Treasures of New York: Lincoln Center – A Q&A with John Servidio and Sally Garner

July 13th, 2011

Inside Thirteen recently spoke with John Servidio, General Manager of WLIW, and producer Sally Garner to discuss the making of Treasures of New York: Lincoln Center with Patti LuPone. The show goes behind the curtain of the city’s most prominent arts venue to reveal it’s rich and unique history and architecture, as well as its transformation over the years.

Treasures of New York: Lincoln Center with Patti LuPone airs Thursday, July 14 at 8 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

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Inside Thirteen: What do you think differentiates Lincoln Center from other cultural institutions and performance spaces in New York City?

John Servidio: Well, it’s recognized as an arts icon around the world, not  just in New York City.  It has numerous houses showing multiple events throughout the year, all of the highest quality.

Sally Garner: It’s one stop shopping for the best of everything. But the most surprising difference is what you find there for free or almost free. Check out the calendar for any day at and you’ll see what I mean.

IT: Lincoln Center granted the production team access to archival footage rarely seen in public. Is there anything that you were surprised to learn from this film, particularly about Lincoln Center’s history or transformation?

JS: There’s one segment in the film where they were checking the acoustics of Alice Tully Hall when they were building it, and no one knew that they brought in the co-artistic director of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, David Finckel, to play the cello and test the hall at two or three o’clock in the morning. It was a big secret thing, and they finished the hall after that test.

SG: When I first watched fifty-year-old films of Leonard Bernstein and opera star Risë Stevens explaining why New York needed to build Lincoln Center, I knew we’d be able to tell a story many New Yorkers have never heard.  Lincoln Center wasn’t just new construction, it was actually a whole new idea called a performing arts center. The films are a glimpse of a very different time in New York’s history.

Patti LuPone (Photo credit: Ethan Hill)

IT: How did Patti LuPone come to be involved with the project?

SG: Publicist Barbara Carroll, at Lincoln Center Theater, gave me a copy of Patti’s new book, “Patti LuPone, A Memoir” and pointed out that Patti was not only a graduate of The Juilliard School’s first drama division class but that she had also performed on most of Lincoln Center’s stages. It seemed like a perfect fit and at the same time, a bit of a long shot.  But as a journalist, I learned a long time ago that you won’t get an interview or an answer unless you ask.  In this case, I got an almost instant yes thanks to Patti’s love of Lincoln Center and her publicist, Philip Rinaldi, who loved the idea for the program.

IT: Can you tell us what’s next on  Treasures of New York?

Treasures of New York is a series that’s going to deal with the well known, and some of the not well known pieces of New York City, and their history.  It could go any where from Lincoln Center to Pratt to NYU, to the Empire State Building, to the Highline, or even areas of the city like Soho or Wall Street.  What it does is bring out a lot of the things we don’t know about the city that we walk around and see every day.  Treasures of New York shows how these are truly treasures, because we go to places that we take for granted, but all over the world they’re considered treasures.

IT: What do you hope audiences will take from this program?

JS: A realization that they live in a city with a rich cultural history, and that they are watching a station that brings that rich cultural history into their home.