Sotheby’s Raises Commissions, Following Lead of Christie’s

Less than two weeks after Christie’s announced that it was increasing the fees it charges buyers, Sotheby’s followed suit. On Thursday afternoon, when the auction house reported its 2012 financial results, it announced that it would increase what is known as its buyer’s premium – or the fees it charges buyers — for the first time since 2008.

Both companies had been charging 25 percent for the first $50,000; 20 percent on the amount from $50,000 to $1 million and 12 percent of the rest. Now shoppers at Sotheby’s will be charged 25 percent on the first $100,000; 20 percent from $100,000 to $1.9 million and 12 percent of the rest. For more than 98 percent of lots sold this change will represent an increase of 2 percent or less, the company said, and no sales will see more than a 3.6 percent increase in the final purchase price.

It will be slightly cheaper to buy at Cristie’s. When Christie’s increase goes into effect on March 11, it will charge 25 percent for the first $75,000; 20 percent on the next $75,001 to $1.5 million and 12 percent of the rest.

Over the last few years both auction houses have begun giving some of its biggest sellers a percentage of the buyer’s premium as an incentive to get their business, a practice which cut into profits. For the full year, Sotheby’s saw both its revenues and profits decline. Revenues in 2012 were $768.5 million, an 8 percent decline from the previous year; the company attributed much of that fall-off to a reduction in commissions. Net income was $108.3 million, a 37 percent decrease from 2011.

Board Warns Teacher for Having Two Jobs in the Same School

The New York City Conflicts of Interest Board issued a warning letter on Thursday to a teacher in Queens for having two different jobs in the same school.

The teacher, Alex Joseph Pauline, worked as both a custodial helper and a teacher at Public School 80 from 1998 to 2012, according to the letter. Custodial helpers are hired by a school’s head custodian.

Part-time secondary employment for employees of the city’s Education Department as custodial helpers is allowed under a waiver that was requested by the agency and approved by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board in 2008. But in the letter, the board said the waiver stipulates that such employment must occur at a different school and during the summer.

Mr. Pauline, according to the letter, worked as a custodial helper during the summers and during the school year.

“Thus, by working as a custodial helper while also working as a D.O.E. teacher at the same school, you held a position wit a firm you knew was engaged in business dealings with the city in violation of City Charter,” the letter stated. In this case, the teacher was employed by the head custodian, who provides services to the Education Department and is paid by the agency.

According to the Department of Education, Mr. Pauline’s teacher salary is $67,095 per year, and his rate as a custodial helper was $18.13 per hour.

AIDS Documentary May Become ABC Miniseries

The acclaimed documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” about the genesis of the AIDS epidemic, could become a television miniseries. The Hollywood Reporter said Thursday that ABC Studios, a production company owned by the Disney/ABC Television Group, had bought the rights to the documentary so it could develop a dramatic miniseries about HIV-positive young men who, as the title implies, beat the medical odds.

David France, who co-wrote and directed the documentary, said, “We’d like it to be an extended story that’s not just about AIDS and what AIDS wrought, but about this tremendous civil rights movement that grew from the ashes of AIDS and the dawn of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement.” He said that ABC Studios was a logcal home for such a miniseries: “ABC is the network of ‘Roots.’”

“How to Survive a Plague” was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature, but lost last Sunday to “Searching for Sugar Man.”

Charles Isherwood Answers Questions About the Spring Theater Season

Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller in the New York Theater Workshop production of Sara Krulwich/The New York Times Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller in the New York Theater Workshop production of “Belleville.”

Charles Isherwood, theater critic for The New York Times, answers readers’ questions about the spring theater season.

Q.

Of the plays by emerging playwrights making their Broadway debuts, what are some of the most exciting and noteworthy — KM, New York

A.

Which Broadway season are you looking at I’m afraid I don’t see any notable new playwrights emerging on Broadway in the next couple of months. Unless you count Colm Toibin! Although he’s an acclaimed novelist this gifted Irish writer I suppose does qualify as a Broadway newbie, with “The Testament of Mary.” Broadway is not, and has not been for some time, the place to look for exciting and noteworthy emerging playwrights. That would be Off Broadway, and the regional theaters. I feel like I’m flogging a dead horse at this point, but I would urge you to check out Amy Herzog’s “Belleville” at New York Theater Workshop and Annie Baker’s “The Flick” at Playwrights Horizons if you’re looking for noteworthy new plays to see in the next couple of months.

