Talkin' BroadwayV.J.

"On and Off" Magazine
by Nancy Rosati

There is tremendous interest in theatre in New York, but Broadway shows get the lion's share of the press. So says Ron Lasko, publisher of a brand new magazine called "On & Off." Ron's background includes managing Spalding Gray, Eric Bogosian, and Philip Glass, and others. In 1998, he co-founded Spin Cycle Public Relations with partner Chip Duckett. Having seen Off-Broadway shows, fringe groups and dance companies constantly struggling for press, Ron and Chip wanted to give them a voice. In order to do that, they created a bi-weekly, free magazine that will be available in the five boroughs in early October.

"On & Off" doesn't have the corporate muscle that "Show People" (the other new theatrical magazine) has behind it. Instead of a flashy first issue, they created a prototype September 2002 issue, printed 1000 copies, and distributed them to journalists and advertisers in an attempt to prove that they're serious. They wanted advertisers especially to realize that this will be a quality magazine with four-color pages.

The issue is jam-packed with features, and Ron claims that's only the beginning. Some of their regular features (and examples from the prototype) are: "on the town" (photos from events like Broadway Barks and MCC Theater Company's Fête de la Cuisine), "on the record" (quotes from Edie Falco, Tony Kushner, and others), "on track" (a profile of an avant-garde theater company), "onsite" (story of the Off-Off Broadway theater Horse Trade Theater Group), and "on second thought" (reviews of long-running shows). "top priorities" picks the staff's "best bets for what's hot, on and off." There are reviews of theatre, CDs, restaurants and books, and a theater/restaurant listing by neighborhood.

Two current Broadway stars are interviewed —Sheryl Lee Ralph of Thoroughly Modern Millie and Champagne, the title character in Edward Albee's The Goat. "That was really fun. We're trying to be a little bit irreverent —not ridiculous, but slightly irreverent," says Ron.

Actors won't be the only people who are interviewed. "No one ever talks to designers and they make a huge contribution to theatre. There are many up-and-coming people who are working downtown creating amazing sets or amazing costumes. We'd like to talk to those people. There are so many stories and there are so few places to have them covered. That's what this magazine is for."

"We have a feature called ‘dinner theater' which will be in our first issue. We found two girls who were enthusiastic *NSYNC fans. Joey Fatone came into Rent so we decided we would take them to see it and see what their reaction would be. We also took them to Britney Spears' restaurant, Nyla. It's not exactly an unbiased review, but that's the point. These were not theatre people, and it was so interesting to see this Broadway show through their eyes. They'd never seen a Broadway show before. We're trying to make future ones thematic as far as the dinner and the show go, such as Frankie and Johnny, followed by dinner at the restaurant with the same name, or Flower Drum Song with a Chinese Restaurant."

"On & Off" is also looking to collaborate with readers. Down the road they want to get kids from the city to write for their "kids corner." They're planning an interactive website that will run offbeat surveys such as "Who would you cast in Scooby-Doo: The Musical?" with the results appearing in the next issue.

Spin Cycle is funding it themselves and handling their own distribution in what Ron calls a grass roots effort. "There are ten of us here. We have a distribution manager. There are a lot of theaters that are very supportive, especially in the downtown world. The Times Square Visitor Center has agreed to distribute it, and so has the Off-Broadway Information Center." They're also hoping to put the magazine in acting schools, bars and restaurants, every theater they can find, and distribute it on the TKTS lines. Non-New Yorkers can subscribe for $70 per year, which covers first class postage for 26 issues.

"Other theater magazines have folded but no one has tried offering them for free. Also, a lot of people have ignored downtown and Off-Broadway and the ‘fringe.' There is such a huge population of people that are interested in theater but they're always overlooked. I think they're out there. A lot of them are young. They won't buy $100 tickets but they will buy $30 tickets. We want to spread the word that there's a lot of great theater and dance in the city."

Ron says they're always looking for ideas. You can contact him at OnandOffEditor@aol.com if you want to write for them, have something you'd like them to promote, or if you just have an idea for a feature. Look for the first issue of "On & Off" on the streets in a few weeks.

Also see Nancy's feature on Show People Magazine

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