The Most Happy Fella

It's always a valuable exercise for me, at this time every year, to think seriously about what I'm thankful for. After all, I really do have my dream job, running my own musical theatre company. And yes, it's often very hard, but it's still my dream job. I don't ever want to take any of that for granted.

Most years when I do this, I write about the obvious things I'm thankful for – the writers who write our shows, the actors and designers and musicians who create our work, our faithful contributors and funders, and of course our audience, who comes back show after show after show, no matter how crazy we get. But let's be honest, I would be a total dick if I weren't deeply, deeply grateful for all those people making our adventures happen, wouldn't I? So can we just stipulate all that...?

With all that in mind, this year I want to focus on just one thing I'm thankful for – well, two things, really – Ken and Nancy Kranzberg, two of the coolest, warmest, most genuine people I've ever known. They've been strong supporters of the arts in St. Louis for many years. Until last year, most people knew their name because of the Kranzberg Theatre and Cabaret spaces in Grand Center. But now the Kranzbergs are responsible for the Marcelle Theatre on Samuel Shepard Drive, New Line's new home, and also the brand new .ZACK theatre space on Locust, an arts incubator which opens next week with Tesseract Theatre's world premiere of Adverse Effects.

And there are more spaces to come. A couple years ago, the first time Ken and I talked about the possibility of creating a new space for New Line, he told me his goal was to open 5-6 more theatres in Grand Center, to create a genuine, thriving theatre district.

He's well on his way.

The Kranzbergs first started coming to New Line shows five or six years ago. They've been assaulted by Jerry Springer the Opera, Bukowsical, American Idiot... but they told me the only show over that time that they didn't really like was Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. But that was the only one.

I'll never forget getting a text from Nancy after they saw American Idiot, telling me that they were listening to Green Day. How awesome is that.

It was just about this time of year, two years ago, that Ken called me and told me he had a building that might work as a blackbox theatre for us. I went to see it, we talked about the basic logistics, and within a couple months, work had begun. Ken hired New Line's resident set designer, architect Rob Lippert, to design the new theatre for us, which meant that everything was designed with our needs in mind. How often does any company get that luxury? A year ago, October, we opened the first show at the Marcelle, New Line's Heathers, which sold out every night.

We had worked in a blackbox theatre for seven years at the ArtLoft downtown, and it's absolutely wonderful to be back in one again. The possibilities are literally limitless, and we've returned to the kind of serious intimacy we had at the ArtLoft. For the first time in twenty-five years, New Line has a permanent home. A really beautiful home. And we have Ken and Nancy to thank for that.

Personally, I really couldn't be more grateful. Ever since we left the ArtLoft in 2007, all I've wanted was to get New Line back into a blackbox. It's where we belong.

So when I sit down for turkey today, my thanks go to the Kranzbergs.

Long Live the Musical!