Q.

With so many new musicals opening in the next few months, do you think any one will drown out the others — pl123, New York

A.

Although there is no “Book of Mormon”-size juggernaut on the horizon, the most likely candidate for attention-hogging is probably “Matilda,” the stage adaptation of a Roald Dahl book. The reason: it’s surfing in on a wave of acclaim from London. In fact, the season has been unusually quiet in terms of London imports – “Matilda” is really the first and only across-the-pond production, which is highly unusual.

I think the playing field this spring is fairly even in terms of musicals getting a fair shake: “Hands on a Hardbody” and “Kinky Boots” have both won some nice reviews out of town, but neither is a sure thing with a built-in audience, and even “Matilda” is not likely to be a known commodity outside theater aficionados.

Q.

Why so many plays — Mike Rafael, Montclair, N.J.

A.

This one’s pretty simple: plays are cheaper to produce. (Although nothing is cheap to produce on Broadway.) They are also simpler, for the most part, to stage. Musicals have many more working parts, which means many more collaborators to wrangle … which means more money to spend.

Q.

I received an email today about “The Testament of Mary” with Fiona Shaw. Do you have! any back! ground info on this one — Andrea, Peekskill, N.Y.

A.

It began life as a play – or rather a monologue – by the Irish writer Colm Toibin. (I’m a particular fan of his novel “The Master,” about Henry James.) The great Irish actress Marie Mullen, who won a Tony for “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” some time ago, performed it at the Dublin Theater Festival a few years ago. Mr. Toibin subsequently turned it into a novel, but now it is returning in its original form, with the formidable team of Ms. Shaw and her longtime collaborator, Deborah Warner, directing. This is the one highbrow entry in a spring season that’s trending, ahem, in other directions. (Nothing new there.) It will be the one you need to see if you want to impress friendsat cocktail parties of the well-heeled and the culturally well-informed.

Q.

What’s the outlook for the emergence of new producers from the under-age-35 demographic Will Broadway suffer a producer shortage in the next five to 10 years — Arvid, Valparaiso, Ind.

A.

To take the questions in reverse: I see no evidence that Broadway will suffer a producer shortage in the next decade. Season after season we’ve seen the 40 or so Broadway theaters remain pretty consistently booked.

What we could definitely use more of: producers who are able to look beyond the most obvious ways of connecting with audiences these days, which is to say slapping stars into road-tested vehicles, or concocting musicals from other cultural spare parts. (Read: movies.) Otherwise the fossilization of Broadway into a vapid commercial m! arketplac! e catering to everyone’s baser instincts (namely celebrity-ogling) will only continue.

As for the first question: It’s probably important to distinguish between investors and producers. The line is blurred today, since anyone who puts any significant sum into a show now has above-the-title billing once reserved for actual producers. (Open a Playbill today and you’re likely to find more names above the title than there are actors in the cast.) True producers – who develop shows from start to finish, in close collaboration with artists – remain, as far as I can tell, pretty thin on the ground. And since as a critic I have minimal engagement with them, I couldn’t tell you the average age of this rare specimen, but I suspect it’s somewhere north of 35. Jordan Roth, who now runs the Jujamcyn Theaters, is considered a babe in the industry, at the ripe age of 37.

Playing the cockeyed optimist, I would hope that producers under 35 might have more innovative ideas about how to develop new audieces and fresh ideas about what might work on Broadway, and the success of unlikely shows like “Once” offers promise that adventurous think can pay off – at least occasionally.

Q.

How do you decide where to travel to see theater that you somehow suspect might interest readers — Freddie, New York

A.

Mostly by the caliber of the talent involved. A new play by an established writer, or one the editors and I think is worthy of note, is always of interest. Major new musicals are relatively rare, so if time permits I like to check out as many of those as possible, although we tend not to review shows that have already announced Broadway openings.

Rock Documentary on the National Will Open Tribeca Film Festival

The National front man Matt Berninger, left, and his brother, Tom, the director of Tribeca Film Festival The National front man Matt Berninger, left, and his brother, Tom, the director of “Mistaken For Strangers.”

