New York theatregoers will be asked to become lobbyists during "NEA Night" on Broadway, Aug. 21.
The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on the future of the National Endowment for the Arts shortly after Labor Day and the Broadway community has banded together to show their support for non-profit theatre. Form letters urging the Senate to support the NEA will be distributed to audience members as they enter theatres at the 16 participating shows and completed letters will be collected in the lobbies after the performances.
Each show has been asked to designate a cast member to give a curtain speech urging the audience to participate in the lobbying effort. Already scheduled to speak are Chicago's Joel Grey, Jekyll & Hyde's Robert Cuccioli and The Last Night of Ballyhoo's Dana Ivey. Other shows participating are Les Miserables, Cats, Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera, Tap Dogs, The King and I, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Smokey Joe's Cafe, Forever Tango, Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, Annie, Rent and Grease.
The event is being coordinated by The League of American Theatres and Producers, in partnership with ART/NY and Theatre Communications Group. The League is the national trade association for the theatre industry whose members include theatre owners and operators, producers, presenters and general managers of Broadway and touring legitimate theatrical productions in New York and cities throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Jed Bernstein, Executive Director of the League, said, "We are hopeful that our lobbying efforts will help to demonstrate to the Senate how important the NEA is to a wide cross-section of Americans." July 10, 1997, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 217-216 to shut down the embattled National Endowment for the Arts and replace it with grants to arts commissions and school boards in the individual states.
The NEA's current $99.6 million budget would be slashed to $10 million (only enough to close down the agency) and be replaced by block grants totalling some $80 million under the House plan, proposed by Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.
Under the Gingrich plan, $30 million would go to state art commissions; $48 million to local school boards and $2 million would be spent on administrative costs.
The plan, which passed by a single vote, must also be approved by the Senate and President Bill Clinton before it becomes law.
President Clinton had asked for an increase in 1998 to $136 million, and has said he will veto the Department of the Interior budget, which contains the $10 million to shut down the NEA, currently chaired by Broadway actress Jane Alexander.
The NEA was a mainstay of non-profit theatres throughout the U.S. In the 1980s, and still helps support resident theatres, though its funding has been curtailed in recent years. Many in Congress believe the government should not be funding art. You can also use the internet to contact government leaders to express your opinion for or against the July 10 vote.
Contact your Representative at http://www.igc.apc.org/eic/States.html.
Contact your Senator at http://www.yahoo.com/Government/Legislative_Branch/Senate/Senators/.
Contact President Bill Clinton at http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/Mail/html/Mail_President.html.
You can also visit the NEA website at http://arts.endow.gov/Homepage.html.