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Paulanne Simmons

Love and Courage at Theater for the New City

The scruffy but indomitable Theater for the New City, which helped launch such notables as Tim Robbins, Moises Kaufman, Sam Shepard and Charles Busch, got all decked out in pre-Valentine's Day hearts and flowers for its aptly named benefit "Love 'N Courage" on Feb. 13.

The courage was all about what it takes to even think of doing theater in the Big Apple, and also, the spirit of post-Katrina New Orleans and its own regional theater (out of each $150 ticket $25 went to Southern Rep). The love was amply demonstrated by the many celebrities who contributed to the event.

Hosts Charles Busch and Julie Halston introduced themselves with an amusing take on their first major collaboration, "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom." According to Halston, the original leading lady quit because of the awful condition in the theater: "She didn't want to pee in a cup anymore." Halston admitted that she was terrible in the beginning but assured Busch, "Put me in a wig in front of fifty fags and I glow."

Other highlights of the evening included a video of Yip Harburg singing his Depression classic, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dim?", Mary Cleere Haran's interpretation of "I've Got Harlem on My Mind," and Tammy Grimes proving once again with her rendition of "I Ain't Down Yet" that she, like Molly Brown, is indeed unsinkable.

Ironically, the only newspaper that saw fit to send a reporter to this bastion of liberal theater was the right-leaning New York Sun. But, what the heck, the evening wasn't about politics. It was about love and courage, and as TNC artistic director Crystal Field put it, about how "theater helps theater, from New York to New Orleans, with love."

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