For twenty years, Audience Extras has been giving members the opportunity to see New York theatre (and occasionally dance and film screenings) at extraordinary discounts, a boon to budget-conscious theatre lovers. The organization is also important to the industry, since it fills seats for shows that are in previews, or are enduring slow periods, or are hindered by lack of advertising.
As such, the industry will give a little something back to Audience Extras founder, Peter Copani. April 27, he'll receive the third annual Sanford Meisner Award, given out by New York City's Working Theatre to those who, according to Working Theatre artistic director Robert Arcaro, "work behind the scenes to help promote theatre and careers of people in the theatre."
Previous Meisner Award winners were A.R.T. executive director Virginia Louloudes (1997), and American Place Theatre founder-artistic director Wynn Handman (1998).
According to Arcaro, Copani was chosen, "because twenty years ago he started Audience Extras to develop an audience for non-profit theatre. He's been a big help getting people to the theatre and bringing word of mouth to productions that can't really afford to advertise. He also started the John Vincent Peter Copani Memorial Foundation and even paid the rent for some non-profit theatres. In the 1970s, he helped develop the urban piece Street Jesus -- his whole life, he's been giving and giving to the theatre."
Copani will receive the award at a Working Theatre benefit at the West Bank Cafe on 42nd Street, April 27. For tickets ($95 and up) and information call (212) 539-5675. According to Arcaro, the 15-year-old Working Theatre is "a non-profit company producing new American plays about working and the concerns of working people." Producing mostly out of such Theatre Row venues as the Judith Anderson Theatre and Intar, the Working Theatre's mountings have included Ascension Day, I Am A Man, A Drop in the Bucket City Water Tunnel No. 3 and the upcoming Belmont Avenue Social Club, in its New York premiere, opening April 17.
-- By David Lefkowitz