Award-winning writer and business strategist, Warren Strugatch is inviting East Enders to once again take part in a rousing round of discourse during Out of the Question, a salon conversation series. Taking place at Southampton Arts Center, the five part series will bring together notable artists, architects, realtors and restaurateurs who will engage with Hamptons audiences as panelists explore timely questions about national issues and local fixations.
Strugatch, who produces Out of the Question, will also serve as moderator. “Not that I needed one, but, it’s another good chance to hang out in the Hamptons and talk with some interesting people,” he joked.
Now in its fourth year, Strugatch, who is a frequent contributor and former columnist at The New York Times, came up with the idea for the series while at a swanky Hamptons soiree. “Originally I was living on the East End and I had the opportunity to go to any number of really interesting events and receptions and parties. At so many of these you’d be seeing the kind of people, I guess, you see on TV, you read about in the newspapers. People like Jerry Della Femina, Wilbur Ross, Ruth Vered – the gallery owner, really I guess you call them the ‘Hamptons A-list’ and you’d run into them,” he explained. “I was at this party and it was incredibly loud, and at one point I think I saw Jerry Della Femina talking to Christie Brinkley and Christie Brinkley was talking to Wilbur Ross and it was so crowded I couldn’t move forward, I couldn’t hear anything and then there was another supermodel behind me. I said, ‘My God. This is actually supermodel gridlock.'”
Strugatch wanted to create an experience where those familiar Hamptons faces could openly discuss relevant topics with input from the audience. “That was really the origin,” he noted. “I was thinking what would happen if I could bring some of these really interesting people into a public forum, get a conversation going and then invite the audience to be part of it.”
Over the years the series focus has evolved from general subjects to more clearly defined themes. “We’re in our fourth year and I guess the differences in the show are that we’re much more specific now. The first year or two, first at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center and then at Guild Hall, the shows’ were focused around the individuals there and their availability,” he explained. “I would really collect some of the most interesting people I could find, from all walks of life, really just having in common an East End identity and bring them together and then I would find a way to start a conversation, almost like at a cocktail party.”
“Now we’re much more focused on particular topics,” he noted. The 2017 series will cover real estate, art, restaurants, architecture, and business and economics.
“We tweak the topic to make it timely and we really create a panel around the particular topic,” he shared. “These are people who are leaders in one sense or another.”
Real Estate: What’s Trending 2017 on Thursday, May 4 will feature Pamela Liebman, President & CEO, The Corcoran Group; Joe Farrell, CEO, Farrell Building Co; Judi Desiderio, CEO, Town & Country Real Estate; and Zachary Vichinsky, co-founder and President, Bespoke Real Estate.
The series will continue on Thursday, June 8 with The Business of Art: Passion or Profit? with Eric Fischl, painter, sculptor and printmaker; Rick Friedman, Founder, Hamptons Expo Group; and Toni Ross, ceramist, sculptress.
Restaurants: Where’s the Fork in the Road? with Eric Lemonides, president, Almond’s Restaurant Group; Mark Smith, managing partner, Nick & Toni’s; David Loewenberg, owner, red / bar brasserie; The Bell and Anchor, Fresno; and Guy Reuge, chef/owner, Mirabelle’s; will follow on Thursday, July 13.
Architecture: Does Modernism Still Matter? on Thursday, August 10 will feature Paul Goldberger, architecture critic (Vanity Fair, New York TimesAndrew Geller: Deconstructed and filmmaker, Modern Tide: Midcentury Architecture on Long Island.
The series will wrap up on Thursday, September 14 with Business & Economics.
“I think one thing that is different this year than in the past, earlier we had gone under the tagline of ‘Hamptons Celebrity Roundtable.’ Another year we used the cutline ‘Reviving the Art of Provocative Conversation’ and this year our slogan is ‘You’re Part of This Conversation’ and that really reflects the focus on the audience – that they’re not people who are sitting there and then at the end we’ll have 5 minutes of Q&A,” he shared. “The audience is a key part of this conversation and that really reflects on why I brought it back to begin with.”
Strugatch thinks the art of conversation is a lost skill, at the moment. “Over the fall and the winter I was really taken aback and profoundly troubled, as I think many millions of people were, by the nature of the political conversation, the campaign process of electing the president. I was deeply troubled by the way the political discourse had devolved and turned into nonsense,” he said. “The difficulty that we had as a nation, and I’m not pointing fingers at either side because I think it’s pointless to do so, the inabilities to respect the opinions of other people, to ask good questions, and to come to conclusions based on reasonable evidence – in other words to have an intelligent conversation about this incredibly important topic of what is America? And where are we going and how do we get there? – which is really what a presidential election should be about, and instead it was about other nonsense.”
He hopes that this series results in dialogues that are engaging and inspiring. “And I think Out of the Question, I don’t think I’m going to solve the world’s problems at the Southampton Arts Center this summer, certainly not all of them,” he said. “This is my way, really, of calling attention to the importance of being able to listen respectfully to other points of view, to hear them out, to offer your own perspective without resorting to name calling or finger pointing or shouting, to make a case and then hopefully to come out of the program maybe with new ideas and fresh perspectives and that comes out of not just what they think or what they say on stage, but also the interactions with the panel.”
And, don’t be surprise when an unannounced “surprise” speaker joins the panelists.
Tickets to Out of the Question are $15. Programs start at 7:30 p.m.
Southampton Arts Center is located at 25 Jobs Lane in Southampton. For more information, call 631-283-0967 or visit southamptonartscenter.org.