CAB Minutes: March 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space
This was the Community Advisory Board Panel on Arts Coverage in the Media. The meeting ran from approximately 7:05PM to 8:45PM.
The meeting was chaired by CAB chairperson Basya Mandel. The panel was planned by Tiffany Hall (who also moderated), Shavonne Johnson, Renee Cherow-O'Leary, and Monica Strauss. The panelists were Sara Fishko, Allison Lichter, Joel Lobenthal, and Emmanual Eisenberg. Other CAB members present included:
Basya Mandel: The Community Advisory Board's role is to advise the board of trustees. To that end, we do serve as the conduit of information to the board of trustees, and appreciate your participation, so we can relay your suggestions to the station and formulate accurate recommendations. Tonight's topic is how arts, specifically performing arts, are covered in the media. I'm going to turn things over to CAB member Tiffany Hall. Along with Shavonne Johnson, Renee Cherow-O'Leary, and Monica Strauss put together a wonderful panel. Tiffany?
Tiffany: Good evening--were so excited about all these panelists, I would love for each of them to introduce themselves and tell us a little bit about what they do now.
Allison Lichter: Hi, I'm Allison Lichter, and I am the culture editor for WNYC. I sit in the News Room and coordinate the arts coverage that you hear. I also work closely with the shows to help bring the arts content that they are doing into the news, and most recently, I've been working on the news website which is culture.wnyc.org, where we are trying all sorts of different initiatives to see what works online, which can be different from the radio. Those are my broad areas. In general, our approach is to be thinking about the excellent in New York and the emerging. We think, and are devoted to want to be investigative, and finding the next new big thing. We want to be close to the ground, finding artists who have yet to have been discovered. That's sort of how we spend our time.
Sara Fishko: I'm Sara Fishko. I produce cultural stuff for WNYC. Part of that is the Fishko Files, part of that is special programming like The Jazz Loft which aired last fall, and I work on other special programs. I came to WNYC many years ago to do classical music announcing while film editing during the week. Eventually the film editing slipped away and the radio became full time. Classical music announcing turned into these more elaborate productions.
Joel Lobenthal: I'm Joel Lobenthal and I'm Senior Dance Critic of a bi-weekly started last year called City Arts, put out by Manhattan Media, and I'm the associate editor of the quarterly Ballet Review. Also at City Arts I've been an opera writer. I've been writing about dance since 1983, written for the Times, the Post, Dance Magazine, different freelance jobs; dance critic for the New York Sun. Written two books: Radical Rags: Fashions of the 60's, and one is on Tallulah Bankhead, called Tallulah!: the Life and Times of a Leading Lady. I'm working on a few books right now. I've been on your show (to Sara).
Emmanuel Eisenberg : My name is Manny Eisenberg, and I produced my first show on Broadway in 1966, and the last one was this year, Ragtime The Musical. In between there were a few other shows.
Tiffany: You are modest down there, but I will let you stay that way for now. Thanks for introducing yourselves. The goal of this panel is to talk about performing arts in the media: where will it go from here, where SHOULD it go from here, should it remain the same, enhanced, changed in some way, etc. Before we get to that, let's look at where we are now: your perspective, and what are you working on.
Allison: I grew up in New York, when I had the opportunity to work on culture at WNYC, that was what I wanted to be doing, to capture what the city was all about. To that end, we do performing arts in many different ways in what I cover. One thing I want to share with you is a new thing we are doing with performance which is like a performance book club. We have a critic that we work with, a dance writer, and she has been working with us on the air doing interviews with Soterios and Amy Eddings and Richard Hake around theater and dance in New York. Every month she chooses a show, a group of people go to it together, and then they go out and talk about it like a book group. People also talk about it online. One of the things we want to do with that project is to grow audiences for theater all over New York, and expand the critical voice. I think we will hear a little bit more about the decline in arts criticism. That's something we are in a great position to address. Our culture reporter Janaya Williams is often out covering new shows, our digital team is going behind the scenes at the Met opera, at St. Ann's Warehouse, she goes backstage with different performers. Then, there are things like, when there's big art news, Christopher Wheeldon leaving, we get art critiques on the air and talk about the future of dance. Sorry that I am getting into some detail, but it's important arts news. Those are the areas: Breaking news, profiles, behind the scenes on feature stories.
