I decided to take my dog for a walk around the New Theater just so that I can give it a longer look from all angles. We walked and walked as I was taking deep breaths so that I could get in touch with my higher self, you know, the one that tries to be non-judgmental and deep. Since I am now functioning on that level most of the time, thanks to my tenure as an Ashlander, I am having a really hard time with this letter. But, this time, I just could not win my temperamental, judging-the-book-by-its cover self. What the heck, I am in trouble with OSF already for writing a hugely controversial letter about three years ago criticizing its THEN lack of community relations programs. I must say, that part has been remedied since then, I witnessed it myself at my son's school--Walker Elementary--a few weeks ago. OSF's Education Department was busy performing some scenes from Julius Caesar in front of the youngsters and then had them analyze different parts of the performance. It was a good effort but because I am such a kid inside, I too, had problems following the whole thing. But I do want to congratulate the Festival for going into the schools and following through with the community involvement efforts. Back to the New Theater. O.K. I am going to be nice and whisper here so that I don't anger the spirits of Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier---let's let them rest in piece. Ladies and gentlemen, there is no way around this one---it's a BOX!!! Since OSF is such a tight group, I bet, a board member gave the project to his brother-in-law who studied architecture in Russia under Krushchev. I guess after the model was built it was realized that it was nothing but a box made of fake brick and concrete, there was panic. So, the "designers" called 1-800-ESTHETICS and got an answer on the spot. The esthetics counselor felt so bad for the Ashland community she didn't even care that the credit card was expired. "No charge," she said. The solution was: stick on some cedar wood trim and ala Japanese screens of sorts in some parts of the building, especially the front and make some of the areas of the building white. Result? A hybrid of communist Russia and Japan....I never thought I would see this partnership in my life time.

I just don't get it. There was such incredible opportunity to create drama with the design and make an architecturally compelling landmark for future generation to admire and enjoy. We are an "arts" community, aren't we? Such an important structure should have been opened to a national, even international, design competition. Too bad I can't say "yes" to the design of the New Theater. "Niet," my comrades.

AuthorAlicia Mannix