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  1 introduction: “he who pays the piper calls the tune” Robert A. Schanke 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. With the power and influence of their money, therefore, angels often determine not only what is performed but also what is produced, even what is conceived. Angels have played a monumental role in shaping and developing the American theater. Ironically, research and writing on the history of arts philanthropy is meager and of fairly recent practice. Very few theater historians have researched and studied our theater patrons, and those that have done so, for the most part, have focused on the Federal Theatre of the 1930s or on the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).2 Because so much previous scholarship has focused on them, they will not be addressed in specific chapters in this volume.  introduction Certainly, part of the difficulty in doing this research has been the desire of private individuals to want their largesse to remain anonymous. For instance, the presidents of the three state universities in Iowa have argued that revealing donor names would hurt their fund-raising. A spokesman for the University of Iowa explained that foundation officials “have heard from some big donors who said they just wouldn’t do it if their personal information wasn’t confidential. For some people, true charity is anonymous .”3 A good example of this dilemma is Johnny Carson, who gave $5.3 million to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in November 2004 to support the renovation and expansion of the theater building. Unfortunately, neither he, when he was living, nor university officials would discuss the donation beyond the standard press release. In fact, even after Carson’s death, university officials went so far as to prohibit permission to quote the letter wherein they had refused to disclose any information.4 Several regional theaters, when informed of this study and asked to furnish names of their important angels, refused to cooperate, arguing that they did not want their wealthy donors harassed by other theater groups. Often, foundations and corporations, reluctant to open their files to the public, have discouraged scholarly writing. What was written was usually by staff people, house histories, and usually little more than compilations of annual reports with no scholarly analysis. The authors tended “to magnify success and overlook or omit failure.”5 Arts philanthropy has a long history. Beginning about 501 b.c. in ancient Greece, choregoi were chosen from among the wealthy citizens, and it was their duty to finance stage productions. In the Middle Ages, towns or guilds subsidized productions. In Shakespeare’s day, companies received financial aid from their sponsors. In fact, the 1572 “Acte for the punishment of Vacabondes” required each new company to be authorized and financially supported by one noble or two judicial dignitaries. Renaissance artists certainly had patrons—Leonardo da Vinci worked for nobility; Michelangelo for the Medici. Probably the first theater to receive funding on a regular and ongoing basis was the Comédie Française, a state theater subsidized by Louis XIV. German states began to subsidize theaters around 1770, and by the nineteenth century, every German state and most cities subsidized theaters. The history of patronage in the United States, however, is quite different. Unlike Europe, our country lacked a monarchy as well as an aristocracy  introduction to support the arts. As historian Kathleen D. McCarthy explains, “In a country devoid of these traditional sources of patronage, cultural development logically fell to the local elites.”6 Since most people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries subscribed to the Protestant work ethic, they would have considered it preposterous to spend public money on theater. They maintained “that if an adult had time to enjoy himself, he had time to work harder.”7 But after the Civil War, when real estate speculators and entrepreneurs such as Rockefeller, Mellon, Carnegie, and Morgan became wealthy on the strength of new railroads, oil and steel trusts, banking, and mining, it was the beginning of the American idea of aristocracy. During the years of the Gilded Age, one of the main pleasures derived from being rich was the ability to parade wealth and exhibit it for all to see. A conspicuously...


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