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Javier Bustillos celebrated for his contributions to local theater

Stars on Main Street
Javier Bustillos celebrated for his contributions to local theater

In 1992, Javier Bustillos launched Buffalo United Artists (BUA) with a production of the musical A...My Name is Alice. Ever since, BUA has distinguished itself as a trailblazing and self-supporting theater collective presenting provocative and relevant work that examines the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer experience. For his work as Founder and Executive Producer of the company, Bustillos was honored with a Career Achievement Award at this year’s Artie Awards.

Many of you who are not even remotely interested in theater will likely recognize him as the guy who always pops up in photos with entertainment luminaries in his Stagefright theater news column—which has been publishing in the pages of Artvoice now for 25 years. Those entertaining pieces offer a breezy update on who is doing what in the astoundingly diverse local theater scene, while sprinkling in parenthetical observations about the plays and artists being produced, and celebrities pictured. Coupled with his comprehensive weekly On the Boards theater listings, and the reviews and interviews crafted by his longtime partner and now husband Anthony Chase, it’s a body of work that has made Artvoice the leading publication for devotees of local theater.

As educator and actress Anne Hartley Pfohl pointed out in her introductory speech for Bustillos at this year’s Arties: “For 23 years Javier’s vagabond theater company has paid rent to and kept people in the seats of most of the theatrical houses in this city; employed hundreds of artists; raised thousands of dollars for local causes; and while many of us here can claim similar accomplishments, Javier has done all of this and more without ever taking a penny for himself.” Her full introduction provoked a rousing ovation from all in attendance.

In conjunction with this year’s Curtain Up! festivities, that selfless commitment to local theater will be memorialized this Friday (9/18) with a 5pm ceremony at the corner of Main and Tupper Streets, in a section of the median known as the Plaza of Stars. There, Bustillos will receive his own star, joining other theater notables with Buffalo ties like A.R. Gurney, Brother Augustine Towey, Saul Elkin, Chistine Baranski and many others.

This is the inaugural year for this new Plaza of Stars, which was relocated from Chippewa Street as part of the project to return cars to Main Street. It is now fittingly located at the north end of the Theatre District, in front of the 710 Main Theatre.

Speaking to Bustillos’ inclusion among Buffalo’s theatrical dignitaries, Tony Conte, President of Shea’s Performing Arts Center and the Theatre District Association (TDA) had this to say: “As we talked about who we wanted to add this year it became clear, and I think Javier is certainly deserving of it. He’s a big part of the theater community in Western New York. He’s a larger than life guy, and yet he’s a very humble person. So, while he may not say much, the reality is he’s made a very large contribution and I think it deserves to be recognized. As president of the TDA, I think it was just the right choice, and a nice start to a new, ongoing project for the TDA.”

I will simply add that while his star recognizes him as a producer and director, it is also always a pleasure to receive Bustillos’ sparkling copy for publication here at Artvoice—writing that always reflects the intelligence, humanity and wit of its author.

All are encouraged to attend the 5pm ceremony this Friday, along with the other expected guests comprised of theater professionals, theater patrons, and members of the media to kick off the 34th annual Curtain Up! event, which signals the start of Buffalo’s professional theater season.

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