Top 9 Stories Affecting OOB in 2009 


Each year we do a wrap up of the top events and stories that affected Off-Off-Broadway. Here is our list of the most important happenings in the Indie Theatre world from 2009.

Ohio Theatre in Danger
For nearly 30 years the Ohio Theatre on Wooster Street has hosted many NYC theatre companies and artists as well as national and international visiting artists. They have brought tens of thousands of audience members to the SoHo neighborhood and have been an important part of our community. Last year the owners of the building, who had always been supporters of the theatre, found themselves no longer able to keep up with the financial demands of the maintenance and preservation of the building and decided to sell. While, artistic director Robert Lyons, has been able to negotiate a deal to temporarily remain in the space, there are no guarantees and The Ohio continues to operate on borrowed time.

Downtown's Ohio Theatre Likely to Close by Alexis Soloski, Village Voice
Public Forum on Small to Mid-Sized Theatre
On February 17, 2009 Manhattan Community Boards 1 through 5 jointly hosted a Public Forum on The State of Small To Mid-Sized Theaters. Hundreds of attendees crammed into the Player’s Club to show their support for the community, share their experiences and begin the discussion about “Developing Strategies in this time of Crisis and Opportunity.” Amidst all the ideas and debate, perhaps the most significant and promising development was that the community boards expressed their commitment to advocate for our community.  These boards are often the first to respond to community concerns and make recommendations to elected officials about the city budgets and neighborhood land use. As Paul Bartlett, Chair of Community Board 3’s Arts Task Force explained, “The unique thing about community boards is that the public officials and elected officials are accountable to us… and what we are going to articulate in boards 1 through 5 is that arts and theatre is important in our districts.”
Forum on Small Theatres Brings Ideas For Change
Forum on Small to Mid-Size Theaters - Media Resource Page
Theatres in the Archive Building Saved
Four theatres that are housed in the Federal Archive Building on Christopher Street (Wings Theatre, Theater for a New Audience, Interborough Repertory Theater and Epiphany Theatre) were informed that their rent would increase nearly 500%.This meant that these theatres, that are already running on a shoestring budget and staffed with volunteers, could no longer afford their spaces and would be forced out. However, at the last minute, they were given a reprieve.  Thanks to the dedicated work of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Community Board2, other city and state agencies and the attention of concerned and outspoken members of our community, these theatres along with four other non-profits brokered a deal that allowed them to keep their homes.

Theatres in the Archive Building Saved
Village Nonprofit Groups Say They Are Surprised by a Steep Rise in Rents by Dan Levin, New York Times

NYSCA Funding
In the fall of 2008 Governor Paterson announced that in order for New York State to close a $1.5 billion deficient in its $131.8 billion budget that he proposed significant cuts to the state's arts funding. What represented a nominal portion of the overall budget would potentially cripple hundreds of arts organizations across the state. Funding to the New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA) would be cut by over $600,000 in 2009 with an additional $7 million cut from NYSCA in 2010. Arts organizations and community boards were outraged by the announcement. In April 2009, Community Board 4 sent a letter to the Governor saying that the cuts “blind sided scores of theatres in our area that were placed in financial peril.” Sufficient pressure from the community helped to defeat the proposed cuts and funding for NYSCA was restored – at least for the time being. Recent news from Albany says that the Governor's plans for 2010 and 2011 puts arts funding back in the cross hairs.
Community Board Responds to NYSCA Cuts

Update on NYSCA Funding Cuts by Richard Kessler, Arts Journal
The Impact of Potential Budget Cuts to the Arts Industry, Tourism, and Living Museums, Center for Arts Education
Changes to the Showcase Code
In May 2009 the Actor’s Equity Association made changes to their Showcase Code increasing the limits under which the majority of Off-Off-Broadway productions operate. The change included increases in the number of allowable rehearsal weeks as well as a$10,000 increase in the production budget cap. Equity believes the extended performance window will allow shows a more flexible schedule to target press coverage and audience attendance.  Showcase Committee Chairman, Gil Rogers, said the goal behind these changes is “to meet some of the basic needs of emerging theatres, at the same time protecting the actors.”
Actors' Equity Raises Showcase Code Limits
1st Annual Indie Theatre Midsummer Classic
On a beautiful Sunday in July, The Community Dish, The Innovative Theatre Foundation, The League of Independent Theatre and United Stages hosted the First Annual Indie Theatre Midsummer Classic. OOBers showed up with packed lunches, old mitts and unearthed bats happy and eager to engage their fellow artists in a little friendly athletic competition. Jonathan Reuning of United Stages said “I wasn’t surprised by the big turn out or the friendly atmosphere but I was unprepared for how good some of the players were.” The game literally ended in a tie despite the spirited and good natured banter of team captains Tim Errickson and Micheal Criscuolo.  “It was really fun to interact with everyone outside of our usual theatrical element…It was such a beautiful day for us all to come together and build team spirit as an Off-Off-Broadway community” said White Horse Artistic Director Cyndy Marion. We all look forward to the Second Annual Indie Theatre Midsummer Classic.
Jillian Zeman presented the 1st Outstanding Stage Manager Award
On Monday, September 21st, the 2009 New York Innovative Theatre Awards were presented. Among the 18 production awards and 3 honorary awards was a special presentation of the very first Outstanding Stage Manager Award.

Presenters Tom Wojtunik and Taryn Drongowski were eager to present this award to the Production Stage Manager of the Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC)’s production of Ragtime.  A mammoth production boasting a 26-person cast –including 4 child actors (with stage parents), a 20-person production crew, 5-person band, a giant set that had to be constructed and deconstructed for almost every performance and literally hundreds of costumes and props, this show could have easily buckled under the weight of the details. However, as Wojtunik, Artistic Director of APAC and Director of Ragtime put it, “At the center of all of this was Jillian Zeman… Had Jillian been anything other than outstanding, the show may well not have happened on any given night.”
Jillian Zeman: 2009 Outstanding Stage Manager
OOB vs. Indie Theatre
In October,TRU (Theater Resources Unlimited) tackled the timely topic of the nomenclatures currently being used for this sector of theatre in NYC. There is a movement within the community to rebrand "Off-Off-Broadway" as "Independent" or "Indie" theatre. Community leaders are split on this issue. Defenders of the “indie theatre” brand cite the successful growth of the “indie film” and“indie music” industries due in part to the clear, strong branding of those sectors over the last decade. They believe that changing the nomenclature will allow audiences to rediscover this scene on their own terms. Others argue that changing the name is dismissive of a rich cultural history and heritage and may divide the community into splinter groups and factions, rather than strengthening it. A panel, including Frances Black, Martin Denton, Paul Bargetto, Virginia Louloudes and Stacey Cooper McMath discussed the pro and cons of each, the definitions of each and many other important questions that our community faces as we attempt to define and brand the work we do.

Where Do I Belong: Off-Off-Broadway or Indie Theater? by J. Boyett, The TRU Article
Why indie theater? at

Free Night of Theater a Huge Success
October 15th kicked off the week-long celebration of independent theatre.  The goal of this national event is to introduce new audiences to the theatre.  This year TCG and their partners from 120 cities across the country gave out 75,000 free tickets.  Here in NYC, the League of Independent Theatre (LIT) led the festivities with a star studded event at Union Square that included appearances by Eric Bogosian, Judith Malina, Mike Daisey, Kathleen Chalfant,Susan Louise O'Connor, Oskar Eustis, Lisa Kron, Robert Zukerman, Scott Stringer and many independent theatre companies and artists. Even in the face of a Nor'easter the spirit and exuberance of these artists shone through. 
Free Night of Theater Website


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