When I was younger, my mother always wanted us to go around the table at Thanksgiving dinner and say what we were thankful for. My passive-aggressive response was always to come up with a joke answer, along with some MST3K asides while others were being forcibly thankful’d. I can be such a cynic.
And yet, when it comes to my theatre…
It was just about a year ago that serious talk began about creating the Marcelle Theater for New Line.
We had had so many false starts over the years, people promising us a new theatre and then either nothing happened or, in the case of the Ivory, it was a total nightmare. And meanwhile, we kept moving from space to space. The Marcelle is our eighth theatre in twenty-five years. So even after it seemed like a sure thing, I reserved my full optimism over our new theatre, fully prepared to find out, at any step along the way, that it wasn’t going to happen after all. Just like the other times.
But holy shit, things moved fast. It was last October that Ken Kranzberg first called about this building he had in Grand Center that might make a good blackbox theatre. I went to look at it in early November, and I saw that it could be exactly what we wanted. By early December, they had hired Rob Lippert to design it, and Ken told me we could announce it at our holiday dinner as “95% sure.” The architectural drawings were made, actual work started February 1, and it was all finished in mid-July, well before we needed to move in.
Still, I don’t think it was really real for me till October 1, when our first audience was there, and Heathers was up and running. At that point, I think I finally felt pretty confident that no one could pull the carpet out from under us again. It’s a wonderful feeling to be back in a blackbox space again, which I had been waiting for since 2007, and this is a real, permanent home for New Line. We don’t have to move anymore. We don’t have to worry about whether our lease will be extended another year. We’re home.
To say that I’m thankful for our new home doesn’t begin to cover it. I will never be able to fully convey to Ken and Nancy Kranzberg how much it means to me that they’ve built this beautiful theatre for us to work in. It is literally a dream come true. And likewise, I will never be able to adequately express to Rob Lippert how thankful I am to have him working with us as our resident scenic designer (his work is just extraordinary), our frequent lighting designer (ditto), and the brilliant architect of the Marcelle.
It’s been extra special to open this new theatre for our 25th season! It’s almost impossible to believe that it was twenty-five years ago that I launched this adventure, and it’s even more impossible to believe that New Line has survived this long doing alternative musical theatre. No, not just survived, but thrived. It is a testament to the cultural sophistication of our city that there is an enthusiastic, growing audience here for what we do. When I think about the thousands of actors, musicians, designers, techies, and other staff who’ve worked over the years to make such extraordinary theatre on our stages, I am profoundly humbled. That all these talented, intelligent artists would follow me into one wild artistic adventure after another still baffles me.
But I’m glad they do…
I know it’s not me and it’s not the shitty money we pay that attracts these theatre artists to come work with New Line. It’s the work. My biggest success in leading New Line has been never to violate our core mission statement, never to compromise artistically. That commitment has drawn to us over the last twenty-five years so many wonderful actors, musicians, and others, as well as tons of great press, and an enthusiastic and trusting audience.
Twenty-five years ago, I never dreamed New Line would be known in New York musical theatre circles, that New Line would get a national reputation, that we would be able to bring back to life shows that were not understood in New York, that licensing agents would come to us when new shows are released, that I’d get to become friends with many of the people who write the shows we produce!
It is all a dream come true. And I am very, very thankful.
This was also a year of three complete artistic triumphs for New Line, the St. Louis premiere of Jerry Springer the Opera in March, Brecht and Weill’s masterpiece The Threepenny Opera in June, and the regional premiere of Heathers in October. Check out these rave reviews! What a fucking year!
I am so thankful for our actors and musicians. Without them, we’ve got nothin’. We conquered three incredibly difficult shows this year, and we succeeded only because of the exceptional artists onstage.
I am so thankful for the brilliant writers that create these amazing stories we tell, the bookwriters, composers, and lyricists who provide us with the blueprints for one thrilling adventure after another.
But I think I’m most grateful to our audiences, without whom we’d just be doing a whole lot of run-throughs.
I’m not like a lot of directors, who leave after opening night. I’m there at every single performance. I want to see the subtle differences from night to night, in both the performance and the audience’s reactions. What I’m grateful for, beyond any words I could muster, is the opportunity to live and work in the musical theatre, to watch our actors build characters and performances over time, to watch our audiences share our adventures with us, to watch first-time New Line actors discover the unequaled joy of doing truly fierce, fearless theatre.
I’ll just end by quoting the great songwriter John Bucchino and his song, “Grateful”:
It’s not that I don’t want a lot,
Or hope for more, or dream of more,
But giving thanks for what I’ve got
Makes me so much happier than keeping score.
In a world that can bring pain,
I will still take each chance,
For I believe that whatever the terrain,
Our feet can learn to dance.
Whatever stone life may sling,
We can moan or we can sing.
Truly grateful I am.
Truly blessed and duly grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving and thank you all!
Long Live the Musical!
from The Bad Boy of Musical Theatre http://newlinetheatre.blogspot.com/2015/11/grateful.html