Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Support CenterStage

Posted by Bruce Miller
A fellow named “Scott” wrote a frustrated comment to my recent posting, Déjà Vu All Over Again. I "rejected" his comment, so you won’t see it following my post. I rejected it not because I don't believe Scott has the right to think the way he does, and not because I have no respect for his opinion. I rejected it because it inadvertently misrepresented what I was trying to say in my post. I guess I didn't say it well enough.

Scott wrote strongly against CenterStage and asked the question, "Why didn't theatre people join with me, Joel Katz, Don Harrison and others to fight" during the battles over the new performing arts center’s conception and construction.

The notion that theatre people played dead during the years of planning, left the decisions to others, and sat on the sidelines until now is just not true. Plenty of theatre people worked many, many long hours to support CenterStage, and often that support was in the form of respectful, constructive criticism. Just because we didn’t join in a public fray doesn’t mean we didn’t work long and hard to ensure that our voices were heard as plans developed. We didn't join in the very public fight because we supported the vast majority of what CenterStage was and is all about. I continue to support these things.

I support elevating the profile of the performing arts in Greater Richmond by providing first rate performance facilities.

I support using the arts to positively impact downtown development.

I support bringing the major corporate funders to the table in recognition of the value of the performing arts to our community.

I support having a first-class home for the Richmond Symphony, the Richmond Ballet, the Virginia Opera, Richmond Shakespeare, the African American Repertory Theatre, and the other companies that are now mounting their seasons in the new spaces.

I even support having a "Broadway" series in Richmond—and remember, most of the "Broadway" series is in the Landmark, not CenterStage. And some of the touring "Broadway" shows are "Broadway" as much in hype as in reality, having fewer Broadway performers in their casts than, say, Barksdale's recent production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Nonetheless, I always have supported a "Broadway" series; I always will. I have issues here and there regarding operations, but you won’t find me shouting about those issues in public. I think that would be counterproductive. I think there are many Richmonders who want "Broadway" tours coming to town, and who the heck am I to stand in their way.

Scott mentions in his comment how shameful it is that money was directed to a downtown arts center while schools were still in need of repair. I don't agree. There will always be schools in need of repair, and we will always need to work our hardest to address this situation. Of course I support school repair. Everyone does.

Nonetheless, we have functioning schools for all of Central Virginia's students, and exceptional schools for many. I support the continuation of work to make all school facilities exceptional. But until CenterStage we did not have a single functioning performance facility for the above mentioned arts organizations and their audiences. And I believe the roles these organizations play in the education of our children require our community to have at least one major exceptional performance facility.

Much of what Scott said regarding faulty financial models may be true. I don't know. I agree that much work needs to be done to ensure that CenterStage operates on a viable financial model that has no negative impact on the financial health and sustainability of our community's nonprofit performing arts organizations.

But acknowledging that a job is hard and that work needs to be done is not the same thing as demanding that the difficult job be cancelled until all the planets align to guarantee success. If we always waited for everything to be ideal, no one would ever do anything.

My point in Déjà Vu All Over Again was not to blame CenterStage or any other organization or person. My point was and is that we should acknowledge the challenges we face and then come up with some decent ideas to overcome those challenges.

I hate rejecting comments, but I don’t want to run comments that assume I mean one thing when actually I do not.

I support CenterStage. I support Sycamore Rouge and Henley Street and Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern. But I also want all of us to take an objective look at the facts and work together to make things better.

I don't want now, nor have I ever wanted, to join in the fight to oppose CenterStage. On that particular point, Scott and I simply have a difference of opinion.

I respect his opinion, even if I don’t agree with it. I hope he and others of like mind can and will respect mine.


--Bruce Miller

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