August 26, 2008

Kidman Joins Fight to Save Studio Arena

By Tom Buckham

Nicole Kidman is lending her star power to the campaign to save Studio Arena Theatre.

Show business Web sites reported Sunday that the film and stage megastar is challenging fellow A-list actors to help her raise money to revive the Main Street regional playhouse, which suspended operations early this year under the weight of a $2.9 million deficit.

"We are so thrilled!" exclaimed Kathleen R. Gaffney, Studio Arena artistic director. "This is for real. She's the rallying cry."

An article on said the Australian-born actress mentioned Studio's plight to reporters between rehearsals for "Nine," a movie based on the Broadway hit musical that is due to begin production soon.

Kidman reportedly said she hopes some "hugely charismatic New York City theater figures" will "pass the hat" to help support the theater.

According to the report, she challenged actors Adam Epstein, Stuart Oken, Nathan Lane, Hugh Jackman, John Lithgow, John Leguizamo, Matthew Broderick, Betty Buckley, Salma Hayek, Francois- Henri Pinault and Bernadette Peters to enlist in the crusade.

She suggested that each write a check to help close the theater's funding gap.

"I can't imagine Chicago without the Goodman and I couldn't imagine Houston without the Alley," Kidman said, according to

"Six people need to step forward with checks for $50,000, and the problem is halfway done. It is such a tiny amount, really."

Gaffney suspects Kidman was alerted to Studio Arena's struggles by actor Kelsey Grammer after a conversation Wednesday between him and longtime theater board member Audre Bunis.

Or possibly by television producer and Buffalo native Tom Fontana, who has taken up the cause in the months since the theater went dark with two productions remaining in its 2007-08 season.

"Tom may have talked to her directly; I don't know for sure," Gaffney said.

Fontana could not be reached to comment.

Gaffney herself spent 10 days in New York City recently, "meeting with celebrities to let them know our plight and to see if [she] could get items for a celebrity fundraising auction."

The timing of Kidman's comments "is just perfect," she said.

"This is now the public crusade we had always hoped we could somehow get going."

Kidman has never appeared on the Studio stage, but at least three of those she mentioned as potential donors -- Lithgow, Leguizamo and Buckley -- have. So has Grammer -- twice.

But Kidman "has always worked in live theater," Gaffney noted. "She understands its value to the performer and to the community."

Gaffney returned from New York with additional encouraging news: Manhattan publicist Peter Cromartie has agreed to work without charge to help the theater get back on its feet.

The challenge is daunting. Studio Arena, attempting to resolve its debts under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Act, is due to file a reorganization plan by late September.

But having somebody with Kidman's clout on your side is huge, Gaffney said.

"I feel, like, after butting our head against the wall for all these months, we've at least got a little head wind," she said. "Now it's up to us to maximize it."

Donations will be accepted on the theater's Web site,, starting at 10 a.m. today.

e-mail: [email protected]

Originally published by NEWS STAFF REPORTER.

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