts management training.

The $125 million will be raised from private donations over the next five years.

Auction results

Center Stage's 28th-annual radio auction raised $241,749 on Sunday. Although the total was slightly below last year's figure, the tally included the highest amount ever bid for a single item, according to Sydney Wilner, auction coordinator.

The top price was $10,000, which went for a cocktail party for 50, donated by the Classic Catering People. Valued at $13,000, the party was one of many bargains purchased in the auction, Wilner said.

The timing of this year's auction - a day before Valentine's Day and less than a week into Lent - appeared to affect some of the bidding. For example, a $1,270 diamond heart necklace from Smyth Jewelers went for $790 to a bidder who arranged to pick it up the next day. Another bidder paid $155 for an $80 monthly MTA bus pass, intended as a goodwill gift for someone in need during Lent.

Overall, Wilner was pleased with the results. "We had a lot more items than we've had in the past," she said of the record 800 lots. "There was a lot of excited bidding." This year's results bring the total raised for Center Stage over the years to more than $3.24 million.

Expanded `First Look'

Looking ahead, Center Stage is launching an expanded series of play readings called First Look: Special Edition. The series features plays by emerging writers in their 20s and 30s. "It's an outgrowth of the existing First Look series," said resident dramaturg Gavin Witt. "It's about new visions, new voices."

Here's the lineup:

9 p.m. Monday: The Moonlight Room, by Tristine Skyler, a drama set in a hospital where two teenagers wait for news about a friend who has overdosed.

9 p.m. Feb. 28: Hazard County, by Allison Moore, an account of a Los Angeles TV producer who travels to Kentucky to examine the real story behind Southern stereotypes.

8 p.m. March 21: Help Wanted (A Personal Search for Meaningful Employment at the Start of the 21st Century), an autobiographical solo show written and performed by Josh Lefkowitz.

8:30 p.m. March 23-24: Americanmisfit, by Dan Dietz, a riff on American history, described as "Of Mice and Men meets Natural Born Killers."

All readings are presented in the sixth-floor rehearsal hall at Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St. Admission is $5. For more information, call 410-332-0033.

Remembering Miller

Actor Howard Witt, who played the antiques dealer in Center Stage's fall production of Arthur Miller's The Price, called earlier this week to reminisce about the late playwright, who died one week ago.

"We're not going to see his kind again, not just for his writing but the kind of man he was," said Witt, a Miller veteran who played the role of Charley, the title character's neighbor, in the 1999 Tony Award-winning revival of Death of a Salesman. Witt will be one of four American cast members, including star Brian Dennehy, who will re-create their roles in the London production this spring.

"I was just so hoping to see him again in London, but it's not going to happen," said Witt. "The words [Miller] wrote ... are just an honor to be able to say."

Presidents' Day at Ford's Theatre

At 7 p.m. Monday, in honor of Presidents' Day, Ford's Theatre, 511 Tenth St., N.W., Washington, will present a reading of The Dead Presidents' Club, a political satire by Larry L. King, co-librettist of the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

The play takes place in a holding station between heaven and hell where Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman and Calvin Coolidge await their fates.

Admission is free, but reservations are requested. Call 202-434-9545.

Theater showcase

The Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts is accepting applications for "The Play's The Thing ... ," the theater showcase to be held at the Theatre Project as part of Artscape, July 22-24. Performances should run between 30-50 minutes and are eligible for an honorarium of up to $1,000.

Applications are due March 4. To download an application, visit www.artscape.org. For more information, call 410-752-8632.

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