Maxwell Anderson's IMA



now I'm sure you've seen the television ads for The Center For the Performing

Arts, in Carmel. They feature a wash of pastel colors and an artist's rendering

of the Center's signature venue, The Palladium.


Palladium is just one of four performance spaces at The Center. There are also

a 500-seat proscenium theater, a 200-seat studio theater and an outdoor



The Palladium is the trademark. Based on a villa designed by Renaissance

architect Andrea Palladio near Vicenza, in Italy, the Palladium is an unabashed

throwback. Its limestone dome rises up from what once was a farmer's field like

some fantasy concocted on a backlot at MGM during the 1930's. The sight of the

place conjures images of women in bustled gowns and men in top hats, of

carriages and brass-tipped canes.


creating this old world setting, the good people of Carmel are seemingly flying

in the face of contemporary cultural trends. Nowadays, the vast majority of our

cultural institutions are practically falling over themselves with populist

fervor, doing all they can to seem as easy going and down home as a corner bar

or shopping mall.


used to be that cultural institutions were about uplift and aspiration. We

dressed up to go to the symphony or museum, where we were introduced to

achievements that stood for the best stuff human beings could create.


the very act of putting on our best clothes for these experiences, struggling

unsuccessfully with that tie or wiping the dust off dress shoes that were a

size too small, we momentarily stepped out of our everyday selves in preparation

for something we might not understand but were advised would be extraordinary.


all of this fell to pieces like the pages of an old paperback copy of Pride

and Prejudice. A

generation raised on rock concerts and theme parks spread the news that going

to museums or concert halls was for stiffs. And as the administrators

responsible for attracting people saw their clientele dwindling and, worse,

aging, they began trying to make themselves over in order to be more cool, or

hip, or whatever it was that drew crowds.


orchestras began playing movie themes and serving cocktails. Museums opened

ever-larger gift shops. Everybody invested in lasers and digital projectors. As

for dressing up, forget it.


the people found in cultural venues dress the same as they do at airports. That

is to say, for the most part, they dress like big-bodied children.


face it: we Americans, regardless of income level or education, have never

gotten the hang of casual dress. From back alleys to country clubs, we turn ourselves

into walking advertisements for tourist traps and fashion brands, with logos,

legends and dopey one-liners scrawled across our tops and bottoms.


are particularly clueless. If America is such a land of opportunity, why is it

so many American men insist on dressing like adolescents? There was a time when

most kids couldn't wait to grow up – that's where all the good stuff was

waiting. Now, apparently, the future is so bleak, young men present themselves

as though they're trying to prolong their teen years as long as they can.


along the line, the idea got around that there was something confining about

dressing thoughtfully. It was considered to be a sign of conformity that went

with a buttoned-up corporate job and an inhibited way of life. It meant that

you cared too much about what other people thought, that you were uptight.


same went for the places we used to associate with dressing up. As people came

to present themselves more casually, they also began to take museums and

concert halls less seriously. Now if we are mystified or bored by what we find

in these places, it's the fault of the art being offered. Taking the time to

acquire a taste for something we don't get immediately is as old-fashioned as a

Homburg hat.


dressed-down approach to culture reflects our political attitudes. While having

a truly smart guy as president seems a good thing in theory, it appears most of

us are put off by this in practice. Better to have someone as pissed-off by

what goes on in the world as the rest of us. That's leadership!


I am delighted by Carmel's decision to create a cultural venue that evokes a

more rarefied world. It's a bold move that promises nothing less than a

recasting of our cultural expectations. Although I doubt The Palladium will

require people to dress a certain way, its very design constitutes a kind of

dress code. The first person to walk in there wearing a t-shirt or ball cap is

bound to feel a little weird, like they've stepped back in time.


as scheduled to perform in January as part of The Palladium's Grand Opening,

Neil Sedaka will take the stage, and the effect will be complete.