Top Stories Affecting OOB in 2013
Each year our staff takes a look back at the previous year to see what stories and events had the most impact on OOB. Here is our list for 2013:
LIT Hosts Community Forum2013 was an election year in which the NYC Mayoral seat was decided as well as many other significant legislative positions. With an estimated 40,000 artists working Off-Off-Broadway each year, it is one of the largest arts communities in the world and it is a vital component of the cultural eco-system of the City. The League of Independent Theater (LIT) endeavored to capitalize on the indie theatre population and galvanize the community into civic action. In March of 2013 LIT hosted a forum of political candidates running for office. The objective was to determine those candidates with arts friendly agendas that addressed some of the most enduring challenges facing independent theatre artists. New York City Councilmember and Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Jimmy Van Bramer, stated, “If we can band together through this forum, the landscape of the arts in NYC would change drastically.”
The end result was, for the first time, a list of candidates that endorsed a performing arts platform that specifically included the needs of independent theatre in NYC. This was a decisive step for the community and one that could lead to critical benefits if continued and leveraged properly in years to come.
OOB Supports Greater GoodOver the last few years, a key trend has developed within the community. Numerous companies have developed programming that focuses on connecting their art with the community and embraces the idea that OOB is an engrained part of the neighborhood as well as of the greater NYC cultural eco-system.
According to their mission statement, the Red Fern Theatre Company “strives to provoke social awareness and change through theatrical productions and outreach.” This past season, their production of The Radiant, a play by Shirley Lauro about the life of scientist Marie Curie, championed the Association for Women in Science. The company believes that these efforts help them more effectively “respond directly to the people actually affected by the issues addressed in the play.”
Similarly Retro Productions’ The Baltimore Waltz about a brother and sister in the early 1980’s dealing with the diagnosis of a then unknown disease, donated 15% of all ticket sales and collected additional donations for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.
The Planet Connection Theatre Festivity is an entire festival dedicated to this concept of connecting artists and audiences with organizations that give back to the community at large. Festival productions are all matched with a charity. For instance, Articulate Theatre Company’s production of Dragon about the human encroachment on a wildlife habitat was associated with Urgent Pets on Death Row, a nonprofit group that advocates for changes to the NYC Animal Care and Control system. A brief introduction to the charity preceded each of ATC’s performances, donations were accepted and brochures were distributed. Likewise each production in the festival has a purpose beyond artistic expression but also benefits a greater social good.
During the very heated Trayvon Martin case, many OOB artists found creative ways to explore and respond to this important and complicated issue. TCG dedicated a blog salon to the topic; The New Black Fest addressed it and Willing Participant's created a slow-moving human sculpture in Times Square in response.
A Comprehensive Cultural Plan for NYCOn November 19, 2013 The Arts and Business Council of New York (ABC/NY), a division of Americans for the Arts, presented testimony at a New York City Council hearing on a proposed bill that calls for the city to develop and implement a comprehensive cultural plan. ABC/NY provided a national perspective on this issue, and presented data on the impact of the arts sector on the business sector.
NYC is the only one of the top ten municipalities in the U.S. that does not have some sort of cultural plan. The cultural plans that other top cities have adopted are summarized in the testimony of Karen Zornow Leiding, Director of Arts & Business Council of New York.
The Sequester Impacts National Arts FundingThe national Budget Sequestration that took effect in March of 2013 was an across-the-boards cut to federal agencies totaling $85 billion in reductions to most areas of domestic social programs, including the National Endowment for the Arts. The 5 percent sequester cuts took affect across the federal government, meaning cuts of about $7 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, $12 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and $22 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Read the administration's official report on the implementation of the sequester and this ARTSblog post on the effects for cultural agencies.
Indie Theatre Now/nytheatre.comIn the fall of 2013, Martin Denton announced that online theatre resource nytheatre.com would become an archive-only site and that he and his mother, Rochelle Denton would now focus their efforts on the digital theatre library Indie theatre Now. “Indie Theater Now is a place where people can learn about contemporary American drama in depth,” said Denton. “At its core is a rapidly growing library of plays, which are available to be read online.” It is a new exciting resource for the community. Read more about this transition.
Red Room ClosesAfter fifteen years of productions and performances, Horse Trade Theater Group’s Red Room closed its doors in March 2013. As stated in their press release, “Horse Trade couldn't let The Red Room go without a proper send-off!” and so a month-long celebration highlighted the amazing work that had been presented at the Red Room over the years. Hundreds of artists lent their talents to restage some of the Red Room’s most renowned work.
Indie Arts BlogsThere are several blogs that focus on Indie Theatre arts and artists that are coming to prominence within our section. Get to know your community and check out these wonderful blogs by: playwright Adam Szymkowicz' "I Interview Playwrights", playwright/actor Zack Calhoon's "People You Should Know", director Cat Parker's "DirectorSpeak", and sound designer Janie Bullard's brand new "StoryCraft" on indie designers.
Obamacare for Artists
Affordable Care Act went into effect on January 1, 2014. This Act legally requires all Americans to carry health insurance. According to recent studies, “US-based artists are less likely to have health insurance than the general public.” 2013 found many artists asking if Obamacare would help bridge this gap and if the options it offered would work for independent artists? There are still lots of questions and uncertainties about this decisive move toward Universal Healthcare in the US. If you have questions, check out the Future of Music website that answers many FAQs or your can watch two videos (links below) by the non-partisan, non-profit research organization, The Kaiser Family Foundation that presents information about the ACA in an accessible way.
Health Reform Explained
Get Ready for Obamacare
There were several companies that celebrated important milestones this year. Congratulations to Boomerang Theatre Company, which this year celebrated 15 years of producing new, forgotten & classic plays. Brooklyn's own Brick Theater celebrated its 10th Anniversary this year. Drunken! Careening! Writers! also celebrated their decennial. Congratulations to all!