Critic-Turned-Producer Chip Defaa Looks Back on His First 'Invitational'

News   Critic-Turned-Producer Chip Defaa Looks Back on His First 'Invitational' Playbill On-Line has joined forces with Camp Broadway and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association at Columbia University during the 2002-03 season to create opportunities for four high school student journalists, covering Broadway news for Playbill's teen readership. From September 2002 until May 2003, four students who were selected for the program will be responsible for writing an article every other month. One such article appears below:

Playbill On-Line has joined forces with Camp Broadway and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association at Columbia University during the 2002-03 season to create opportunities for four high school student journalists, covering Broadway news for Playbill's teen readership. From September 2002 until May 2003, four students who were selected for the program will be responsible for writing an article every other month. One such article appears below:

***

Chip Defaa, best known as the jazz critic for the New York Post and author of several books on jazz and blues, recently put together a theatre festival, titled "The Chip Defaa Invitational," encompassing more than 25 productions. Originally conceived as a showcase for a single choreographer and director, Defaa "kept inviting others to participate and it just grew."

The deaths of some people close to him made him ponder what he really wanted to do in life. Inspired by the song "I Wanna Be a Producer" from "The Producers," Defaa decided that he would "really would enjoy producing something."

Hand-picking each production to reflect his personal taste and interest, Defaa charged no application or participation fee. He spent $25,000 out of pocket to fund a festival aimed mostly at people curious to see new works - plays, musicals, dance works, etc. Defaa even wrote and directed one of the works, George M. Cohan: In His Own Words. He also felt strongly about including the four gay-themed works in the festival; "As a gay person, presenting aspects of gay life was important to me, too." Showcasing work by Peter-Michael Marino, Sheila Head, Deb Rabbi, Brett Kristofferson, Thommie Walsh, Jillian Harris and others, Defaa focused more on artists with talent and works with potential rather than productions that would guarantee commercial success. For example, Defaa did not ask to see the script Peter-Michael Marino and Sheila Head wrote. "I told them I'd produce a festival that would showcase, gladly and gratefully, anything they chose."

He was also excited to showcase an actor he strongly believes in, Alex Alper, recently recovered from a cerebral hemorrhage suffered two years ago. Defaa was pleased with the enthusiastic reaction by audiences and critics alike to the diverse offerings of the festival. Says Defaa "Everyone I really liked, from my own high school drama teacher, to my closest friends, and past loves, worked on this. That alone made it rewarding." If he can get backing or have his invitational subsidized, Defaa hopes to present the festival again next year. The festival ran until Oct. 15 at the Chashama Theater at 135 W. 42nd Street and the Café Chashama at 111 W. 42nd Street, both between Broadway and Sixth Avenue.

-Karen Mazzola
Playbill On-Line Stringer