President Obama Officially Announces Rocco Landesman Nomination for NEA Head

By: May. 13, 2009
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Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals for key administration posts: Capricia Penavic Marshall, Chief of Protocol, with the rank of Ambassador during her tenure of service, Department of State; Evan Segal, Chief Financial Officer, United States Department of Agriculture; and Rocco Landesman, Nominee for Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The President also announced that he will be designating Gregory B. Jaczko, currently a Commissioner at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

President Obama said, “This impressive group of people will add valued voices to my administration as we work to tackle the many challenges our nation faces. I am grateful for their decision to serve, and I am confident they will work hard as we put our country on a path towards prosperity and security.”

Landesman grew up in St. Louis, where his father and uncle owned the Crystal Palace cabaret, giving young Rocco an early intro to stars like Barbra Streisand, Mike Nichols and Lenny Bruce. With a doctorate from the Yale School of Drama in hand, Landesman taught at the school for a spell, owned a handful of racehorses, and ran a small hedge fund before teaming up with the Production Company Dodger Theatricals. With Dodger, Landesman co-produced the retro musical Pump Boys and Dinettes in 1982 and the Tony-winning Big River in 1985. In 1987, he became president at Jujamcyn Theaters, the owner of five Broadway venues (the ST. James, the Eugene O'Neill, the Al Hirschfeld, the Walter Kerr and the August Wilson) and the third-biggest Broadway theater owner behind the Shubert and Nederlander Organizations.

The play that established Jujamcyn as a force to be reckoned with was David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, which took home the Tony for Best Play in 1988. Over the next decade and a half, Landesman produced dozens of plays and musicals under the Jujamcyn banner, including hits like 42nd Street, City of Angels, Angels in America, Grease, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Kiss Me, Kate, Proof, Urinetown, and Tony Kushner's Caroline, or Change.

Following the death of Jujamcyn's chairman Jim Binger in 2005, Landesman bought the chain for a reported $30 million. Today, fellow Broadway producers Tom Viertel and Paul Libin also own a small stake in the company, and creative decisions are handled by Jujamcyn's artistic director, Jack Viertel, Tom's brother. Since the acquisition, Landesman has managed an extremely favorable hit/flop ratio, putting on successes like John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, Sweet Charity, Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, Jersey Boys, Grey Gardens, and Curtains. Jujamcyn's Eugene O'Neill Theater hosted the mega-hit Spring Awakening, which swept the Tonys in 2007, winning the Tony for Best Musical and six other statuettes.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is a United States federally funded and donation assisted program that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence. It was created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. Its current chairman is the poet and former CEO Dana Gioia and it has its offices in the Old Post Office building, in Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: BWW-Staff