Friday, October 27, 2006

Arts Advocacy Tidbits

Below are some notes culled from the October Illinois Arts Alliance newsletter and the Americans for the Arts website..

DON'T FORGET TO VOTE ON NOVEMBER 7TH. If you go to political meetings ask the candidate's position on arts issues or call candidates' offices and ask for their position on the arts and arts education.

The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) of Minnesota conducted a study in 2005 to answer the following question: Are there critical ingredients or common themes necessary to building long-term vitality for the arts in smaller communities? The answers to this study, supported by a grant from the Bush Foundation, can be found in a report titled "Thriving Arts: Thriving Small Communities." The 28 page document, which can be downloaded, covers Minnesota communities from 1000 to 6000 in size, but is relevant to larger areas that may encircle major population centers as well. For you big city folks there is reference in the report to work on the "intrinsic value of the arts" done by Columbia College in Chicago. I’m not familiar with this, but you may be. Another interesting element was a sample four year plan for creating a Community Cultural Advocacy Organization. There is also a comprehensive bibliography. To view this report, go to

One final tidbit. In culling through the Americans for the Arts website, I found a link to a fascinating arts data base. Click on the following site and then choose your own Illinois legislative district. It will take you to a profile that includes information on your own legislator, arts businesses in your district, the number of employees in those businesses, and trend data on arts sectors in general. Cool!

I took a survey on the definition of Arts Advocacy at the fall convention of the Illinois Theatre Association. Thirty attendees completed a questionnaire ranking potential advocacy functions in terms of their relevance and importance to the Illinois Theatre Association. The choices for each function ranged from “this is critical” to “this is not a central concern.”

The tabulation revealed three advocacy functions as most critical for members and perhaps most pressing for the association to support. They were:

1) Lobbying legislators,
2) Developing better working relationships between the educational and professional theatre, and
3) Working to get theatre arts curriculums required by the state.

In the middle were five additional functions (There was a tie for fifth):
4) Developing audiences for live theatre,
5) Attracting more foundation support for theatre,
5) Improving arts and theatre pedagogy,
6) Improving training or certification standards for theatre instructors, and
7) Organizing a speaker’s bureau for advocacy issues.

The three functions that seemed of least concern to the members of ITA were:
8) Organizing voter registration,
9) Providing assessment information for theatre instructors, and
10) Providing more financial aid for arts students.
( A “not a central concern” ranking does not imply unimportance for an issue; it may merely suggest that the issue may not seem as important for the ITA to pursue.)

It is heartening to observe that one of our central mission statements (Encouraging a closer understanding and communication between Community, Educational, and Professional Theatre) ranks strongly in this survey. On the other hand, it is interesting to observe that political lobbying by name is not included in our mission statement and yet appears from the membership point of view to be the most important function for the organization. This may be an item worth some discussion.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Monmouth College Homecoming Weekend

Homecoming at Monmouth College has often meant in recent years a visit from our daughter and the grandchildren. This year was no exception and a lovely visit it was.

On Friday night the Buchanan Center Trivia Team tried once more to win the gold at United Way Trivia Contest. The good news is we dropped from 2nd place last year to 3rd place this year. We owe this to a concerted effort in the last 365 days to rid our minds of irrelevent information. We look forward to continuing this trend into the coming year and continue to commit ourselves to a philosophy that claims that "You define the terms of your own success!"

Saturday was for parades and football. The parade was fine and the people as always were the stars of the show.

"I never met a fireplug I didn't like."

As for the football. This pickup game on the lawn during the parade produced better results than the one that began at 1:30.

The Foresters unfortunately cut us down to size. Along with the Cubs we shall wait for next year!

Happy Fall from all the folks in Monmouth, IL

The Pirate Queen Gets Some Advice

I saw in Issue No. 24 of New York Theatre Review (10-22-2006) a notice of Chicago's pre-Broadway tryout of The Pirate Queen. It seems pretty much in line with the opinions expressed by several Illinois Theatre Association members on the bus heading back to Arlington Heights after they saw the show in early October.

If you are interested in New York Theatre and have not already subscribed to Allan Bird's new free service, you should head to and sign up right away.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Taste of the Arts Coming to Monmouth's Buchanan Center



The Buchanan Center for the Arts must raise funds each year to help match our grant from the Illinois Arts Council. The Center in return grants over $5000 every year to arts organizations and educational entities in Warren County. Your special donation or attendance at the Italian Taste of the Arts will mean a lot to the following organizations because they have received funding support from the Buchanan Center in the past.

The AAUW Art Presenter Program, The Maple Leaf Community Concert Series, The Buchanan Chorus, The Monmouth Civic Orchestra, Orchestra, the Public and Parochial schools in our area, the Old Friends Talk Arts program, the Ecumenical Singers, The Monmouth College Theatre, and the Strom Center.