Sara: And the question is what are we covering now? In general, I have a great affection for cultural history. As much as I love and embrace what is happening now, in NY and everywhere else, what isn't done enough is relating what is happening now to some sense of the sweep, how it happened, the history. Of course, people are playing jazz now--but what was the moment, the turning point where jazz started to mean something tremendous and why that moment? What was the moment when Sean Penn, that style of acting, turned into something that we all recognized. Whatever it was, it's interesting to look at those moment and try and look at a deeper sweep of cultural history. From my point of view, more and more I am drawn to that, not only because I like it but because I find it absent.
Joel: I agree with you that there is a historical illiteracy about culture promulgated by the media. For Ballet Review, it's not a scholarly publication, but it's an erudite one, and a specialized one. I moderated a panel, I'm doing a lot of interviews, because I've found that lots of people in ballet have never been interviewed. Ballet Review has been great about uncovering, about going beyond the official wisdom of things. We are the only publication in the world, I think, that have looked at the Soviet ballet, there is a lot of propaganda, which most of the Western media bought. We did a lot of in-depth profiles of the Soviets--which might have made people angry, because they have the mentality that they can't tell their stories and they never have gone through truth and reconciliation. Of course there are the rebels, aged now, and that's been fantastic, talking to them, getting behind the conventional wisdom. Other dance publications have done a little with that, but we've been pioneering that.
For City Arts, because it comes out twice a month, I don't want to do a standard review, people don't want to read about what happened two days earlier, so I will do a think piece, or a combination review. My next piece I am doing: mentioning that the City Opera is doing certain opera, but that the ballet is not doing either of the dances to that piece of music. Why not? Why are they not custodians? Also, talking about how since Perestroika, the Russians have adopted a lot of our ideas but indiscriminately, too many young inexperienced dancers on stage. I went to see the St. Petersburg Ballet, they used "seniors," over 30. They lifted the whole performance. There is no substitute for experience. Preview, coming up, we are doing an event with the retired Vladimir Vasiliev. So I try and do some thinking...
Tiffany: Different question for you, Manny. What's the state of Broadway?
Manny Eisenberg: Broadway has a pretty serious problem right now, both economic and artistic. You are right about Cultural history. From the 20s to the late 60s, there was: Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bernstein, Gershwin, Berlin, a host of others, who is there now? If I said the playwrights were Williams, Miller, Inge, Rattigan, Osborne, O'Neill, who was there now? I don't think you can answer that with equivalence. So, it's an artistic problem. Coupled with, when A Chorus Line opened--Ticket prices $15. Now they are trillions. Economic and artistic, you have a diminishment of something. Both shows I did this year failed. Brighton Beach Memoirs, and Ragtime. But I liked them. I used to know that when we did something that failed, that you would know when it wasn't good, etc. But I liked these. And there was no audience. Mike Nichols said to me: you were the last one to get the memo.
When we were kids, you put a jacket on to go to the theater. And when it was good, you could change the world. Mike says, that audience has diminished. We didn't take care of it, and there were alternatives--screen, game boys, computers--and that audience left. There is a diminishment of art, an excess of cost, and its not that people don't go, but people are going to theme park entertainment. Mike also said: we didn't go to be entertained. We paid money to be depressed! This was something past entertainment. I think that Broadway now is entertainment, which I think interests me less. If we continue down this way, the culture gets hurt.
Tiffany: Do you think the coverage focuses just on the entertainment?
Manny: I think the critiques and the media are complicit in all this. That in-depth 30-year planning that should have been promoted and perceived in the media--they were told about it, but who really plans 30 years in advance? Anywhere? What world? Who would have thought that GM would be a tiny company, and that US steel wouldn't exist? No one really plans. And we didn't plan here, so now we have less. I think there's an answer to that, and it's not about the real estate and the producers, its about artists. If Maryl Streep went to Obama and said this isn't working, and we need a theater on 23rd street, and we galvanized a bunch of actors, you might begin to have something. But I am old, so I have to worry about staying alive, not changing the world.
Tiffany: Before we look at what is missing in coverage, what are the factors that influence your decisions to cover a certain story? Personal passions? Market trends? What gets you to a certain story?
