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Angels in the American Theater

Patrons, Patronage, and Philanthropy

Edited by Robert A. Schanke

Publication Year: 2007

Angels in the American Theater: Patrons, Patronage, and Philanthropy examines the significant roles that theater patrons have played in shaping and developing theater in the United States. Because box office income rarely covers the cost of production, other sources are vital. Angels—financial investors and backers—have a tremendous impact on what happens on stage, often determining with the power and influence of their money what is conceived, produced, and performed. But in spite of their influence, very little has been written about these philanthropists.
Composed of sixteen essays and fifteen illustrations, Angels in the American Theater explores not only how donors became angels but also their backgrounds, motivations, policies, limitations, support, and successes and failures. Subjects range from millionaires Otto Kahn and the Lewisohn sisters to foundation giants Ford, Rockefeller, Disney, and Clear Channel. The first book to focus on theater philanthropy, Angels in the American Theater employs both a historical and a chronological format and focuses on individual patrons, foundations, and corporations.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Other Books, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

From first proposal to publication, working with Southern Illinois University Press has been a joy. Both Karl Kageff, editor in chief, and Kristine Priddy, assistant sponsoring editor, have been patient, gracious, and committed to this project. Wayne Larsen, project editor, has been meticulous, thorough, and extremely helpful. ...

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Introduction: “He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune”

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pp. 1-18

We often hear that “money talks.” Angels—theater investors and backers with money—have a tremendous impact on what happens on stage.1 Indeed, they make it all possible. Since box-office income usually pays for only about half of a production’s cost, other sources of income must become a vital part of the process. ...

Part One: Individual Angels

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1. Modern Cosmopolitan: Otto H. Kahn and the American Stage

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pp. 21-37

A millionaire many times over and one of America’s leading financiers, Otto H. Kahn (1867–1934) was no ordinary theater patron. He is impossible for theater people to overlook because, from the early twentieth century until the onset of the Great Depression, Kahn’s wallet and wisdom seemed available for every art theater in New York, ...

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2. Copper Heiresses Take the Stage: Alice and Irene Lewisohn

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pp. 38-53

Alice and Irene Lewisohn occupy an unusual place in the history of American theater—they were at the forefront of artistic experimentation during the Little Theatre Movement, knowledgeable about the European avant-garde and several Asian performance styles, and they had the capital to fund their own experiments. ...

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3. Wheedled, Bullied, or Cajoled: Banking on Eva Le Gallienne

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pp. 54-70

Such was Eva Le Gallienne’s humble confession of how she struggled in 1926 to find patrons to fund her Civic Repertory Theatre: namely, Alice De Lamar, Otto Kahn, and Mary Bok. A few years earlier, in 1920, she had opened on Broadway to rave reviews for her performance in Arthur Richman’s comedy Not So Long Ago. ...

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4. Queen of Off Broadway: Lucille Lortel

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pp. 71-87

Attorney Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side is a short street by New York standards. Beginning at a wide thoroughfare, East Houston, it travels three blocks south before hitting the entrance and exit ramps of the Williamsburg Bridge, where it leaps the parkway and picks up for another three blocks until dissolving into Hester Street ...

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5. Patronage and Playwriting: Richard B. and Jeanne Donovan Fisher’s Support of Charles Mee

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pp. 88-103

In recent years, contemporary American playwright Charles L. Mee Jr. has garnered critical acclaim for works such as bobrauschenbergamerica, his Humana Festival collaboration with the SITI company in 2001, and Big Love, which has been regularly staged at regional theaters since 2000. Mee’s work has fascinated for three main reasons. ...

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6. Everyone’s an Angel

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pp. 104-119

The voice of this chapter is not the usual scholarly or journalistic third person, but the subjective first-person plural. While I hold a doctorate in theater history and have made use of the discipline and methodology of a historian, I am also a founder of the Castillo Theatre of which I write and, thus, am an active agent in the story I relate. ...

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7. An Alternative Theater Angel: Grant Goodman

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pp. 120-135

When one thinks of the typical theater investor, what comes to mind are those hopelessly starstruck entrepreneurs—say, corporate executives or investment bankers—who, out of personal vanity, rather credulously drop large sums of money into a Broadway show so they can see their names in the Playbill for the latest Broadway hit. ...

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8. Producer, Benefactor, and Playhouse Maker: David Geffen

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pp. 136-152

Mogul of the entertainment industry, self-made multibillionaire, adviser to artists and presidents, David Geffen has been referred to by many in the entertainment business as a “genius,” a “ruthless cutthroat,” “the ultimate seduction,” “an asshole,” “a shark,” a “pig,” and “hero.”1 ...

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9. The Art of Good Business: Peter Donnelly

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pp. 153-170

In May 2003, the Seattle Public Library unveiled its striking 355,000- square-foot Central Library designed by the famed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaus. As part of the opening ceremonies, it announced that the art and literature section of the collection would be named in honor of Peter Donnelly, ...

Part Two: Institutional Angels

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10. The Founding of Theater Arts Philanthropy in America: W. McNeil Lowry and the Ford Foundation, 1957–65

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pp. 173-189

During the eight years between 1957 and 1965, the Ford Foundation’s Division of Humanities and the Arts generated one of the nation’s first and most enduring policies for funding the performing arts, a policy that would ultimately give rise to the current generation of not-for-profit theaters. ...

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11. Funding “MaMa”: The MacArthur Foundation and Ellen Stewart

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pp. 190-207

In 1986, the MacArthur Foundation honored Ellen Stewart, the “MaMa” of the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Company, with its “genius grant.” The fellowship is unusual in that it recognizes individuals rather than organizations; moreover, candidates are nominated anonymously and selected by a committee representing a wide variety of disciplines. ...

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12. A Community of Angels for Actors Theatre of Louisville

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pp. 208-224

The opening night of a new theater season always provides a reason to celebrate, and the August 18, 2005, performance of Love, Janis at Actors Theatre of Louisville was no exception. Board members, theater staff, and longtime supporters of the local institution gathered in the voluminous lobby of the 637-seat Pamela Brown Auditorium ...

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13. Raising the Curtain: Rockefeller Support for the American Theater

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pp. 225-241

Rockefeller—for most of the twentieth century, the name represented the great family fortune, a kind of riches beyond measure. John D. Rockefeller, a man who began life modestly, but over the course of his lifetime became the richest man in the country, built this great business and personal fortune primarily by recognizing the potential ...

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14. Funding the Theatrical Future: The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust

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pp. 242-258

Nestled near the end of the January 15, 1993, arts section of the New York Times was a three-inch news item marking the emergence of a major force for the development of new American plays. The announcement that the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust had given $1 million to the American Repertory Theatre (ART) ...

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15. Modern Medicis: Disney on Broadway

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pp. 259-275

On May 2, 1997, after decades of disuse, the New Amsterdam Theatre reopened it doors, admitting an audience to its art nouveau interior. The production for this gala event was King David, a limited-run concert oratorio. The work’s classical heritage, implied by the biblical subject matter treated in oratorio form, ...

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16. Static in the Signal: Clear Channel Communications and Theater in the United States

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pp. 276-296

The two opening quotes, separated in time by just over a century, both voice a similar concern about the threat of one large firm dominating commercial touring theater in the United States. The first quote refers to the threat posed by the partnerships that formed the Syndicate in 1896. ...


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pp. 297-300


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pp. 301-306


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pp. 307-314

Series Page, Back Cover

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pp. 332-333

E-ISBN-13: 9780809387434
E-ISBN-10: 0809387433
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809327478
Print-ISBN-10: 0809387433

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 15
Publication Year: 2007