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104 104 6 everyone’s an angel Dan Friedman 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. While I make no claim to objectivity, I have worked hard to assure accuracy. At times, for narrative purposes, I refer to Castillo as it, but primarily I have chosen the plural we to convey the collective building of Castillo, of which I am a part—one of its builders and the teller of our story. The Castillo Theatre in New York City raises money like no other theater in the United States. It is a nonprofit theater with an annual operating budget of $900,000 that takes no funds from federal, state, or municipal arts councils.1 It has no individual or family patron upon which it depends. Nor does it rely on foundation or corporate funding. Instead, the Castillo Theatre has organized, over two decades of intensive outreach, a broad base of individual contributors. Over the twenty-two years of its existence, roughly half a million people have contributed to the All Stars Project Inc., 105 everyone’s an angel the nonprofit cultural organization of which the Castillo Theatre, the All Stars Talent Show Network, and related performatory youth programs are a part. Currently, five thousand people contribute anywhere from $35 to many thousands of dollars on an annual basis. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Castillo is a radical theater, producing what it calls “postmodern political theatre.”2 The core of its repertory is the work of its artistic director and playwright-in-residence Fred Newman, whose topics include America’s legacy of slavery and racism, African American and Jewish relations, and the limits of identity politics. Castillo is the major producer in the United States of the East German avant-gardist Heiner Müller and has also produced other political playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht, Peter Weiss, Aimé Césaire, Ed Bullins, and the Israeli Josef Mundi. Despite the political and experimental nature of the theater’s work, the band of angels who make Castillo financially possible is not limited to those who share the views of its artists. Those who contribute to Castillo —and make up its audience—range from Wall Street executives to African American church ladies, from same-sex couples in Chelsea to suburban families from Connecticut, from unreconstructed communists to blue-blooded Republicans. Castillo and the All Stars Talent Show Network, which produces talent shows with young people in inner-city communities, were launched in 1983 by a small group of community organizers and political activists, some with arts backgrounds, others without, all of whom wanted to find ways to create cultural projects that could reach out to and involve people who usually did not think of themselves as theatergoers or creators of culture. This group concluded that culture—the organization of how we, the human species, see—was seriously neglected by social change activists and was determined to do something about it.3 Since this group of organizers did not have the financial resources to fund the projects on their own, and since the group was interested in creating a theater that would function as a community social forum, the funding and the building of the Castillo Theatre and the All Stars Talent Show Network were entirely interwoven from the start. In the case of Castillo, the founders faced the same challenge that all nonprofit theaters in the United States face, namely, the need to fill the unavoidable gap between what can be taken in by the box office and the cost of 106 dan friedman production. The solution Castillo developed during the first decade of its existence would set it apart from all other nonprofit theaters in the country and would bring into being an unusually close relationship between the theater and its audience, many of the members of which are also Castillo’s numerous modest “angels.” For the founders of the Castillo Theatre—including myself—bridging the gap raised political as well as economic issues. On the practical level, it was obvious that the usual funding sources for nonprofit arts projects, the liberal foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts under the...


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