Well, apparently ParaState didn't cut it. Neither did the State-a-mount. No, in selecting a name for the new performing arts entity formed by the merger of the Paramount Theatre for the Performing Arts and the State Theater Company, the organization board declined to go the appellation fusion route of many modern corporate unions. It also rejected the cheeky-play-off-the-obvious route -- say, Those Two Theatres on Congress Inc. -- of the hipster dot-coms. Rather, the board opted for a name that is solidly traditional, straightforward, direct. Thus, the unified Paramount and State will be known henceforth as the Austin Theatre Alliance. Not the sexiest name as such things go, but by gum, it lays it right out there: This organization is a pair of theatrical arts companies in Austin forging a business partnership. The Alliance name hasn't yet made it through all the legal channels , but it's far enough along that Paramount and ATA CEO Dan Fallon is promoting it publicly.
Along with the announcement of the merged State/Paramount name came the announcement of another much-anticipated name -- that of the company's new producing artistic director. Since last fall, the State Theater Company board has been conducting a search for a successor to Don Toner, producing artistic director for Live Oak Theatre/the State for the past 14 years. The process began to heat up significantly two months ago, when finalists began to be flown in for interviews, but June came and went with no news of a decision. Then, July brought buzzings about a certain candidate being offered the position, but it took most of the month for the State/Paramount to acknowledge that the offer had been made and accepted. At long last, it's official that the new artistic leader for the State -- or, as he'll officially be known, the producing artistic director of the Austin Theatre Alliance -- will be Scott Kanoff, current literary manager and resident director at the Cleveland Playhouse. In his nine years at the Playhouse, Kanoff has directed a variety of shows, from a small-cast version of The Tempest to a theatrical reconsideration of The Diary of Anne Frank to the new drama Under the Flesh: The Final Descent of Edgar Allen Poe, a play Kanoff co-authored with writer Eric Coble. In fact, new plays are Kanoff's passion and may well represent his greatest legacy in Cleveland. He was responsible for the Playhouse's Next Stage Festival of New Play Readings and helped develop a corps of emerging dramatists with strong affiliations with that theatre. (Sounds like he'll fit right in here, what with one out of every three shows now being produced from locally generated scripts.) Kanoff generously spent an hour and a half on the phone with me, and in our long-ranging conversation, Kanoff proved himself an artist with a deep, abiding belief in theatre, the kind of person who in this movie/cable/Net age continues to insist that theatre has a power that no other medium has and that it is still viable today and can still grab viewers. The key, he believes, is engaging the audience -- as he says, "You gotta get 'em leaning forward." Kanoff will begin working to get local audiences leaning forward full-time in early 2001. In the meantime, however, he'll be coming to town, mostly in two-week blocks, to familiarize himself with the local scene, particularly the pool of local actors. Be on the lookout for him.
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