« Things I Agree With | Main | 99Seats on MTC »

May 13, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Scott Walters

This seems like a calamity to me. Rocco Landesman, while he has an interesting background, is still a commercial producer. Is that really the sensibility we need at the NEA?


To be honest, Scott, I think you might be rushing to judgement and being overly reactive. I have no idea if Rocco Landesman is going to be a good NEA chair or not. I will say that if you have a serious problem with the way non-profit arts organizations are run (as you and I both seem to) maybe bringing in someone who is from outside that world is a good idea. Particularly someone who is on the record as saying that the problem with non-profit theater is that they behave too much like commercial producers.

In other words, I wouldn't assume a particular sensibility on his part.

malachy walsh

Geeze, does describing someone as "commercial" - regardless of what they "commercially produced" - make them less worthy?

To me, that kind of frozen mindset is, perhaps, a much bigger problem.


I thought he was good in "Moon Over... ah heck... Bufalo?... Miami?... Broadway?" Anyway, it's the documentary about the Ken Ludwig (nut-job) play with Carol Burnett. One way to get a lil' taste of Rocco.

malachy walsh

Just to make it simple.

Here's the wikipedia entry for Rocco:

Rocco Landesman (born July 20, 1947) is a Broadway theatre producer. In May 2009, Landesman was nominated to be the next permanent chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.[1]
Rocco Landesman's biggest passions are theater, baseball, horse racing and country music. On any given day he will insist that one of these is the perfect expression of American culture. His company, Jujamcyn Theaters, owns 5 Broadway theaters, and at one time or another Rocco has owned 3 minor league baseball teams, various racehorses of dubious value and a collection of Roger Miller long playing records.

Rocco was born (July 20, 1947) and raised in St. Louis, Mo., got his undergraduate education at Colby College and The University of Wisconsin, and earned a doctorate in Dramatic Literature at the Yale School of Drama. At the completion of his course work he stayed at the school for 4 years as an Assistant Professor. In 1977 he left to start a private investment fund, which he ran until his appointment as President of Jujamcyn in 1987. In 2005 he purchased the company and still runs it. Before and after joining Jujamcyn, Rocco has continued to produce Broadway shows, the most notable of which are "Big River" (1985 Tony, Best Musical), "Angels In America," and "The Producers" (2001 Tony, Best Musical).

Not surprisingly, since Rocco was trained at a not-for-profit performing arts conservatory, his career has been a hybrid of commercial, philanthropic, and purely artistic engagements. He has continued his relationship with the Yale School of Drama and Yale Rep, returning to teach there over the years. He has been active on numerous boards, including the Municipal Arts Society, an advocacy organization concerned with New York City's public spaces and preservation, the Times Square Alliance, which has radically changed the heart of the city by improving its safety, sanitation and aesthetic, and The Educational Foundation of America. Rocco has also vigorously engaged the ongoing debate about arts policy, speaking at forums and writing numerous articles (mostly in the New York Times arts section), focusing mainly on the problematic relationship between the commercial and not-for-profit sectors of the American theater.

Personally, I like almost anyone who is into horse racing. And baseball is a big big plus.

Now, I don't know if he'll be a good NEA chair or not, but, clearly, whatever else you might say, he's interested in the same issues (namely how to make theatre - and art - work) that we all are.


I think that quote about Caroline vs. Barefoot tells us a lot more about his sensibility than the fact that he's a commercial producer.

There are commercial producers who have remarkable artistic vision and bravery. There are nonprofiteers who are staid and dangerously conservative.

I mean, basically, Tony Kushner said he was cool, so I have no other option.

Jason Grote

My initial reaction was fairly negative, but this thread has convinced me to give him a shot. And upon reflection, commercial-vs.-nonprofit gives no indication to a person's sensibility. I've had some great experiences with commercial producers and giant nonprofits who more or less left me alone, and lousy ones with much smaller nonprofits and tiny downtown producers who kept trying to mess with my work to make it more accessible or whatnot.

Scott Walters

After reviewing "Act Two," I think Landesman has a clearer understanding of what non-profit theatre OUGHT to be doing than many non-profit theatre people. Plus, I hear he's not afraid to speak his mind, which I am all for. And having a NEA chair named Rocco...priceless.


Seems more like an odd choice for the Obama administration to appoint someone whose career has been almost entirely on Broadway, a central, but very narrow part of the arts community nationally. It feels inconsistent with Obama's message of inclusiveness, community-based self determination, etc. I have a hard time imagining Landesman embracing the role the arts play in rural communities, Native reservations, and small towns. So, it is the message that this appointment sends from the administration that troubles me. We need to give Landesman the opportunity and see what his priorities actually are.

On the other hand, here's a no-holds-barred piece he wrote for the NY Times back in 2000. If he hasn't lost his balls in the interim, he could be the guy to kick some butt.


There's also a revealing profile in the New Yorker online archive, June 13, 1994, only available to subscribers so no link.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

# of Visitors Since 11/22/05

  • eXTReMe Tracker