The Tribeca Film Festival will begin with a taste of Brooklyn and a nonfiction film on the Brooklyn (by way of Cincinnati) rock band the National, organizers for the festival said Thursday.

“Mistaken for Strangers,” a documentary that chronicles a tour by the National, the indie-rock quintet behind “High Violet” and other albums, will have its world premiere on the festival’s openig night, April 17, followed by a performance by the band.

The documentary is directed by Tom Berninger, a filmmaker who has a unique in with the National: he is the younger brother of the group’s front man, Matt Berninger. A news release from the Tribeca organizers further described Tom Berninger as a “newbie roadie” as well as “a heavy metal and horror movie enthusiast” whose “moonlighting as an irreverent documentarian creates some drama for the band on the road.” The news release added that “Mistaken for Strangers” was “a hilarious and touching look at two very different brothers, and an entertaining story of artistic aspiration.”

Last year’s Tribeca Film Festival opened with another rock documentary, “The Union,” about Elton John and directed by Cameron Crowe. This year’s festival will run through April 28, with the ! full slate of features expected to be announced next week.

Idina Menzel to Return to Broadway Next Spring in a New Musical

Idina Menzel in January at the Screen Actors Guild awards.Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Idina Menzel in January at the Screen Actors Guild awards.

The Tony Award-winning actress Idina Menzel will return to Broadway next spring for the first time since “Wicked” to star in a new musical, “If/Then,” about a woman who moves to New York seeking a fresh start as she prepares to turn 40, the show’s producer, David Stone, announced on Thursday.

“If/Then” will also be the first Broadway production by the composer Tom Kitt and the lyricist and book writer Brian Yorkey since their critically acclaimed 2009 musical, “Next to Normal,” which won three Tonys – including one for best score – as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Like “Next to Normal,” which centered on a mother struggling with mental illness, “If/Then” is a contemporary-sounding musical about a strongly drawn female protagonist, Elizabeth, who Ms. Menzel described in a statement as “complex, flawed, and surprising.” Beyond Elizabeth’s goals – a new home and friends, and hopes for a resurgent career – little else was revealed about the character in the announcement Thursday, although the titles of two of Elizabeth’s songs – “Here I Go” and “You Learn to Live Without” – offer some flavor. Ms. Menzel is expected to perform those songs on Friday at an American Songbook series concert featuring the work of Mr. Kitt and Mr. Yorkey.

“If/Thenâ€!  boasts several creative reunions. Mr. Kitt and Mr. Yorkey are again working with their “Next to Normal” director, Michael Greif, and its producer, Mr. Stone. Mr. Greif, meanwhile, directed Ms. Menzel in 1996 in her breakout performance as Maureen in the original production of “Rent,” which earned her a Tony nomination. And Mr. Stone is a producer of “Wicked,” the international blockbuster that brought Ms. Menzel to prominence – and won her a best actress Tony – in the role of the green-skinned Elphaba, who grows up to become the Wicked Witch of the West.

Idina Menzel preparing for her role as Elphaba in Sara Krulwich/The New York Times Idina Menzel preparing for her role as Elphaba in “Wicked” in 2004.

Ms. Menzel, who also played Maureen in the 2005 film adaptation of “Rent” and has been a guest star in several episodes of the Fox series “Glee,” said in the statement that she had been “eager to find a project where the material was exciting and new and spoke to my heart.” “I’m thrilled to have finally found it,” added Ms. Menzel, who left the Broadway company of “Wicked” in early 2005.

Mr. Stone, in a telephone interview on Thursday, said he was attracted to the project because of the chance to work again with the four artists, and because of the material. “The show is really about how we choose our lives and how our lives choose us, themes that I find very rich and very moving,” he said.

Mr. Kitt and Mr. Yorkey wrote a six-page treatment of “If/Then” in 2008 during the out-of-town run of “Next to Normal” in Washington, Mr. Stone said, and! since th! en they have had three developmental workshops, all involving Ms. Menzel. A fourth is planned for April, after which the team will prepare for a pre-Broadway run at the National Theater in Washington. The musical is to begin preview performances there on Nov. 5 and open on Nov. 24.