Alison: I sort of said earlier: the broad thinking is to look at the excellent and the emerging. In terms of coverage in the news room--there's one reporter and me, and a bunch of interns. We would like to do more then we do, but we are making do. With that staff, we are balancing the choices we make. We tend to focus on--let me give you an example, Suzan-Lori Parks: a playwright, with sort of a unique thing, 365 plays in a year, which was her last big event. We wanted to get to know HER as a creative person, and look at her and what's next. So, getting to know a specific person who was important in the theater landscape, and in the city. That's based on my sense of who is out, and working in the scene. A lot of my work is about meeting people, and learning what is important to them.
Then the Tony's come around every year, and we do the Tony segment. Usually in that segment, we talk about what isn't working on Broadway, and the trends we were seeing. In the last couple of years, we've seen some good drama: Exit the King, and August: Osage County. We use that Tony moment to look at general trends. Online, we are spending quite a bit of time looking behind the scenes, looking at some downtown groups. Hopefully that the next Arthur Miller is hanging out in Bushwick and still making plays in their little lofts. That's what we hope is happening, that despite the lack of resources, state and federal funding, people still come to New York and put up their plays in their little lofts. We try and be where they are, we hope they are going to become the next big thing.
Dance, people have told me you just can't do dance on the radio. I totally disagree with them. So much of what we work with--we don't assume that people in our audience care about dance. We do think that our audience is a culturally curious audience who should be told why they should care, so dance is a great example. If we have a passionate interview with Mark Morris or Bill T. Jones, these individuals and their creative drive, these are people that we want our audience to know. The passions of the critics, the passions of the artists that we work with. In part, I have a real desire to educate our audience, and shine a spotlight of awareness. So there's sort of an educational mission, that comes from the critics' voices or speaking to the artists directly themselves.
Tiffany: Before we talk about what's missing, I wanted people to understand, how do you decide to cover certain things?
Sara Fishko: So the "where do you get your ideas" question? That's a terrifying question. I don't know, except that I am in the luxurious position of being able to follow my own passions--it's a counter-balance to WNYC's attempts at covering the scene and being thorough, and my obligation is not to be thorough, or to report things. I follow things that I am interested in and find ways of telling stories. I am interested in plenty of things, but can't always come up with ways to do them on radio, and then there are some things that I can. It's also a question of playing with the medium. Radio itself can be something of an art. Maybe a little pretentious to think of things that way, but let's say that maybe radio is somewhat in that category. So, part of the fun is trying to find a way to make an artful, thoughtful treatment of things. One of the things that helps me decide: can I make an artful treatment of things about, say Fashion Week? Well it turns out there was something, both cultural history and culturally interesting, that Fashion Week was created in the middle of the German occupation when they couldn't get to France to cover fashion, so some publicist said, well let's start a Fashion Week here in New York. Turned out that this was a nice thing that not many people know about. So, it's following my nose, into areas that are interesting, and then finding a way to treat them. There's a piece tomorrow where I took 13 different versions of a Chopin piece and cut them together. It's interesting because it tells you something about interpretation, how music is made, how different people look at music. It's a way of trying to reach an audience and have them listen to something in a certain way.
Tiffany: One thing that people have been interested in is the acquisition of WQXR--has that changed your coverage at all? Altered anything, opened up new avenues for you?
Sara: Well things couldn't possibly be the same, we have a whole new sister station...
Tiffany: has it affected your stories or your coverage at all?
Sara: For me, there hasn't been a direct effect, but there's been a kind of atmospheric effect. We've gone from something this big to something this big. So, in that sense I think it has been a change. There's an atmosphere of appreciation of classical music, which leads to an enriching.
Joel Lobenthal: Francis Mason, who was the ex editor of Ballet Review, and he died in '09, he had a show called The World of Dance, that was on for only a minute every weekend day. Show was canceled by WQXR. He sent me an email looking for a place for the show, and no one picked it up. There is an abysmal lack of dance coverage, in all forms of media, especially on TV, except reality shows. 30 years ago, when I was in school, there were lots of places writing about dance: Vogue had a dance column: not anymore - only fashion or celebrity coverage. Dance is a complete void. The Times and the Post had dance critics, not any more. As the media environment collapses and implodes, people lash out at things that don't appeal to the biggest audiences. Dance is never going to appeal to as many people as sports in America, but there are tens of thousands of people are going to dance every night, and you never hear about that. What's missing is dance coverage. Also classical music coverage--I never hear Opera singers interviewed on the radio--they have fascinating stories, going by the wayside. Variety fired its critics. It may be that everyone feels, that publishers feel, they will get less advertising if there is any criticism. I am constantly thinking of--there is an overwhelming list of topics in dance, there is not enough time and space to cover all of it. I'm doing as much as I can--there is also an unfortunate sense, because there are no jobs at all in the dance world. You get to a point where you don't want to make a statement on anything, because there is a back-lash. The situation is so unhealthy now, you really are on tenterhooks trying to negotiate a line of politics and art. It's confusing.
