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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ensemble Studio Theater Marathon

The annual E.S.T. Marathon, the festival of one-act plays, was Curt Dempster's pride and joy. He freted the Marathon would not be able to launch this year due to the lack of funds. Ironically, his death and the goodwill funding following it, has enabled the Marathon to go up as planned and it has met with it's usual success. VARIETY had a wonderful write-up

as did a few other theater publications about the first leg of the Marathon. It is the first without Curt's direction. The new artistic director, Billy Carden, has taken over the reigns. Even though Curt was the symbol of E.S.T. for many "backers" and other supporters, most recognize that there was no sound system in place for running the day-to-day operations at the theater. Curt was many things but not a business person. The daily operation of the theater has always been run by a wink and a prayer and I remember that well from my year and a half as an administrator. I suspected then we might get more funding if we could prove some sort of stability and knowledge of how to run daily operations and prepare for the long-term goals.

In subsequent articles about Curt's sudden death and E.S.T.'s future, the matter of the theater's lack of stability and the bewilderment of many as to how the theater ran at all has been discussed. There is a wide-spread belief that under Billy Carden, things will improve on the business end. Curt's "my way or no way" way of doing things is not Billy's way of doing things. I remember him well from the days when I worked for Curt at the theater. If you are not a good business person, it's smart to let others who are have their way otherwise you are an artistic director of a theater that can't afford to produce anything.

I believe that now E.S.T. will be able to find the stability and future planning it never really had.

So why is this so important for this theater as opposed to any other theater in New York or America? E.S.T. is one of the very few theaters who champion only new voices and will read unsolicited manuscripts. We can't have a theater of constant revivals of old favorites and hits. The commercial theater simply prohibits taking the kind of chance on a new play E.S.T. is willing to do. Those who get their work read and produced at E.S.T. furtehr develop their work and go on to the commercial theater all over the country.

Ironically, E.S.T. stands to do much better now financially with new management in place and one with a keen understanding of what needs to be done to stablize it. This will be a wonderful journey for the theater which has struggled so long to make ends meet.

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