The Broadway production, which will be at a Nederlander theater to be announced later, is scheduled to begin previews on March 4, 2014, and open on March 27. Mr. Stone declined to provide a budget estimate for the show but said it would be “midsize” – which means more than the $4-million “Next to Normal” but less than the big-cast Broadway musicals that can cost around $15 million. He said the cast of “If/Then,” in its current shape, included 16 actors or so.

Rock Documentary on the National Will Open Tribeca Film Festival

The National front man Matt Berninger, left, and his brother, Tom, the director of Tribeca Film Festival The National front man Matt Berninger, left, and his brother, Tom, the director of “Mistaken For Strangers.”

The Tribeca Film Festival will begin with a taste of Brooklyn and a nonfiction film on the Brooklyn (by way of Cincinnati) rock band the National, organizers for the festival said Thursday.

“Mistaken for Strangers,” a documentary that chronicles a tour by the National, the indie-rock quintet behind “High Violet” and other albums, will have its world premiere on the festival’s openig night, April 17, followed by a performance by the band.

The documentary is directed by Tom Berninger, a filmmaker who has a unique in with the National: he is the younger brother of the group’s front man, Matt Berninger. A news release from the Tribeca organizers further described Tom Berninger as a “newbie roadie” as well as “a heavy metal and horror movie enthusiast” whose “moonlighting as an irreverent documentarian creates some drama for the band on the road.” The news release added that “Mistaken for Strangers” was “a hilarious and touching look at two very different brothers, and an entertaining story of artistic aspiration.”

Last year’s Tribeca Film Festival opened with another rock documentary, “The Union,” about Elton John and directed by Cameron Crowe. This year’s festival will run through April 28, with the ! full slate of features expected to be announced next week.

Tom Petty to Play Intimate Shows in New York and Los Angeles

Tom Petty at Madison Square Garden in 2010.Chad Batka for The New York Times Tom Petty at Madison Square Garden in 2010.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers will play five nights at the Beacon Theater in May, a rare string of shows at a 2,900-seat hall for a veteran rock group that can easily fill arenas, the group announced on Thursday.

Live Nation, the concert promoter, said it was the first time Mr. Petty and his group had played the Beacon in the band’s 35-year career, though that statement could not immediately be confirmed. The band will appear at the Beacon on May 20, 21, 3, 25 and 26; tickets go on sale March 25.

Mr. Petty will follow up that series of concerts in New York with a six-night stand at another intimate space on the West Coast — the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles. The band also announced it will perform at several summer festivals, including the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee , the Hangout Music Festival in Alabama and the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware.

Over the years, Mr. Petty has occasionally taken a break from arenas to perform in smaller music halls, including a 20-show run in 1997 at the Fillmore in San Francisco and a five-night run at Chicago’s Vic Theater in 2003.

The Case of the Missing Cemetery Tulip

Vera Swensen's Valentine offerings at the grave of her son Mark Santiago at St. Raymond Cemetery in the Bronx included an Vera Swensen Vera Swensen’s Valentine offerings at the grave of her son Mark Santiago at St. Raymond Cemetery in the Bronx included an “I Love You” balloon and a solar-powered light shaped like a tulip.

Two days before Valentine’s Day, Vera Swensen visited her son’s grave at St. Raymond Cemetery in the Bronx, as she had most days since he died in 2007 at age 28.

As she often does on special occasions, she left him some gifts: balloons that said “I LoveYou,” a box of chocolates and a tulip-shaped solar-powered light that glows at night.

“I consider Mark my shining star, and in return I always want him to have a light where he is now in St. Raymond’s,” Ms. Swensen explained in an e-mail. The light was still there on Feb. 16, she said.

On Feb 17, a Sunday, a security guard at the cemetery saw a man he thought was acting suspiciously. He asked to take the man’s picture.

The man, Louis Peduto, posed for the guard’s camera. In his hand he held a tulip-shaped light.

Louis Peduto, photographed at St. Raymond Cemetery in the Bronx on Feb. 17, held a tulip-shaped light like one left at Mark Santiago's grave.Courtesy N.Y.P.D. Louis Peduto, phot! ographed at St. Raymond Cemetery in the Bronx on Feb. 17, held a tulip-shaped light like one left at Mark Santiago’s grave.

