Last night’s reading of THE CURSE OF BATVIA played to a packed house. As the audience arrived just before the show began, I spotted one of my favorite people across the crowded room. Jack Schlegel.
I first met Jack in the mid-1990s when my friend Laura Callanan introduced us as I was gearing up to direct my first feature film, ALL THE RAGE. I was living in Boston at the time, where the film would be shot, but the culture of Boston was not then nearly as conducive to arts fundraising as New York, so I was a frequent “special guest” at small house parties in Manhattan where friends or friends of friends introduced me to people who might be excited to help make the dream of a gay film that was about something other than coming out a reality.
I met Jack at one such party and he immediately invited me to a small off-off Broadway production of a play I’d never heard of featuring some actors he assured me I “must see.”
He was right. And in the nearly two decades since that first encounter, it’s rare that I won’t follow one of Jack’s suggestions about something cultural in the city that I “must” gobble up.
After ALL THE RAGE was released, I moved to New York and quickly began running into Jack everywhere. It seemed (and seems) he was at every premiere of every interesting play, opera, concert – you name it.
What I love and respect most about this man is not merely the gusto with which he devours culture in this city. No, what I admire most is his fervent commitment to promoting the work of others one conversation at a time. It is virtually impossible to bump into my friend without learning about two or three important performances he’s just seen. And you want to know the best part?
He often has postcards in his bag. And these are not just to shows produced by companies on which he sits on the board, either. If Jack Schlegel likes something, he promotes it to anyone who’ll listen – loudly and convincingly. And with nothing to gain personally other than the satisfaction at having passed along a useful tip.
I wish there were more people like Jack. People who bring an active imagination and an insatiable curiosity to all that is new in the art world. My resolution for 2014 will be to try to find a little bit more Schlegel in myself, to approach the unexpected with wonder and enthusiasm. I have no doubt that in taking this approach to the world around us, our world expands.
ed note: for another profile of an interesting culture vulture, see: My Friend Susan Tunis.