Manny Eisenberg: I have such a mixed response. I'm anti the press--you give a bad notice and I hate you forever--but there are two theaters on Broadway named after critics. I don't think you should get into the quality of the criticism. Anecdotally, there was a time when you went out of town, a critic would write a review, and you met at one o'clock and discussed the play. And as everyone who knows about theater knows, it could, it improved the show. There was more respect, co-operation, and camaraderie. I do wish that the media in general knew more. What we read about is gossip. What is really going on is not always interesting, but it's sometimes critical that the press know. I think it's tragic that these people are losing their jobs. I thought the guy at Variety was, I thought, the best critic in the city. And there is a panic, and it's the internet, and it's replacing the newspaper. As much as I would argue with the New York Times about a lot of things, I really want to read it in the paper. I don't know if that is generational or realistic. I think that there is a down turn, and this is part of it. I don't know that it's being substituted. I miss the good critic, and the writer. I liked that people reviewed things: I didn't have to read an essay look, saying look how intelligent I am. I'll paraphrase, but when Brooks Atkinson saw My Fair Lady, his review the next day was "this is the best musical of the century." Nobody would write anything like that today. They would write the history of Pygmalion. That visceral writing.
Sara Fishko: but that was something that was based on a deadline.
Manny: it was wonderful!
Cross talk about deadlines.
Manny: Critics come whenever they want. If the New York Times says "I want to come on Tuesday, for a preview," you don't say NO.
Tiffany: Aside from the reviews, what else isn't being covered? Anything else that you feel that's important to you and the rest of the Broadway world.
Manny Eisenberg: It's important to note that these things, Dance, Opera, Music, are important to the country. It civilizes us. If you didn't have the arts, what would you do? It has to be given more importance. I don't think its given importance by almost anybody. It has almost a sect like audience that goes to the opera or the ballet. A wonderful story: We took hoodlums from Staten Island to see Revelations. Frankie the Hoodlum turned around and said "That was terrific, too bad that they call it ballet." When we were kids in the Bronx, we went to the theater. You have to make all of these things more accessible to other generations. I don't know how you do it--I know you have to charge less. But that's true of all these things, these arts. My wife is a dancer, and my children are dancers, so I had to learn. So, all of a sudden, at a mature age, I began to recognize beautiful feet. All of a sudden, I'm looking at people's feet. There is a process. You have to become an initiate. I don't think we have mechanisms in society to generate that.
Joel: I don't disagree at all. I thought it was astounding that Texaco would no longer sponsor the Met Opera. Texaco has posted record breaking profits, but decided it would stop paying for the broadcasts 6 or 7 years ago. It had been paying for them since 1940. Not one senator or congressperson--if it was 1940, something equivalent had happened someone would have gone to Washington. Not one politician, not one celebrity went there, and went out and stood up for it. This broadcast was something allowed people who didn't have money, kids who couldn't go to the opera, to be exposed to opera. I don't know how precarious it really was. No one in the government was doing anything. It was no longer fashionable or politically advantageous to come out in support of all that.
Tiffany: Well, now that we have a list of the things that we are missing -- How do you make it relevant again? How do you get kids involved in the process? How do you get corporations feeling that supporting and funding the arts is a good idea? What would be interesting?
Manny: Years ago, there was Friday Nights at the Whitehouse, and Itzhak Perlman would play, or other people who would play at a very high level, there was respect for it, so there was something every Friday night at the White House. That's a good start. Also, remember that we're in New York. If you want something done on the national level, and you're from New York, well the Senator from Utah is just not going to vote for it.
Sara: They also used to have Master classes on public TV. They would go on for hours, and you could actually understand the process, and there was a culture of passing the knowledge. There's nothing like it anymore. What to do? It's very tough, but to try and do more in our own sphere. I think, to get it occupy more airtime, more frequently, with more breadth and more depth. Everything we can do, and many of us at the station are agitators for culture coverage. It's a news and culture operation, and we have to continue to inject as much culture as we can, and the addition of QXR helps.