On Feb. 18, the police say, Mr. Peduto tried to steal a sackful of brass fixtures from the cemetery. The same guard saw him, the guard’s employers said, and confronted him and went to summon the police. When he returned, the guard said, the bag was there, but Mr. Peduto was gone.

Mr. Peduto, who is 56 and homeless, was found and arrested the next day. When Ms. Swensen returned to her son’s grave the day Mr. Peduto was arrested, she said, the tulip-shaped light she had left was gone.

Last Saturday at Rikers Island, where he is being held on felony charges of grand larceny and cemetery desecration, Mr. Peduto said he did not take the tulip light from the grave of Ms. Swensen’s son Mark Santiago.

Nor, for that matter, he said, did hetry to take the metal goods he is accused of stealing – 11 brass grates, two brass door handles, and copper and brass wire, all found in the sack, according to a criminal complaint. He said he was not even at the cemetery the day the guard saw the man with the sack.

“I’m not the monster they’re making me out to be, robbing graves like a ghoul,” Mr. Peduto said in the Rikers visiting room, his six-foot, 200-pound frame perched on a small plastic chair.

He noted that in some accounts he was accused of taking four doors from the cemetery. “Those doors weigh 300 to 400 to 500 pounds,” he said. “How am I even going to carry that On my back I’m not Superman.” (According to the complaint, Mr. Peduto confessed that he had been taking brass goods from the cemetery for about two weeks and had made $200 selling them.)

Mr. Peduto grew vague and indirect in his responses when asked abou! t the tul! ip light, but he said he had bought it and left it at the grave of a family member at St. Raymond. A cemetery representative said that there were many people buried there with the last name Peduto.

Ms. Swensen, 62, said last week that she was convinced Mr. Peduto took the light.

“Believe me it’s not about the lite, it wasn’t expensive,” she wrote in a comment on City Room. “It’s about I left it for my son, a light to shine at nite. Shame shame on that man.”

This Friday would have been the 34th birthday of Mr. Santiago, who died of a pancreatic infection. Ms. Swensen and her family will celebrate the way they always do: a meal of his favorite foods – this year, sausage and peppers with mozzarella and a napoleon cake – followed by a visit to his grave, where she plans to leave flowers and balloons and some other present.

Ms. Swensen said hr older son tells her to stop leaving things at Mark’s grave. “I don’t think I’ll change,” she said. “We’re going to leave things for him.”

She said she hoped the birthday tokens would not be removed.

’30 Rock’ and the Celebrity Cameo That Got Away

Has any half-hour comedy in recent years had a better track record securing celebrity cameos than “30 Rock”

Before it ended its seven-year run last month, the superbly produced show featured appearances by, among others, Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Condoleezza Rice, James Franco and Jim Carrey. Yet at a panel with a group of writers from the show at the Paley Center for Media last night, Tina Fey, its creator and star, revealed that there was one that got away: Dr. Zizmor, the dermatologist whose ads are famously plastered all over the New York subway system. “Zizmor turned us down,” Ms. Fey said urgently, before offeing up her her imitation of his wife’s imagined (and taken aback) reaction to the suggestion. “[She] was like, ‘He’s a doctor.’”

Ms. Fey — who reflected on the beloved show with Robert Carlock, who helped launch “30 Rock,” Colleen McGuinness, Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan — answered questions about the show cheerfully but without much sentiment. She took pride in the writers’ accomplishments and generally downplayed any talk of grand visions, explaining that the manic energy of the show might have come from anxiety that it was going to be cancelled. When asked by the moderator, Emily Nussbaum, the television critic for The New Yorker, if there was any benefit that came from being on a broadcast network rather than on cable, she said that not being able to curse was a helpful constraint.

Some of the most interesting avenues of discussion were about what didn’t receive positive response. Ms. Fey said the audience didn’t like it when they introduced love interests fo! r Jack Donaghy, played by Alec Baldwin. And a plot line involving an affair between Pete (played by Scott Adsit) and Jenna (Jane Krakowski) was dropped after a table read. “It tanked,” she said. “People were creeped out by it.”

After an hour or so, the audience was invited to ask questions. One young female comedian asked for advice. Ms. Fey said stage time in front of an audience is key, then added, ”Always wear a bra, even if you think you don’t need it.”