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Alternate ROOTS, American Assembly, and the development of operas and musicals.

Back to Their Roots

There’ll be musicals, story-telling, concerts, clown shows, revival meetings and even an Appalachian mountain version of Shakespeare. That’s the kind of lineup audiences have come to expect at the annual Alternate ROOTS Showcase Festival in Atlanta.

The 20-odd performance events will take place Sept. 12-16 at three theatres in Atlanta’s Little 5 Points neighborhood. ROOTS is a nine-year-old coalition of Southern community-based performing organizations and artists.

Kicking off the festival will be You Can’t Judge a Book by Looking at the Cover, a new evening of “Junebug” stories written and performed by John O’Neal of Free Southern Theatre. O’Neal’s earlier Junebug Jabbo Jones toured widely to theatres around the country.

Other highlights are Red Fox/Second Hangin’ by Roadside Theater of Whitesburg, Ky.; Tent Meeting, a dark comedy about revivalism by Atlanta’s Southern Theatre Conspiracy; Blind Desire by the touring group The Road Company; a concert by Bland Simpson and Jim Wann, creators of Diamond Studs; Dark Cowgirls and Prairie Queens, a show profiling “courageous black women of the Old West”; and a “mountain version” of Cymbeline.

The festival will begin fresh on the heels of performances by several ROOTS groups at the Aug. 30 Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival in New York. Among them were the Southern Theatre Conspiracy, presenting its Tales of Rat Alley, and Atlanta’s Jomandi Productions, performing Jus’ Coming Home. New York’s Dance Theatre Workshop hosted an Aug. 27 benefit for the ROOTS companies.

‘Underused Resources’

“The arts are one of America’s great underused resources,” declared a report from the redoubtable American Assembly. The organization, a nonpartisan group affiliated with Columbia University, has been holding meetings since 1950 to debate and evaluate public policy issues. Its latest session, May 31-June 3, resulted in a slate of recommendations on a national arts policy. Among the comments:

  • The growing tendency of the press to treat the arts predominantly as “entertainment” or “style” inhibits any real insight into the value of the arts to society.
  • “Universal access to the arts” should be an essential component of a public policy in the arts.
  • The government should restore federal funding for public television and public radio “in ratios appropriate to the traditional mix of private and public patronage.”
  • Greater emphasis is needed on the arts in the educational system, where attitudes and opinions are first developed.

The report of the Assembly, edited by W. McNeil Lowry* who acted as director for the session, also noted that the record of the National Endowment for the Arts and state arts agencies had been “very good in avoiding political interference in funding decisions.” But “recent incidents,” the report continued, “remind us that constant vigilance is necessary to discourage any interference, especially in the support of artistic groups presenting art with social or political content.”

The 56 participants in the Assembly included producing director Jon Jory of Actors Theatre of Louisville, general director John Lion of San Francisco’s Magic Theatre, managing director William Stewart of Hartford Stage Company, composer Elizabeth Swados, David R. White of New York’s Dance Theatre Workshop and TCG director Peter Zeisler. The Assembly’s full report will be published in the fall of this year by Prentice-Hall.

Operatic Mix

Composers, librettists and producers—the three primary ingredients in the recipe for new operas and musicals—will come together Nov. 7-9 in Chicago for the Central Opera Service’s

1984 National Conference. The development of new works will be the major focus of the meeting, to be hosted by the Lyric Opera of Chicago and its general director Ardis Krainik.

The pros and cons of showcasing and the interaction of composers and librettists with producers are among the topics on the agenda. COS is the information arm of the Metropolitan opera.

For conference information contact COS, Metropolitan Oepra, Lincoln Center, New York, NY 10023; (212) 957-9871.

Another opportunity for musical development is being offered by the National Institute for Music Theatre. The Institute sponsors one-year internships in six opera and musical theatre disciplines: stage direction, musical preparation, design, production, administration and composition. Applicants, who must have completed their basic academic training and have some experience in the field, receive a monthly stipend of $1,000 and travel expenses.

The application deadline for the internships is Sept. 7. For details contact the institute, Kennedy Center, Washington, DC 20566; (202) 965-2800.

*While Lowry did edit a book of background readings for the May 31-June 3 session, the Assembly report is drafted and voted on by the participants themselves in plenary session.

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