Mayor Bloomberg spoke yesterday at La MaMa’s Fiftieth Anniversary Gala at the Ellen Stewart Theater on East 4th Street, the block that is now renamed “Ellen Stewart Way.”
Bloomberg talked about his first encounter in 2006 with Ellen’s driving visionary force, which made him hand over the building that was formerly called “the Annex” for one dollar (1$)!
He also announced that – at the instruction of Kate D. Levin, commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) – the city will support La MaMa with 2 million dollars for capital improvements on four facilities (the original La MaMa building, the Ellen Stewart Theater, La MaMa Galleria on 1st Street and the rehearsal studio building on 47 Great Jones Street). This not only to perpetuate La MaMa’s own activities in theater, the visual arts and education, but also to support La MaMa’s guiding light function in a “Naturally Occurring Cultural District.”
“Theater, including off-off-Broadway,” said the mayor, “is a major industry in our city. In fact, on-Broadway theaters have a quarter-billion-dollar impact on our economy every year.” And that is why he thinks investing in La MaMa is “a sound investment in the city’s future.”
The evening was full of wonderful theatrical surprises, like Estelle Parsons and John Kelly in a beautifully executed mother-and-son scene of Harvey Fierstein’s ‘Torch Song Trilogy,’ touching video messages from Harvey Keitel and Sam Shepard, who received the first-ever Ellen Stewart Award, a scene from Wallace Shawn’s zany ‘Hotel Play’ with a million characters young and old flocking to the stage including Shawn himself as the bell-boy, and a vibrant new piece by the inimitable Elizabeth Swados, a ‘La MaMa Cantata’ set to Ellen Stewart’s own words. MC’d by La MaMa old-timers Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw of Split Britches, the evening was a reconfirmation that La MaMa’s future is secured for at least another fifty years.