The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1674 Wednesday, 8 September 2004
Date: Wednesday, 31 Dec 1969 20:04:19 -0500
Subject: NEA Director and Shakespeare
September 7, 2004
Endowment Chairman Coaxes Funds for the Arts
By BRUCE WEBER
Mr. Gioia hasn't bothered to defend the independence of artists or the
value of subversive art, stances that hampered previous chairmen, among
other reasons because many in Congress bristled at the way artists
condescended to them.
Instead his approach has been to seek common ground between artists and
legislators, to remind lawmakers of how important the arts can be in
awakening the imaginations of people who haven't been exposed to them.
"Excellence" and "access" are Gioia buzzwords, values that are hard to
He has steered the endowment toward the creation of big, visible
programs like Shakespeare in American Communities, which is bringing
professional productions of "Othello," "Romeo and Juliet," "Richard
III" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to smaller cities and towns, and
Operation: Homecoming, through which poets and novelists visit military
installations to conduct writing workshops for veterans of Iraq and
These programs, though successful, have dismayed some arts
administrators, who say the endowment's creation of its own programs -
and its solicitation of corporate funds to foot the bill - puts the
endowment in direct competition with the organizations it is supposed
"The N.E.A. has always been seen as the entity that stimulates other
organizations to raise money, not one that takes the money for itself,"
said Robert L. Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, the
country's largest nonprofit arts advocacy group.
Another criticism of Mr. Gioia's stewardship of the agency is that he
has not restored, or even attempted to restore, its former emphasis on
supporting artists and new art.
"Gioia has gotten praise from those people who say, 'You see, it doesn't
have to be all Mapplethorpe,' " said Gordon Davidson, the artistic
director of the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and a member of the
national council. "Well, I'm sorry. I think we need Mapplethorpe. I
think the agency has to be Mapplethorpe and Shakespeare. And I worry
there isn't enough energy being put into the people who make art, as
opposed to into projects." . . . .
The NEA Shakespeare website is at
The productions have not been well-reviewed.
NEA's Shakespeare Tour: Some Say 'Fair,' Some 'Foul'
By Leonard Jacobs
In springtime came major news from Dana Gioia, chairman of the National
Endowment for the Arts: The agency's Challenge America program would
launch, this September, "the largest theatrical tour of Shakespeare in
American history." Indeed, no fewer than six American theatre companies
would be funded to bring forth the Bard in over 100 small and midsized
communities in every state. In an April interview with Back Stage, Gioia
elaborated on his goals for the program, stating the companies would
"appear mostly in the midsized and smaller communities which not only
don't get classical drama, but also don't have professional theatrical
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