Old Yankee Stadium was known as The House That Ruth Built, although, since Babe Ruth's Christian name was George, it could also be known as The House That George Built. New York is fortunate to have another building known unofficially by that name: the edifice opened in 1964 under the name New York State Theater, which has since housed New York City Ballet, the company co-founded by George Balanchine. Even though that building is just a few fouettes away from Lincoln Center Theater, its primary occupants -- dancers -- may not know much about the performance or rehearsal spaces used by their actor colleagues.
Andre Bishop, artistic director of LCT, made this point on the morning of March 1, as he, Bernard Gersten, LCT's executive producer, and the theater's staff welcomed the cast and creative associates of Richard Nelson's play "Nikolai and the Others" to their first collective day of work. Addressing the assembled in a rehearsal space adjacent to the still-new-smelling Claire Tow Theater, Bishop told the story of how he once ran into a former NYCB principal dancer on the Lincoln Center campus. "She asked, 'What are you doing here?' And I replied: 'I work just over there, at the Beaumont.' She said: 'Where's that?' She had been coming to Lincoln Center for 20 or 25 years every day for work and she wasn't sure where Lincoln Center Theater was."
Bishop was simply making the observation that the constituent elements of Lincoln Center -- musicians at the New York Philharmonic and the Met, dancers at NYCB, actors at LCT -- often are so caught up in their own world that they don't know much about their neighbors. Bishop went on to say that "Nikolai" is an enterprise bringing two of those constituents, NYCB and LCT, together in spirit. This blog will, in part, chronicle the overlap between some of the organization's representatives, while making it clear that "Nikolai" is a play constructed by Richard Nelson, not a dance piece.
At the meet-and-greet, Bishop went on to say: "It may strike some of you as odd that we're are doing such an enormous play" -- there are 18 characters -- "downstairs in the Newhouse rather than upstairs in the larger Beaumont. Our reasoning: though this play is vast, the intimacy of many of the scenes means that the Newhouse is very useful in conveying the mood of the piece."
The mood of the room in which Bishop made these remarks was full of excitement -- a good basis on which the work can begin.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com