Signature Theatre Among 15 Arts Finalists for Ground Zero Site; American National Theatre Is Not

News   Signature Theatre Among 15 Arts Finalists for Ground Zero Site; American National Theatre Is Not
Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company was one of the lucky arts organizations on a list of 15 finalists who may find a new home in a new arts center at the former World Trade Center site, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation revealed.

Not among the finalists, however, was the proposed American National Theatre, which had campaigned hard to be part of the Ground Zero development, enlisting the support of many high-profile theatre names. The movement commanded extensive news coverage in The New York Times. And on Jan. 26, the ambitious planners behind the ANT presented an architectural model of the company's home, designed by architect Richard Olcott of Polshek Partnership and space planner Steve Friedlander of Auerbach.Pollock.Friedlander.

Perhaps anticipating that the ANT might not be selected, a spokesperson said in January that the model was designed to function either at the former World Trade Center site or elsewhere in New York City.

The ANT still intends to headquarter in New York City, said spokesperson Joe Trentacosta, and will now begin a new search for its future home.

The other finalists included such heavy hitters as the Museum of the City of New York, the New York Historical Society, and New York City Opera—all institutions with long histories and a need for new breathing space.

The Signature Theatre Company opened a brand new home on West 42nd Street, between Tenth and Eleventh avenues several seasons back. The troupe's mission is to dedicate each season to the work of one playwright. This year's honoree is Bill Irwin. The national theatre, which was dreamed up and is spearheaded by actor Sean Cullen. Cullen's theatre would import a 15-play season from the country's regional theatres. He has marshalled support from such recognizable names as Harold Prince, Meryl Streep, Blair Brown, John Leguizamo, Robert Sean Leonard and Arthur Miller. The plan would involve a complex containing three stages ranging in size from 800 to 400 seats.

Cullen has worked on creating the center for four years. His vision for a United States national theatre would differ from those of other countries, such as Britain's Royal National Theatre, in two major respects. Instead of originating work, at the RNT does, the American National Theatre would function as a sort of clearinghouse for the nation's best stage work. A jury of five stage professionals, serving 15-month terms, would canvas 150 theatre companies across the country in search of 15 worthy productions to constitute a season—five shows for each stage in the complex.

Secondly, the institution would not receive any public support. Cullen—perhaps cognizant that the U.S. government has long been adverse to financial support of the arts—told the Times the $17-$20 million annual budget would be culled from corporations, foundations and individuals.

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