CAP21, the unique Manhattan not-for-profit that offers musical theatre training, produces Off-Broadway shows and presents readings of new works, will honor Broadway producer Julian Schlossberg and Tony Award-winning actor James Naughton at its annual benefit April 8.
The 8 PM event at the DiCapo Opera House includes a gala performance celebrating the career of the two showmen, whose careers coincide: Schlossberg presented Naughton's cabaret show, Street of Dreams, in New York City. Marlo Thomas and Elaine May will present Schlossberg's award, and director Arvin Brown will present Naughton's. Students of the CAP21 conservatory will perform.
Schlossberg's producing credits for the stage include the current Fortune's Fool on Broadway, plus The Unexpected Man, Madame Melville, If Love Were All, Taller Than a Dwarf, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and more. Naughton won Tony Awards playing Billy Flynn in Chicago and the detective, Stone, in City of Angels, and will play New York's Café Carlyle beginning April 16.
Attendees this year will include Valerie Harper, Ann Reinking, Stanley Donen, Eli Wallach and more. Last year's CAP21 gala honored director Harold Prince. Tickets to the benefit for CAP21 range $150-$2,100. DiCapo Opera House is at 184 E. 76th Street at Lexington Avenue. For information, call (212) 807-0202.
Collaborative Arts Project 21 (CAP21) offers space and guidance to emerging and established musical theatre writers and playwrights. It operates a venue on 28th Street and has a separate building on 18th Street for classes, workshops and readings. *
More than 100 new works have been seen in the Barbara Wolff Monday Night Reading Series since it launched in 1997. CAP21 was founded in 1993 and is known for its musical theatre training conservatory, which is linked to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. The reading series is offered three times a year, presenting 15-20 works a year.
CAP 21 is largely associated with musical theatre, but the Wolff series, named after the late CAP21 board member and New York City commissioner and arts lover, is also committed to non-musical plays, said Eliza Ventura, artistic director of the Wolff Monday night series.
"The musical is harder to develop, but we are always looking for new musicals," Ventura told Playbill On-Line. "It takes a longer time, there are more people involved, and it's not an easy thing to read out loud because a longer rehearsal period is needed."
Writers do not have to be agented, and Ventura cautions that a reading there is not meant to be a backers' audition. "It's really designed for development of the work, at whatever stage the work is in," Ventura explained. "The work is ready to be seen and needs to be seen in front of people in order for the writer to go to the next level. Sometimes works are more developed than others. It really helps the writer to be in the presence of an audience."
Writers from all over the country are welcome to send scripts and resumes to Ventura, who said she is seeking work "that hasn't had a long history of development with other organizations." The hope of CAP21, eventually, is that plays developed there that go on to greater glory would earn CAP21 some kind of royalty or recognition for the seeds sown in the series.
If a script is accepted, a private in-house reading is held with the writers, staffers, Ventura and her husband, Frank Ventura, CAP21 artistic director. If a director is not attached to the script, CAP21 assists in getting a director for the reading, and can help with casting. Space is provided for rehearsals toward the public reading. At the Equity-affiliated reading, a talkback session with the audience is provided and then the writer may go off and do more rewriting and ask to come back to develop the show further. If the work is at a level that is determined to be mature, it may go onto CAP21's Blackjacks Festival, which is a showcase for a fuller reading with an invited industry audience and a special contract with Actors' Equity. The goal is a full production, whether staged Off-Broadway by CAP21 itself (as was the case with the 2000 musical, The Immigrant) or picked up by another producer (Bay Street Theatre picked up a Wolff series show, The West End Horror, by Marcia Milgrom Dodge and Anthony Dodge, for summer 2002).
CAP21 was founded in 1993 by artistic director Frank Ventura. In late summer 2001, he was about to announce the company's first three-play full season at its theatre on West 28th Street when the Sept. 11 tragedy occurred. Due to losses in funding and reduced theatre attendance, the season was cancelled. However CAP21 continues to "fulfill its mission of creation of new works for the theatre, the development of new talent and the building of new audiences" with the Wolff series and the upcoming Blackjacks Festival IX in May.
For additional information about CAP21, visit the website Cap21.org.
— By Kenneth Jones