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The arts fight to the death

Published: Sun, January 11, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

The arts fight to the death

Whether the Youngstown Playhouse can be saved to see a second half-century of performances is a question that must be answered by the arts community at-large. And it is only one of many questions facing Youngstown and surrounding communities regarding their ability to maintain dozens of theaters, galleries, acting companies, bands and orchestras.

In short, this area is attempting to maintain an artistic lifestyle that it inherited from a different, more prosperous age. It was an age when Youngstown and Warren were the homes of major corporate headquarters and living standards were high. As an entry in today’s Years Ago column notes, in 1959 — the year the Playhouse opened, production workers in Youngstown, of which there were tens of thousands, earned the third highest wage of any city in the United States.

Theaters come and go

Times have changed. Indeed, times began changing not long after the Playhouse was opened 50 years ago. It is fair to ask whether the building would have ever been built if Playhouse members had known that within a decade four major downtown theaters would go dark. Among those was the Palace, which had an excellent theatrical stage dating to its vaudeville days. It was razed in 1964.

Just as it may have been impossible to look ahead in the mid-1950s when money was being raised to build the new Playhouse, it will be difficult to puzzle out if or whether the building can be saved today.

But the prospect of its demise gives a reason for all of the competing arts entities — especially the theatrical ones — to begin discussing how they can better work together. There is a finite limit to theater patrons, which means there is a limit to how many stages can be maintained and how many opening nights can be successes.

They can resolve to work together, or go dark separately.


1Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Reminds me of this experiment.....

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.

During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time.

This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace.

He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

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2Askmeificare(810 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

I agree with this article ( "The Arts Fight to the Death" Jan 11 2009 ). Article aside, I support regionalization, applied to manufacturing, government, etc., and yes even the arts.

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3KnowtheFacts(8 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Local performing Theatre groups DO cooperate by way of borrowing and lending costumes, stage sets, lighting instruments and a myriad of other items. The Playhouse has always been a major provider of such items. Based on our population, there are sufficient numbers to support existing theaters. The quality of performances, the selection of play and musical titles and vigorous fund-raising by its board are areas in which the current Playhouse board has faltered. Rather than be negative and condemning, let's give The Playhouse some breathing time to set its new course.

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