Friday, May 14, 2021

Life & Style

State Grants for the Arts, Save Our Stages, and More

Early Christmas Gifts: Christmas came early for many Connecticut theaters when in late December Governor Ned Lamont announced $9 million in grants to state arts organization through Connecticut’s COVID Relief Fund for the Arts. Qualifying organizations included arts nonprofits (performing arts centers, school of the arts, and performing groups) that curtailed operations. Organizations received a base grant of $5,000 plus a partial match of funds the groups had raised. Just about every theater got some funding to help keep going. For the most part, the larger theaters received the highest amounts, Long Wharf ($551,000), Eugene O’Neill Center ($376,000), Goodspeed ($532,000), Hartford Stage ($542,000), the Bushnell ($480,000), Westport Playhouse ($365,000), and TheaterWorks ($264,000). Other area theaters getting grants included Elm City Shakespeare, Ivoryton Playhouse, the Katharine Hepburn Arts Center, Legacy Theatre of Branford, and Madison Lyric Stage as well as symphonies, ballets, dance, and music organizations.

Save Our Stages: Theaters are breathing another small sigh of relief. The COVID relief package that passed Congress just before Christmas allocates $15 billion to help theaters across the nation. Theaters across the U.S. had banded together under the Save Our Stages moniker to lobby for relief funds. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal was a major champion of the effort. Details on the application process, the timing for the awarding of grants, and other details are not yet fully known.

In Memorium: Each year, theater organizations publish lists honoring those who have died in the last year. This year, it seems particularly sad. In December, theater lovers were hit with the deaths of two luminous women, much too young. Dancer, choreographer, and director Ann Reinking (Chicago, Fosse) died at 61. Just weeks later, the gorgeous soprano voice of Rebecca Luker was silenced at 59 due to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The Broadway community mourned her and sent best wishes to her husband, actor Danny Bernstein.

COVID played a role. Theater lovers followed the struggle of 41-year-old actor/musical performer Nick Cordero who was hospitalized for months before succumbing.

As I looked at the list of performers there were the very well known (Zoe Caldwell, Diana Rigg, Phyllis Newman, and Diahann Carroll) I found many I had seen multiple times on Connecticut stages (Brian Dennehy, Mark Blum, David Schramm, Jerry Stiller, Rene Auberjonois, Ron Leibman, RipTorn, Max Wright, and Pamela Peyton-Wright) and others I had seen in New York City (Kevin Conway, Shirley Knight, Valerie Harper, Brent Carver, Peg Murray, and Richard Easton).

But we also lost producers/directors Hal Prince, Sir Jonathan Miller, Gerald Freedman, and Bernard Gerstan and designer Ming Cho Lee.

No new plays will come from Matt Crowley, Terrence McNally, Larry Kramer, Ronald Harwood, Murray Schisgal, Israel Horovitz, or Bernard Slade, nor new music and lyrics from Martin Charnin or Jerry Herman.

Connecticut lost one of the deans of the theater critic scene with the passing of my friend David Rosenberg.

Karen Isaacs is an East Haven resident. To check out her reviews for New York and Connecticut shows, visit She’s a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle, New York’s Outer Critics Circle, the League of Professional Theater Women and the American Theatre Critics Association.

Karen Isaacs is the Columnists for Zip06. Email Karen at .

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