Allison: and I would, I agree. And to cover things like the point you made before, to cover things like affordable tickets. Every year there are events with ten dollar tickets. There are regular low-cost ticket programs. We do focus on them, and we give time to them. In the news room, we are not advocates, per se, other programming might be more advocacy. But we do want to cover how expensive this art and culture is. The federal and state support of the arts is abysmal. And I think you are right, nothing that we suggest is going to go over that well in Utah. But I will say that Obama has his regular arts nights, but they feature spoken word, and jazz, and hip hop. There is a change in what's being presented. The answer is more.
Joel: a political dynamic has to be changed, and I don't know that there is a will to do that.
Tiffany: Is there anything, as a writer yourself, is there anything that you can do?
Joel: I think I'm doing more then anyone can possibly do. I think I am covering as much as I can. When I had my DCA panel, a writer for Newsday told a story about how Newsday had a conniption when she used the word "corps de ballet" in an article. They screamed how dare you, do you think this is only for ballet freaks or aficionados. Then they told her, when they let her go, that they didn't care if they never published another word about dance. I don't know how you change that dynamic. My ex-boss at the Sun is now going to be performing arts editor for the new New York session at the Wall street Journal. She's a very savvy person, a competent person. I think the Times will take notice of what the Journal does, and follow. Competition--I was surprised the Journal wanted to do more cultural, but they are doing it to compete, and that competition could be a good synergy.
Allison: We were all very upset about The Sun. I helped start Soundcheck--we used to do a pretty regular segment on the "Death of the Critic." We were really interested in the death of a critic because that's what we do, but we had the sense that the general audience was not that interested as an issue, but its hard to explain the loss of the reviewer in a way that wasn't "take your medicine," but that really explains the impact of the loss of the reviewer, and the essayist. To the group: were you, are you aware of the impact of the loss of these critics?
Tiffany: Should we open it up to the CAB and the public?
Alfred Friedland: I have two questions and two comments. One comment: Sara, thank you for your long time work, it provides continuity and context. Let me come to one important word that you use, and that is Gossip. How would you characterize an art program that doesn't descend into gossip--and yet has substance.
Sara: you mean how would we achieve that? What would it look like?
Fred: when Leonard Lopate, for example covers these sorts of issues, it sometimes verges on gossip.
Sarah: I think it's one word, and the word is ideas. Gossip has nothing to do with ideas. The minute you address an idea.
Fred: Can you give me an example of ideas, say in dance, how would you talk about it?
Sarah: For example, I Interviewed some choreographers. One of them, Wheeldon, talked about making a tutu ballet. The difference in doing that from making a ballet that was not involved in that tradition. Just using toe shoes and the tutu changed his whole approach and technique. Because there was a tradition that came along with it, and there was a formality to that. It almost came from the outside in, almost like an actor puts on a costume. Well, I thought that was a fascinating idea. It didn't have to do with which dancer was better, or who was married to whom. It had to do with the actual process, the actual thing happening in the choreographer's brain.
Manny: In 1960 something, Albert Finney came to New York with a play called Luther. He was a young actor, a big star. Won the Academy award, and Tony. We all went out to dinner, and in Sardi's--there was Leonard Lyons (The Lyons Den). Harmless anecdotal gossip guy. And Finney said, "what does he do?" So prior to the 60's, and prior to that moment, there was endless journalism about theater, and there was no gossip. So there had to have been something going on. There was a time when there might have been an interest in ideas, or in what Arthur Miller has to say. Some of the journalistic interviews of Tom Stoppard, for example, the ones he is trying to avoid saying something, and the ones in which he lets you in. Maybe in totality, there is something that has to do with culture, and the intuition of the artist, the intuitive artist. Since there was once a world of newspapers, that used to be gossip-free. What I think is missing is real information. We need something to change it.
Fred: I think what's missing, is a sense of cultural obligation on the part of institutions. Every Saturday night, we used to go listen to the Free WQXR string quartet, free, open to the public, Lincoln Center.
Manny: And there was Leonard Bernstein's concert...
Fred: and Oscar Brand from WNYC. I wish that these organizations, like WNYC, like Texaco, would see more of an obligation to make things free. I think that there should be more free things here, where we are.
Manny: Do you remember Lewiston Stadium? You went to hear the best musical artists in the world for a quarter. For 50 cents you got a cushion. But there's a whole different attitude. That downhill slope that I think we're on I think we are on. I think one of the problems is the screen, that's ruining it. Film and laptops, you don't have to move. Don't have to go anywhere, and then its common denominator entertainment.