When is it? Saturday night November 11th from 6:30-9:00 PM
Where is it? Generations Restaurant at the Monmouth Country Club
How much is it? $30.00 per person BCA members $35.00 per person for- non BCA members. Half of your cost is tax deductible.
Event includes: Cocktail hour with starters, Tasting of Italian Wines throughout the evening, Served Chicken, Beef, or Vegetarian Entrée, Dessert, lots of door prizes and silent auction items.

HOW DO YOU GET TICKETS? e-mail and tell me how many tickets you want. I’ll contact you with the details on how to pay and how to select your dinner choices.

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation in lieu of or in addition to attending the dinner, simply write a check payable to the Buchanan Center for the Arts and mail it to the Buchanan Center for the Arts 64 Public Sq. Monmouth, IL 61462.

Might I add that if you are not currently a member of the Buchanan Center for the Arts, now is the time to save $10.00 right off the top on the cost of two Taste of the Arts tickets. A Family membership purchased now for the 2007 year will cost you $50.00. A single membership is $25.00 and we will give you the member discount for the 2006 dinner. Plus you will be eligible for the member discount for the 2007 dinner as well.
What a deal!

THE STAGE reports a Pinter performance at the Royal Court

Playwright Harold Pinter, who turned 75 on October 10th, will appear in a ten night run of Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape" at the Royal Court's Theatre Upstairs. THE STAGE reports that the tickets sold out in twenty minutes. There are a number of other good articles on Pinter at their website.

Closer to home, the Monmouth College Theatre's production of Tennessee Williams' STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE opens next Thursday evening October 26th and runs through Sunday, October 29th. Order tickets by calling 309-457-2104 or e-mail
The production is directed and designed by Prof. Doug Rankin.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Harry Potter Has Connection to Monmouth

You heard it from the "Pudding" second! In this week's Good Show London Theatre Newsletter Baz of the Mail is quoted as saying that Harry Potter's "Daniel Radcliffe will play Alan Strang in Equus at the Gielgud ( previewing from Jan 16, opening Feb 27 - tickets not on sale for a while yet). It will be staged in the round with 60 seats rumored to be on stage - close to Radcliffe's first nude scene (no wand jokes, please). . . they could become the hottest tickets in town, literally."

I am normally not a gossip columnist, but as I saw the very first production of Equus (from the stage for 30 or 50 pence as I recall) I thought some history might be in order. It was at the Old Vic, when it was still the home of the National Theatre, way back in 1973 and Peter Firth played Alan Strang in the John Dexter directed production. It blew me away, not so much for the nude scene (which I believe was Dexter's addition and not called for in Schaffer's original script) but for the actors who played the horses with their sculpted heads, high hoof like boots, and magnificent body movements.
It was still on my to do list in 1979 when it was released for amateur production and I jumpted at the chance to direct it at Monmouth College (Illinois not New Jersey). It was, I believe, the very first amateur production in the state of Illinois. Joel Nadel played Dysart and Doug Rankin (now ace designer and a professor of theatre at Monmouth) played the lead horse. Doug designed and welded the heads and shoes for the show and one of the heads and a set of the high shoes were still in the prop room a few years ago.

We wish Mr. Radcliffe well wand and all. (Sorry!)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Stirring the Pudding of Art

Aesthetic judgement is a judgment. Believing that there is no viable way of determining or making decisions about the relative worth or quality of a work of art is an aesthetic itself. Holding this view allows you to believe that Shakespeare cannot be shown to be superior in any way to Joan Rivers hawking jewelry on the Home Shopping Network or that the Nobel Prize for literature could just as well go to Barbara Cartland as Alexander Scholzenitzen.

Aesthetic relativism is no more inescapable than moral relativism. If you argue that there is no moral underpinning upon which to favor one action over another, you are taking a moral position. Amorality expresses a belief about the nature of the world and your position in it. Whether in art or morality, I would argue that there is no such thing as not having an opinion as not having an opinion is an opinion.

Relativism in art, morality, behavior, and politics has been encouraged in recent years by its adherents tarring anyone who attempts to stake out differences with the dirty label--"elitist". If you press for gradations of quality or ethical superiority of one position over another, you are anti-democratic, treasonous, arrogant, intolerant, racist, or worse.

The paradox here is that if you follow the path of relativism, you would seem to be required to attack any sort of education, improvement, or differenciation that might move the human race toward something better than a lowest perceived common denominator. And by doing that you make a fascinating declaration of your own superior and elite status. You would like to make absolutely sure that no future generation will be as advanced, as capable, as well educated, and as moral as you.

Thanks, but no thanks from someone who still will insist that Bill is over Joan on the quality scale.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Illinois Theatre Association Convenes

The Illinois Theatre Association had its convention in Chicago last weekend. The Saturday pre-convention theatre tour day was a remarkable success for the twenty-five participants who gathered to bus around the city from 8:00 AM to almost midnight.

