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If Music Be the Funds of Love... Hot

Matthew Barbot
Written by Matthew Barbot     August 07, 2008    
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If Music Be the Funds of Love...

Photos: Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

When I first heard about the New Globe, I was both excited and a tad confused. Excited, because the plan sounds brilliant. Castle Williams—a fort on New York’s Governor’s Island used as a military prison during the Civil War—can apparently hold the Globe Theater snugly within its open courtyard. The organization has proposed to build a theater and arts facility within the open courtyard space, all the while preserving the integrity of the original fort. Why confused, then? Because I can’t understand why the National Park Service refuses to go ahead with the project. Rather than develop Castle Williams into a cultural center and really bring money and interest into Governor’s Island, the NPS’ proposed plan “to provide for the preservation and enjoyment of the National Monument over the next 20 years” is to, essentially, not change anything. The NPS has stated that "in terms of communicating the fort's military function and history, the visitor would be confronted with a very large, permanent intrusion. This would not be the superlative visitor experience expected by the public.”

This seems to be in opposition with the history of the matter: Battery Park’s Castle Garden fort has been used as a theater and opera house, and I doubt tourism to New York’s Fort Wood was anything but improved by the rather “large, permanent, and intrusive” piece of French visual art brought to rest upon it. What’s more, neither of those designs did as much to promote the appreciation of the original fort, as well as to preserve and protect them, as the designs for the New Globe do for Castle Williams. When coupled with the impressive list of supporters and the petitions put together by the organization, it’s a bit surprising that the National Park Service continues to answer nay.

Variations on Shakespeare: An Evening of Songs Inspired by the Bard was a charming benefit to support the efforts to make the New Globe a reality, held in the beautiful, ultra modern New World Stages complex. Hosted by Mark Rylance, the first Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, the night was a trip through the history of Broadway’s long relationship with Shakespeare, starting with 1938’s The Boys from Syracuse all the way up to Like You Like It, a rock musical premiering this October.

I’ll refrain from gushing about the songs from West Side Story, but I’ll mention that the bias wasn’t just my own; a running gag throughout the concert’s first “act” would be for any offhand reference to the show to be underscored by the opening bars of “Something’s Comin’” and an overzealous Barret Foa taking up a position by the microphone, only to be told “Not yet!” Suffice to say, then, that it was magical to hear that song performed by Foa, “Maria” by Darius de Haas, “Tonight” by Erik Keiser and Sara Michelle Valencia, and “Somewhere” by Kate Shindle. Other highlights of the night included Martha Plimpton—who just recently performed in Cymbeline at Lincoln Center—singing a raucous “Always True to You” from Kiss Me Kate, and a rendition of the oldie “Peaches and Cream” by Garret Long and George Wendt, adapted to tell the tale of Gloucester and Edmund. Also commendable is the fact that Like You Like It, a musical premiering with Brooklyn’s small Gallery Players, was featured in this benefit. It must be thrilling for writer Sammy Buck to have a song from his musical, not even done with auditions yet for its first Off-Off Broadway production, performed by Anthony Rapp of RENT fame.

The concert was wonderful from start to finish, and played to a packed house. The only downside to the night was the knowledge that the people behind it were preaching to the choir.* Sure, the aim was to raise money, but as the benefit wasn’t highly advertised, it’s unlikely that it was also able to raise awareness. It would seem that the New Globe would benefit from taking every opportunity to garner popular support, not just cultivate the support of the community they already have in place.

Of course, that might just be what the press tickets were for: to get writers to spread the word. I’ll take that mission to heart, then. I urge all my readers to take a look at the New Globe Website to learn more about their mission and to help make their midsummer dreams a reality for all seasons.

*In brief correction of Matthew Barbot's observation that the New Globe was merely preaching to an already established and enthusiastic choir of supporters at this benefit concert, Derek Travis Collard, Director of Creative Events at the New Globe Theater, confirms that about ninety percent of the audience was made up of new supporters. Now that's something to sing about.

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