Renee: A lot of people in this room are of a certain age. Have the things we are talking about, have they migrated to new technologies? I wonder if the centrality of the critic has gone away because everyone is a critic, and has their own blog. The other thing: As an educator, I care deeply about the fact that there are not young audiences. Both for financial reasons, but there are still artists, but what can we do to build a deeper sensibility--I know WNYC can't be an advocate, but it's an intelligent place where these ideas can be aired. I believe that WNYC needs to be used more in education--this station has riches, and bring those riches, in some way. I am curious about what you think about new technologies as transforming, and education.
Manny: The screen does not substitute for the live performance. There is new technology, and it is, at the very least a huge distraction for young people in my mind.
Renee: could there be positives?
Manny: Well, it doesn't substitute for being there. Sometimes you are there for a great performance. You don't have to be educated, you knew it was good. You don't experience it on one night, but you have to build it, it has to be built in to the parents, the schools, and the culture of the country. It's important, it's not an addendum, and it's organic. I don't think we have it, and I don't think we work it. Dance is the interesting one, because of my own experience. Tom Stoppard writes plays about how you must become an initiate, how it's not automatic. I don't like being perceived as an artsy-crafty idealist. When you start articulating ideas like this, you are sometimes viewed as unrealistic. I don't think that I am--I am hopeful that my children, and my grandchildren can participate in all of these things because I think it's necessary. Not only the Yankees.
Joel: if you have a country where arts ed has been cut except for suburban education--I mean those schools are like country clubs, and there is art education there, everyone has their own computer. But you look at inner cities, there's no art education. Basic academics are barely covered, and there's no way to awaken their curiosity.
Tiffany: But, do you think, like Renee is saying, can the internet, and other new technology help?
Joel: I think that you are preaching to the converted, talking to like-minded peoples. People are going online because they already have an interest in it. They are talking to like-minded people. In terms of dance there are two blog situations: critics who get online who got fired, I have a blog. And then you have people who are doing personality blogs--people who are discovering dance for the first time. It's a self initiation, and that becomes the subject of the blog. Both of these things are great, but I don't know how much visibility these have in the greater culture. James Wolcott will refer to some of these blogs in the Vanity Fair blog.
Sara: I think part of it is part of a larger thing. It's happening even in radio, I think it's a rebellion against a central critic, an authority, and against a control of culture. Part of what the electronic media has done has enabled people to make their own statements. It's a pendulum effect, and we've gone way way over to the other side. I can't believe it won't swing, in a constructive way. But right now it feels scary and chaotic for those of us who grew up listening to people who knew everything. And we grew up with college students who knew everything. It's just a different thing. There was a sense that that was important, that playing a leadership role in that is important. I think that might be gone, and might contribute to our feelings of loss. I do think that there will be huge gains from all this, but we haven't seen so many of them yet.
Allison: We deal with blogs thusly: people work in the blogoshpere when they have lost their jobs. There are great expert minds that we do turn to in the blogosphere. I think what we can do, as WNYC, is look at that sea of voices, and curate that, and bring a blogger on the air, that has the rich deep set of knowledge, and we treat them as we would have treated the critic from the newspaper. The other thing, when I was talking about not being an advocate, that was just in the context of the news room. My role as culture editor is as an enormous advocate for the arts. John Schaefer has free concerts, these free concerts are out there, but they are hard to find because there's so much else out there. What we need to do is elevate those opportunities.
Guest: I am very interested in this idea of Radio as Art. I love the Fishko Files, and always look forward to them, because of their totality and form. This American Life is also radio as art. Maybe, could there be more of that? Maybe a dance critic, someone who could create those formally elegant pieces that also enhance radio and enhance the perception of the radio and the arts as well.
Sara: There could, there might: expensive and time consuming to produce, but yes, there could.
Guest: They really do have an impact, and they really do serve to initiate, for sure.
