Rocco Landesman

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Rocco Landesman
Rocco Landesman NEA Chairman.jpg
Chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts
In office
August 7, 2009 – December 31, 2012[1]
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Patrice Powell (Acting)
Succeeded by Joan Shigekewa (Acting)
Personal details
Born (1947-07-20) July 20, 1947 (age 69)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Alma mater Colby College
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Yale University

Rocco Landesman (born July 20, 1947) [2] has been a long-time Broadway theatre producer. He served as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts ("NEA") from August 2009 to December 2012.[3] The NEA is a public agency of the Federal Government with an annual budget ($155 million for 2009) that is directed into grants to support excellence in the arts, bring arts to all Americans and provide leadership in arts education.[4] He is part owner of Jujamcyn Theaters, but he was a passive owner while serving in Washington.

Landesman was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, studied at Colby College in Waterville, Maine and The University of Wisconsin, and earned a doctorate in Dramatic Literature at the Yale School of Drama.[2] At the Yale School of Drama he became a protégé and friend of Robert Brustein.[5] At the completion of his course work he stayed at Yale for four years as an Assistant Professor. While at Yale, Landesman got to know novelist Jerzy Kosinski and he worked with Kosinski on two of his novels, Being There and The Devil Tree. Landesman was involved as an editor, helping Kosinski, not a native speaker of English, with his English syntax and writing.[5] While at Yale Landesman was also involved in managing a private mutual fund and a racehorse he had bought.[5] In 1977 he left to focus more time on his private investment fund, which he ran for many years. He also got involved in Broadway theater and he was heavily involved in the genesis and development of "Big River" (1985 Tony, Best Musical), a musical based on Huckleberry Finn. Landesman's involvement included persuading Roger Miller to write the music for the show.[5] The show ultimately won seven Tonys and ran for over 1,000 performances on Broadway over two and a half years.[5] This success attracted the attention of James H. Binger who shared two passions with Landesman: Broadway theater and horseracing. Binger owned the Jujamcyn Theatre group of five theatres, four of which were then dark.[5] Binger and Landesman made a deal for Landesman to become President of Jujamcyn in 1987 with the inclusion of an option for Landesman to purchase Jujamcyn upon Binger's death. After taking the helm at Jujamcyn he shifted its business model away from the historical focus of renting of theatre facilities to shows and into a more active posture as a combination of a theater owner and a developer of new plays.[5] Other theater owners have followed this pattern. After joining Jujamcyn Landesman has produced Broadway shows, the most notable of which include: "Angels In America" (1993 and 1994 Tony, Best Play), and "The Producers" (2001 Tony, Best Musical). Landesman purchased Jujamcyn in 2005 and later sold a 50% interest to Jordan Roth.

Rocco Landesman's biggest passions are theater, baseball, horse racing and country music. On any given day he will insist that one of these is the perfect expression of American culture. His company, Jujamcyn Theaters, owns 5 Broadway theaters, and at one time or another Mr. Landesman has owned 3 minor league baseball teams, various racehorses and a collection of Roger Miller long playing records. As for baseball, growing up in St. Louis he naturally followed the St. Louis Cardinals and later in life he became a part owner of the Kenosha Twins (later the Fort Wayne Wizards).[5] His career has been a hybrid of commercial, philanthropic, and purely artistic engagements. He has continued his relationship with the Yale School of Drama and Yale Rep, returning to teach there over the years. He has been active on numerous boards, including the Municipal Art Society, the Times Square Alliance, and The Educational Foundation of America. Landesman has also spoken at forums and written numerous articles (mostly in the New York Times arts section), focusing mainly on the problematic relationship between the commercial and not-for-profit sectors of the American theater.

In May 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Landesman to become the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.[6][7] His appointment was confirmed in August, 2009.[8]

In June 2013 Rocco Landesman was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[9]

Landesman is married to Debby (Busch) Landesman, formerly the Executive Director of the Levi Strauss Foundation and currently a philanthropic advisor to corporations and foundations. Landesman was previously married to set designer Heidi (Landesman) Ettinger, and they have three sons: North, Nash and Dodge, all of whom currently live and work in New York.[2][5][10][11]


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Political offices
Preceded by
Patrice Powell
Chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts
Succeeded by
Joan Shigekawa