Feinstein Is Artistic Director of Indiana's Center for the Performing Arts

By Adam Hetrick
June 21, 2010

Grammy Award-winning entertainer Michael Feinstein will serve as the artistic director of the new Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, IN. The expansive venue will also serve as the home of the Michael Feinstein Foundation.

Set to open in January 2011, the Center will boast the Palladium (a 1,600-seat concert hall), as well as a reconfigurable 500-700-seat proscenium theatre and a 200-seat studio theatre. Feinstein will oversee programming for all three stages.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard initially approached Feinstein about bringing his foundation to Indiana. According to Feinstein, "We had offers from several other places where we were considering putting the foundation, "which is dedicated to the preservation of the American popular song. The musician said that the state-of-the-art home of the foundation will not only be a research center, but also feature an exhibition space. "[It's] the first of its kind for American popular song," he told Playbill.com.

Feinstein states that his vision for the Center includes programming that will "reflect the diversity of our culture now," with music spanning "classical, to pop, to rock, to rap, bluegrass, country and soul." The Center will also serve as a home for local arts organizations, including symphony orchestras, dance companies and theatre organizations. Steven B. Libman serves as executive director.

"We want to have original theatre and to develop projects and ideas that can start perhaps in the black box and then move onward. The idea is to make it a living, breathing center for new art, as well as bringing in traditional performances and performers," Feinstein said.

The Center could also be the beneficiary of Feinstein's connections to the New York musical scene. With a roster of theatre luminaries gracing the stage of his New York nightclub, Feinstein's at the Regency, the musician said "anything is possible," when asked about programming crossover. The Center has already enlisted Chris Botti and Neil Sedaka for its opening gala.

For seasonal programming, Feinstein said, "We have been in touch with many, many people. I don't know who has been confirmed, but I've already talked to all of my friends: Tony Bennett and Liza Minnelli. I've talked to all of them about coming to the Performing Arts Center. I want to create original shows and combinations of artists. It's a grand vision."

Feinstein will also perform at the Center, but laughed, "hopefully not to the point that people will get sick of me. There are certain series that I might curate or host if it's related to the American Popular Song, or even some classical series would be fun to help create."

His own aborning musical The Gold Room, "could very possibly start in Carmel, because it's a small musical," Feinstein said. "I don't want to use this as a selfish showcase for my own art. If it evolves and that works out, we'll see. Of course, I'd be thrilled." He is also at work on a musical piece with poet Maya Angelou that could also find its way to Indiana.

While the Feinstein Foundation research center will house "an extraordinary archive of sheet music and recordings and other material," the exhibit will boast ephemera and artifacts amassed by Feinstein and other archivists who have donated their collections.

Among the items Feinstein notes are a 99-page musical notebook of George Gershwin's, including unpublished melodies and a sketch that became "I Loves You Porgy." The Foundation is also in possession of pianos that belonged to various artists and writers, as well as what Feinstein bills as a "definitive collection of Andrews Sisters memorabilia. They are sort of a snap shot of American popular music, particularly in the 30's and 40's, being the most famous act of the times." Small items, such as cufflinks belonging to Harold Arlen and Frank Sinatra, a gold bracelet that belonged to George Gershwin and portraits of Jerome Kern may also be included in the mix.

"It has the potential of becoming very large," Feinstein said. "We're trying to figure out if we have the room to house all of it."