Gaye Leslie: I'm a member of the CAB. I found a notice of a new facility--it's a place to hear recordings, see a live group, see opera. You could just go in. There was no announcement on WNYC. There are only 24 hours in a day, but it seems to me like WNYC can cover that sort of thing. One way of getting attention to the arts. John Schaefer does live concerts, and I was glad to hear that, live music in the studio as part of Soundcheck. So I think we should do more at that. I don't like the Takeaway, it's copying the Brian Lehrer Show format. I like young people, my son is a young people, but he's still my son, and he tends to resent me telling him what to do, so I think that WNYC is kind of in that position. Why can't Bloomberg come once a week, once a month, and read a story to the kids? There are lots of things that go on that we don't cover. I believe that we should feature a special announcement of various arts groups in turn, so that people could know what's out there in the community and how to get to them. Maybe something they could walk to.
Sara: I'm under the impression that the Culture site is actively engaged in exactly this.
Allison: We offer free downloads, yes, from bands that are playing that night. We do have a section where we cover the concerts that are happening, some of which are free, some of which are not free.
Gaye: 90% are rock, rhythm and blues. I've heard nothing about real folk music, the variety of the music. I only hear about rock and roll, some of which is different, by mostly it's not a variety. There will always be some younger people who are not yet corrupted into sitting in front of the TV with a bag of chips listening to Michael Jackson. They could be taught. WNYC could help develop its own audience for the future. We are building for the future. It could be tremendous change, all kinds of things might change. Things have changed so much in the last 20 years, who knows?
Michel Bauman: as rotten as these things might be--I don't think these things are quite as doom and gloom as we are making them out to be. My son is a 4th grader on the lower east side, today he performed in a dance concert.
Joel: Why is there a dance performance in that school and not in other schools?
Michel: Because the parents are involved. My wife is a former dancer, so we had connections. If there are parents involved in the process, it results in things like this. Now there's something like the new Victory Theater on Broadway. And my son goes and he loves the theater. I agree with 85, 90 percent of what you are saying, but there is potential. There are opportunities. The listings on the website are a fraction of the listings in the Voice, Time Out New York, and other places. The youth is not as ignorant as they seem, and WNYC can play a role in that, with the website and John Schaefer's show: just talking about those opportunities as much as possible.
Joel: do the parents supplement the education? How do you do these things?
Michael: The parents pay for a dance teacher, so the kids have a dance teacher from kindergarten forward. And we paid to gut a room, and make a sunken floor. This is not the lower east side of my grandparents. My daughter goes to a school that isn't as wealthy, but there is an awareness, and we can drag people along and say we got to do this, this is important. The powers that be want the kids to be tested in reading and math.
Joel: I was at the Kennedy Center the other day, and there is a program, there is a study that two women from Oklahoma were telling me about that says that people do better in reading and math with exposure to the arts. That's a utility.
Michael: So, there is hope, though the media is a whole other question. I hope critics never disappear, because I need someone to do it for me.
Michelle Reed: To Michael's point, with my generation, there is not so much doom and gloom as you might think. When you are streaming live music all day long--you can listen to public radio all day long. I know tons of people that do that. With Facebook, there's such a great medium to reach out to people as a social event, a night out, a gallery in Chelsea. Also, do you think--I know that there is a Disneyfication of Broadway, but do you think that generation that proceeded you thought the things you were producing were crap? Do you think this is maybe, that I am going to say the same thing about the generation that proceeds me?
Manny: that's a big question, and there is no definitive answer. The note that Tom Stoppard sent me when the shows that I did closed was: I had never seen Ragtime, and I suppose I never will. It is disconcerting to think that the Golden Age was our youth--nevertheless, the theater scene seems somewhat wintry, was it ever thus? I don't have an answer to that, other then to say: these were the names from the 30's, 40's and 50's, and who are the names now, do they have the same distinction. The other thing is, the artist has to be paid. One of the things never discussed, there was no nonprofit theater. There was Broadway. We've lost that. One of the things that the not-for-profit world doesn't do is pay the artist. You don't have the actors you should be seeing here, because they were somewhere else. If you remember years ago, the great actors were here, ever year. They went from play to play. They were constant, they didn't do commercials, there was an art to it. We should require that there is some place where excellence happens. The Olympic place. I don't want to walk out of the theater saying that was interesting, that was ok. I want to go to place and be exhilarated, once a year. I thought that the New York theater, that Broadway was that place. If it is generational, tell me where to go to achieve that again. It's not antagonistic. I want a restoration of what the arts really does. I want a place to go to that knocks me out. I saw Death of a Salesman, and my world changed. Don't tell me it was about the American dream, it was about Fathers and Sons. I want that experience. Wow! What was that? I watched the Pavarotti thing on Channel 13. You hear him sing, and you don't need to know anything about music. You know. I want that experience.
