Dedicated to the creation of new works, the development of new talent, and the building of new audiences in the musical theater arena, Collaborative Arts Project 21 (more familiarly known as CAP21) is one of NYC's most essential not-for-profit arts groups. The organization offers a free reading series on Monday nights and is currently planning its ninth annual "Blackjacks Festival," which gives its writers the chance to hear their shows performed by professional actors. CAP21 is highly regarded for the conservatory that it has run in partnership with NYU's Tisch School of the Arts since 1994, an invaluable training ground in musical theater technique for undergraduate students. And, annually, it presents a gala benefit honoring two theater greats--this year, actor James Naughton and producer Julian Schlossberg.
According to CAP21 artistic director Frank Ventura, "We first met Julian when we were honoring Linda Lavin, who is a member of our board and helped us get the company started. Julian was the chair of our benefit that year. As we've gotten to know each other, he's continued to be so supportive of us--particularly at a time when things have shifted so much here in New York since 9/11. We were to produce our first season at our Off-Broadway theater on 28th Street this year but we unfortunately had to cancel it because of loss of funding, loss of renters, and all that. So we thought it was really apropos to honor someone who is still producing and developing plays, both Off-Broadway and on. He's been an inspiration to us."
And how was Naughton chosen as Schlossberg's companion honoree? "James had worked with Julian on his one-man show Street of Dreams, so they had that close connection," Ventura notes. "Plus, the students in our conservatory really love Jimmy Naughton. He's been an idol of theirs and an inspiration to them for years. We always like to honor performers because we really believe in one generation passing on its craft to the next. James has not only been a wonderful actor for the students to look up to, he's also been involved with Ann Reinking in programs that she's been running here in New York and down in Florida to raise the next generation of actor-singer-dancers. We see our benefit evenings as a way of saying 'thank you' to people like that. We work with the students and they perform for the honorees at our benefits, which is a real thrill for them."
Tributing two theater notables per year is the norm for CAP21. "The only time we had a single honoree was when we honored Hal Prince," says Ventura. "We thought, 'Why bother to get anyone else?'"
[Tickets for the CAP21 benefit range from $150 to $2,100 and are available by phoning 212-807-0202.]