Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 27, 1975 · Page 93
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 93

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 27, 1975
Page 93
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Wolf Trap: The Arts in a Park By Kay Michael Her temper matches her bushy red hair. But Luke Bandle can be the soul of tact. She apologizes as one by one, the five telephone lights signal another call. "No," she tells a caller, "it isn't selling." She tries to hold her temper. "Yes. we can dress the house. But I don't think it's a good idea. This is a business we're in. If we aren't making money, we should say so. And there is that $500.000 d e f i c i t . . . " Mrs. Bandle dropped the phone in its cradle. "1 really get on my soap box about this," she said. "Tickets to the Baltimore Symphony aren't selling and they're asking us to dress the house (a theatrical phrase for getting the audience in, even if it means giving tickets away). "The arts "are a business. You can't run things any other way. Sure, it's fine to s'ay the artist is the only thing that counts. Yes, the artist is important. But there must be somebody to 'see and hear or we couldn't put the artist on stage." Mrs. Bandle is public information director for the Wolf Trap Farm Park; the nation's first national park for the performing arts; located outside of Washington, D.C. From her standpoint, we couldn't have met on a more frantic day. In three hours, Valery and Galina Panov would be d a n c i n g to a packed house. There was no possibility that any "house dressing" would be needed for the evening performance. The performance was sold out. It's the policy of the Wolftrap Foundation to offer tickets to subscribers first, then throw sales open to the public. "You wouldn't believe this," Mrs. Bandle said. "I've been swamped with calls from the Israeli Embassy-about the Panov's. Security will be very tight.. "In the meantime, I had to send my son to pick up Woody Herman and take him to dinner. I have to stay here for the Panov's and somebody has to pick up Woody." Herman and Stan Ken ton's .orchestra were slated for the following day at the park. "One of our biggest problems)" the outspoken Mrs. Bandle went on, between calls from the Israeli Embassy and members of the news media begging for tickets to the evening performance, "is explaining to people that "although this is a national park, the goverment doesn't pay all the bills. They do our housekeeping. That's all." Jouett Shouse, heir to the Filene department store fortune, gave the 100-acre Vienna. Va. site to the National Park Service,-Department of the Interior, for an outdoor performing arts center. And although the park service handles upkeep of the grounds, it's up to the Wolf Trap Foundation to see that the park remains solvent. For that reason, Mrs. Bandle is determined that programs appeal to the public. Currently, she said, the foundation is operating under a half-million-dollar deficit. "Last week," she said, "we lost $8.000 a night on the Met on the lawn." She referred to the 3.000 seats on the lawn sold for performances of the Metropolitan Opera Co. The park's luxurious but rustic Filene Center accommodates 3,500. In addition, there's room for 3.000 on the lawn. Three of the center's.sides are open. And in spite of what one may have heard of the Washington, D.C. area's miserably hot summers, a stubborn breeze sweep's constantly over the Filene Center. When Mrs. Shouse turned her property over to the federal government, it was with the hope that an outdoor theater might seduce concert-goers who shy away from more formal concert houses and opera theaters. And the price is right. For $4 each, opera lovers picnicked on the grass while the Met offered "Boheme," "Traviata,'-' "Falstaff," and other operatic "Warhorses." On-the-lawn tickets for the Pan- "'oy's were even less expensive. $3.25. *· But offerings aren't all geared to lovers of the Met and ballet. This summer's schedule also offers Emmett Kelly Jr. and his All- Star Circus, and Conway Twitty and the Twitty Birds. "You find it strange that Woody Herman follows the Panov's?." .Mrs. Bandle grinned. "Look at it this way; that's Wolf Trap." That was Wolf Trap. The park's charm lies in its contradictions. Prior to the Panov concert, black ties and gowns mingled comfortably ·with shorts and jeans. At any of the park's four conces- . sion stands, you could buy a sand- · wich and coke, or opt for champagne at $1.20 a glass. Buffet dinners (by reservation) are available before most performances, and packed picnic baskets can also be reserved. ^ The national park is surprisingly free of "do's and don'ts." There are no restrictions against alcoholic beverages. Nobody is reprimanded for having drinks with a picnic lunch. Stephen Walso, a West Virginia University student who works as a park guard during the summer months, has developed a sixth sense with regard to concert-goers. "Opera fans are the most dem a n d i n g and hardest to cope with." he said, "and I'd say ballet - audiences are second." Walsh said the park is equipped with golf carts to transport the elderly and handicapped from parking lots to the Filene Center. But. he said opera and ballet- goers tend to insist on riding to the main auditorium. The center is a healthy hike from parking lots scattered over the site. "Some people just don't seem to understand that the car.ts aren't for everybody. We find it's easier not to argue with them." He finds contemporary music fans easier to deal with. -"They don't argue," he said. "They just smile and walk up the hill to the auditorium." Walsh said parking problems are worse on'opera and ballet evenings. "They come two to a car for ballet." he said. "For somebody like - Boots Randolph, they fill a car and all come." The park is a nine-hour drive from Charleston. Hotel and motel accommodations are available nearby in Vienna. McLean and Tyson's Corner, Va.

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