Guest 2: I'll give you the answer. One thing: you are talking about the elitist--the 20 million people that live in the New York area. But the 280 million other people that don't have an exposure to this unless they are a tourist here. A limited audience for all this to date. I hear doom and gloom, as I listened and thought about it, the greatest opportunity has ever existed. A renaissance is about to take place, for the 300 million in the United States, and everyone around the world. You can see the Met Opera in Terre Haute. You buy a ticket, for 10 bucks, and you are seeing the Met Opera. It's not quite as good as being at the Met, because it's flat. But how about the Met Opera in 3D. Bigger then you can see it at the Met. Technology is not the enemy that is causing people not to go to the theater, technology is going to save the performing arts. It can be put on a DVD, it will look live, because 3D will work. By exposing 300 million people, everyone around the country will have access, and become interested. I think that performing arts will explode into 3D.
Joyce Lannert: I don't know if you are aware of the guys with PTSD, where they are reading the Greek tragedies to them. It touches them. But what I think is important is the exposure. Letting people see what power there can be in arts, simply by getting it out there again and letting the works do the work.
Allison: There's this little project called on the boards TV dot com. It's a little group that goes around the city and films performances and puts them online. Of course it's completely different then seeing them live, but it's all there. I do think, if we see a renaissance, it will come from groups like this who are making an effort to spread, and make this more accessible.
Guest 3: The biggest problem I think we have is finding a way to monetize, some way of paying the actors that doesn't have to be at the box office. We have attended many plays: some are terrible, some were great, but they would all get a standing ovation. I don't understand the motivation, some of these were terrible! Is it that you have paid so much for the tickets, that it has to be great? How can we express honesty, and let normal people in. I don't know what the answer is, but the idea of DVDs is great, maybe we can do something similar with Broadway shows.
Manny: Philosophically, I really disagree with the assessment of problems of performance. There are lots of technological issues of shooting the performance on stage. 3D's or not, does not get the three dimensional effect. Years ago, they tried and it didn't work because they wind up flat. Also, you go out to get a glass of milk. When you are in the theater, you are there. The money answer, the amount of money we charge is a disgrace. It's called greed. We are living in a time where there are excesses. The ticket prices are excessive, and it has chased away a few generations. From the Bronx, it was accessible to me. You could go out on a date, to Broadway. How about, every Wednesday afternoon, there is an obligation for every theater, to put on a free show? Let the children go see it!
Joel: how are you going to sell that?
Manny: Don't get practical on me! No, but maybe it means that people have to work for free, or sacrificing for a change. Start making real changes by giving up something, and you must assume that if you sent 500 kids to the theater, there are going to be 2 or 3 who are going to have that moment, that day. All we need is 5%. How did we all learn? But we don't make a big effort to accommodate that.
Guest 3: I side with the "too much doom and gloom." Things are still selling out. You have to get there early. As a kid, I heard Toscanini because WNYC had a write-in contest. If you build it, they will come. Maybe radio can do something by featuring, the lower cost venues. People now, go see movies. Prices are up, but its still $10. I also agree with the people who say that the electronics can still generate interest. And if we can make things affordable, and funnel people to the theater. People are simply not going to spend $400 for a Broadway play.
Tiffany: I would like to get closing comments from the panelists on how to enhance WNYC's coverage, especially after this conversation.
Sara: I would reiterate that we are in a transitional moment, and an interesting one. The pendulum could swing in an interesting way now. One of our tasks is to keep our eye on the ball--the ball being real information. If we can combine that with things that everyone is asking for, focusing on low-priced events and trying to get the information out there, then we will be moving in the right direction. And thank you for your interest and your time.
Joel: If you want to talk about dance, I heard not one word about dance in the last two weeks.
Allison: There was a thing, -- cross talk.
Joel: More coverage is always helpful.
Manny: I think that the fact that you are asking the question is enough. I don't have any answers, but this discussion means that you will keep the arts in the public eye. But, just don't stop.
Alison: there is tremendous commitment to create great cultural coverage, and to expand it. Our projects online will translate to more on air. I think our role is to continue to be curators, and to sift through the noise to find the greatness and the great work, and to present the range of opportunities to connect to the arts. Thank you so much for your concern, and care, and questions. I am glad to have been here.
Tiffany: Thank all of you for coming!