The day began with tours of the Ford Oriental and Cadilac Palace theatres and the spacious home of Bob Schramn's Broadway Costumes. A picnic lunch on Navy Pier was followed by a visit with Chris Henderson, Chicago Shakespeare's Executive Director. He covered the history of this remarkable theatre and gave us a complete tour of the building. I discovered that his parents had attended Monmouth College.

After that we treked on down to the old Biograph Theatre--the Chicago movie house and "Untouchable " landmark where John Dillenger was gunned down in the 1930's. It has been remodeled to a several million dollar tune for the use of the Victory Garden's Theatre. The artistic director, Dennis Zacek, has been in his post encouraging local playwrights for thirty years and we were met at the door by his wife, Marcie McVay, the managing director. This ebullient and obviously glowing woman met us with proud smiles and shepherded us through the new (it will open its first production next week) building from the trap room to a closet in the lighting booth where a remarkable plaster statue from the old theatre lies in dark repose. Still under construction are two gorgeous upstairs spaces with massive palladian windows opening out onto the busy streetscape below. One is to become a main stage rehearsal room and the other will be a small theatre space. Sometimes good things do happen to deserving people and the Biograph restoration and refurbishment is a magnificent tribute to a long and deep commitment to Chicago Theatre.

Our final stop before dinner was at the warehouse and showroom for Chicago Spotlight. I never knew there were so many different kinds of tape. We left with bulging goodie bags of catalogs and gel samples and headed for deep dish Chicago Pizza at Geno's. No finer in the land and it forced a time-out on the low-colesterol diet.

And then it was back to the Cadillac Palace where a preview performance of "The Pirate Queen" was waiting for us. This pre-broadway tryout of the Les Mis author's latest effort has the advantage of Frank Galati direction, which means that the show looks gorgeous. The costumes, especially the gowns of Elizabeth I, are spectacular, the stage compositions are dynamic, and the lighting literally sparkles. Unfortunately the narrative line lacks both clarity and tension and the music is recycled Les Mis with synthesized bagpipes and an Irish whistle for ethnic ambiance. Tis a work in progress as they say and clearly a lot more needs to be done before it hits the Big Apple.

The Sunday convention of ITA at the Metropolis Arts Centre in Arlington Heights didn't move around as much as the Saturday hopscotch of Chicago theatre sites, but it was equally stimulating.

Rives Collins, chair of Northwestern University's theatre department, got us off to a rousing start. He used his love for "the Bean" in Milennium Park to illustrate his hope that we would be able to "raise our gaze" and "see our blind spots" as we interacted with "robust civility" throughout the day.

He got us ready for our our Re-Invention Convention Facilitator Steve Barberio. Steve is the current president of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education and he challenged us to define our dreams for the Illinois Theatre Association and perhaps more importantly-- how do we get there? For each of our ideas he wanted us to consider:
1. Who will it serve?
2. In what way will it pursue the vision?
3. How long will it take?
4. How will people be held accountable for executing it?

Later in the afternoon we had a visit from Rebecca Gilman, author of Spinning Into Butter and Boy Meets Girl. We saw a short scene from the latter show and Steve Scott, the director, conducted an informative interview with Gilman. My favorite quote from her was about reviews. She said she doesn't read them because, "The bad ones go to your heart and the good ones go to your head."

We closed the day with a banquet and a fond farewell tribute to our retiring Executive Director of some twenty three years, Wallace Smith. It was a long weekend; we didn't get back from Chicago until after eleven Sunday night, but it was worth every minute.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Rehbock poses after his lecture with OFTA coordinator Jim De Young and Buchanan Center
Board of Director's President John Vellenga
Ralph Rehbock speaking to OFTA


An audience of almost fifty, including a group of young people from a local school, were held entranced for over an hour this morning at the Buchanan Center for the Arts on the square in downtown Monmouth, Il.

Ralph Rehbock and his mother were in a hotel in Berlin on the night of November 9, 1938 waiting for transportation out of Germany to the United States. On that evening, now known as “Kristallinacht” or “The Night of Broken Glass” hundreds of Nazis roamed the streets killing dozens of Jews and destroying synagogues, Jewish businesses and Jewish homes. Mr. Rehbock did a masterful job of explaining the rise of Hitler to power in Germany and then told how he and his mother escaped from Germany by rail with the help of an unidentified stranger. He closed by emphasizing that each person has the duty to speak up and do the right thing when they perceive wrong things happening. When too many turn the other way in the face of clear wrongs, tragedies like the Holocaust can easily occur.

Rehbock and his family re-settled in the Chicago area and he is currently the chairman of the speakers bureau for the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois. He has spoken extensively about his experiences and the lessons of the Holocaust throughout the state.