|THESE ARE THEIR STORIES: You know a show has imprinted itself indelibly on the popular imagination when comedians finally get around to parodying it.|
That's what's about to happen to "Law & Order" as a group called ETC (as in Experimental Troupe Comedy) readies an Off Broadway spoof of the long-running Dick Wolf-produced legal franchise, now in its gazillionth year on NBC (and everywhere else).
ETC principal Jamil Ellis said all four of the troupe's key players are fans, and have many friends who have appeared in one of Wolf's skeins. (The franchise is the biggest single TV employer of Gotham theater actors ever.)
The show, which debuts at the Peoples Improv Theater March 25, is being advertised thusly: "Missing Jerry Orbach? Unable to handle a day without a fix of the only show that people still watch on NBC? Hungry for grotesque details about an impossibly complicated crime? Wait no longer!"
Ellis said the 11-year- old Etc. (which also includes Anne Johnson, Gene Perelson and Chris Chan Roberson) tackles the iconic drama by taking plotlines from audience suggestions -- live and via the Internet (www.opensourcecomedy.net), and utilizing written sketches and multi-media video. Theater folk who have been on Wolf's shows are expected to show up and participate in the performance as well, per Ellis.
Each "episode" of the play, as it were, will also feature an up-and-coming comedy act from the New York area.
WE ALL KNOW the arts are in trouble in most high school curricula, but there are still orgs out there battling the tide.
One of these is the non-profit Young Audiences New York, or YANY, which is a pioneer in creating innovative arts education programs for Gotham students, teachers and families.
Last week, it held its annual Children's Arts Medal Benefit at Chelsea Piers, honoring Zenith Media's entertainment topper Peggy Green and actor Richard Thomas.
As YANY exec director Joanne Bernstein-Cohen put it, "The Children's Arts Medal is presented to individuals who inspire future generations by the originality and leadership that they demonstrate. Both Green and Thomas have shown commitment and dedication to young people, the arts, and arts education."
In addition to honoring the medal recipients, the evening featured exhibitions of student artwork from PS 171 in Queens, PS 110 in Brooklyn and the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan, and performances by other young people who have participated in YANY programs.
Past Medal winners include actor-dancer Gregory Hines, jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, Howard Gardner, Broadway performer Brian Stokes Mitchell and TV producer Linda Ellerbee. Past honoree Matthew Modine screened a short about working with kids and is joining the board of YANY.
Green, who was promoted to president of Broadcast and Entertainment for ZenithMedia last August, has not only personally gotten involved with kids but also encouraged her ad conglom to commit itself to arts education.
As for actor Thomas, he became a household name in the '70s for his portrayal of John-Boy in "The Waltons." He has also served as national chairman of the Better Hearing Institute and as host of the PAX TV reality series "It's a Miracle."
Since 1952, YANY has been swimming upstream: Bernstein-Cohen said government programs like No Child Left Behind have significantly shifted emphasis to improving reading and math scores. She was quick to single out New York's past and present mayors, Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, as supportive of YANY's initiatives.
"Kids should not just learn for the test on Friday, but through the arts, for life," she said. Surveys show, she adds, that nine out of 10 parents want their kids to have this exposure.
With a budget of just $3 milion a year, YANY tries " to teach and train deep," dispatching 200 professionals in everything from architecture and choreography to African drumming and puppet-making to conduct 10 sessions with kids in selected schools. Of the 1,408 public schools in the five boroughs, YANY targets 200 each year.
YANY's work last year consisted of 10,000 program services reaching 20,000 through in-school residencies and an additional 180,000 students, teachers and families through performances, family events or professional development programs.
YANY has received the National Medal of Arts as well as the Children's Theatre Foundation of America's Medallion of Honor. Recently, YANY was honored with a special proclamation from the Council of the City of New York for its contributions to the city.