Don here. When Eagle Eyes and I submitted our “Twenty Questions” to CenterStage earlier in the summer, I thought we were being very easy on them.
We didn’t ask about an artists endowment — there isn’t one — or the rumors that ticket sales for the CenterStage grand opening weekend have been slow. And we didn’t ask why there is so little of substance announced on the initial event schedule (BTW: Bringing in The Oak Ridge Boys is actually a good idea. In the context of a full and diverse schedule of events, that is. So where’s the rest? Or is this it?)
We didn’t ask about the parking situation, although there seems to be some problems there too. And we didn’t press too hard on how the Foundation intends to respect the history (ahem!) of the historic Richmond theatres they’ve been handed the keys to, and given considerable public subsidy to oversee and to safeguard. Perhaps, in light of recent events, we should have.
[Incidentally, it's always worth reminding people that this project is, was and will be funded by public tax dollars. So anyone who tries to tell you that CenterStage, or RPAC, or VAPAF — whatever you want to call them — should be able to do with its "history" what it wants — like a private company reworking a new sales brochure — has an awfully broad and somewhat shitty view of both history and what it means to be a leader in the public trust.]
No, we didn’t press Jeff and Jay at Capital Results PR (who officially handled our inquiries about the project — thanks guys!) about such things as the lack of an artistic director — we assumed there would be one. After all, wasn’t there a guy named Joel Katz? And didn’t he run the Carpenter Center successfully for ten years with very little city subsidy? He was fired for truth-telling too.
Why does having an artistic director — a “vision” — matter? Let’s take a look at a reputable arts venue named CenterStage — Baltimore’s CenterStage — which does not take city tax dollars and is overseen by a staff that includes a seasoned artistic director. If you want a good example closer to home, take a look at the diverse international arts programs that the director of The American Theatre in Hampton, Michael Curry, brings to Tidewater each season in a former second-run movie house (click here for the 2009-10 schedule).
Make no mistake, folks. This stuff matters. You can’t pass your programming and your artistic direction off to a hockey arena promoter (in this case, SMG) and expect to have a “world class performing arts center.” It just doesn’t compute.
Anyway, we promised the boys at Capital Results that we would print their official answers “as is” with a very minimum of linking and editorializing. But forgive us for pointing out facts when the answers fail to do so, and please allow us the opportunity to tell you why some of these questions might just be a wee bit important, and especially to those people who say they support this thing and want it to work.
There was also one “followup” question that we are still a little unclear about.
But you’ll read all about it… as you wade through…
[Cue trumpets, or "Elvira" — your pick] …
And for those of you coming in late to the CenterStage / Virginia Performing Arts Center story, feel free to plunder our archives. And start asking your own questions. After all, you are paying for this particular “serious fun,” whether you like it or not.