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Sad Saga On Broadway


Lucky
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Nothing can make a theater lover's heart turn colder than to see the unions causing Broadway shows to go dark for the second week in a row, and dashing the hopes of thousands of tourists willing to shell out over a hundred bucks to see a show and take in the Thanksgiving parade. Workers all over the theater district are losing income as well, including many waiters and other service personnel. All so the unions can continue labor practices which require the theaters to carry workers who will do nothing except stand around.

 

Broadway prices are already awfully high, and it is hard not to see greed all around the place, but for me, the stagehands are taking the cake. Would you go to a restaurant and tip two waiters, even though only one served you? That's what theater owners have to do...-pay for the guy who doesn't work. Why the unions can't give on this I don't understand, but they are willing to destroy many others to sustain this unfair practice.

 

http://www.nypost.com/seven/11192007/news/regionalnews/broadway_flop_381880.htm

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I passed through the theater district this afternoon and it was very sad to see so many dark theaters and the pickets outside. I was surprised that there were about a dozen plays on the TKTS board. Monday is usually an off night on Broadway so perhaps there will be a few more offerings later on in the week. There was a very short line. It is a good time to discover off-Broadway and those shows not affected by the strike. I feel badly for the shows in limited run and those that might not see the light of day having missed their opening night.

 

A good show to see if it lasts is "August, Osage County". At 3 hours and 20 minutes, you'd think the time would drag but it held my interest the whole time.

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I remember the baseball strike in the '90s. I was living in Detroit and saw first-hand how the fans responded. It really pissed them off and cause months of resentment.

 

Even after the strike was settled, you couldn't give away tickets to a game. Took a couple of seasons to build up a fan base again.

 

I'm afraid the theater strike could have the same affect. I'm half expecting this to eventually flow down and affect Broadway touring shows and/or regional theaters.

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Baseball was rescued largely by the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire. I lived shouting distance from Wrigley Field then and walked over often to pickup leftover tickets. I literally watched tickets become more difficult to get. It was very cool to watch the excitement build.

 

Theater will have the next "Jersey Boys" or "Avenue Q" (and if you haven't seen it, by all means do!) and they'll get audiences back.

 

There is nothing that equals the thrill of live theater just as there is nothing that equals the thrill of seeing Sammy Sosa set a record in Wrigley Field.

 

I know I'll be back.

 

Haven't heard about impact on touring troupes but of course that could happen. I'll still be back when they are.

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I have no idea what the labor and union laws are like in New York but I did work as a stagehand and designer for over a decade so there are a couple of things I can say off the top of my head:

 

1) It takes weeks to get a new person on a show up to full speed on it. Replacing your entire crew would require most of a month in order to get them into the groove. Not to mention the stress and getting the director(s) back to rehearse them. (Assuming the actors would be willing to.)

 

2) Theatre is a very small world. Anyone who accepted working on a show closed due to the strike would probably find it difficult to find a crew willing to work with them in a non-hostile manner ever again. Anywhere.

 

Unless I missed a news bulletin somewhere, Broadway is dark in support of the WGA strike, isn't it?

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The Writer's Guild strike is not connected to the Broadway stagehands strike...it's just a coincidence of timing.

 

I saw August:Osage County while I was in New York, and agree with foxy that it was a pretty riveting drama and, with 2 intermissions, the length allowed the show to proceed at a decent pace. Of all the shows I saw, I think this one was the best, but then, it does come from the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago, known for its production of quality serious drama.

 

The Farnsworth Invention, which was supposed to open this week, is a product of Aaron Sorkin, who wrote A Few Good Men and of course, the West Wing tv series. I thought the show was a bore and can't imagine it finding a Broadway audience. But it sure deserves a chance to open!

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The shame of the stagehand strike on Broadway is the overall effect it has on the economy of the city. Estimates range from 2 to 17 million dollars a day in lost revenue from hotels, restaurants, shopping, taxis, and other related businesses. Most say the strike will not resolve itself for weeks and only the slightest glimmer of hope holds out for shows resuming before the Christmas holiday.

 

Those of us outside of the union will never fully comprehend the issues on the bargaining table but suffice it to say it's not as simple as saying they want to have stagehands sitting around doing nothing because the union rules dictate x amount of stagehands per production. It's not that simple or clear cut. This has to do with work rules and fair pay. No one is sitting around idle in the theater these days. As shows get more intricate in their set demands, it requires a certain amount of production work to make things work seamlessly and safely. I'm sure you'd really be pissed if you got to the theater and found out the show would be delayed or cancelled because there was a production accident backstage and there weren't enough people around to continue the show. This is why shows have understudies and production backup personnel.

 

Finally, there are those who rely on Broadway for their wages and tips. Hotel workers, waiters, waitresses, souvenir shop workers, bartenders, theater ushers and others. Think about all the other industries affected. Lost revenue in theater ads in newspapers, and theater tickets that won't be purchases as holiday gifts, etc. With the continuing strike their Christmas' will be severely impacted. Just as with the writer’s guild strike in Hollywood and NY, production staffs have been laid off. No severance and no benefits.

 

The union and producers go back to the bargaining table this weekend. I hope this next meeting will put an end to it all.

 

One small bright spot in the strike, it's a lot easier to get a taxi on 8th Avenue or Broadway at 10:15PM!

 

 

ED

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Guest zipperzone

After reading the NYT article I can see that the situation is much more complicated than it originally seemed.

 

But it would appear that there is still a fair amount of room for efficiencies to be gained by the producers if a more realistic contract can be struck.

 

As an outside observer I am of the opinion that ticket prices have risen to the point where many theatre goers simply can't afford them and have to elect to see fewer shows or in some cases, none at all.

 

If less stagehands would equate to lower ticket prices it could make for a healthier Broadway entertainment business all round. There is such a thing as pricing ones self out of the market!

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Guest jaighbos

Hi Guys:

New to posting, though I've been an avid reader for some months. This has more to do with my lack of technical proficiency than anything else! Being someone who works in "the biz", it is indeed very sad to see that all the negotiations have come to exactly what folks were hoping to avoid - being shut down Thanksgiving week. It's the second most lucrative week in the year for everyone working in this industry: producers, theatre owners, and employees. The people I worry most about are the cleaners, porters, ushers, ticket takers, doormen who make very little money, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck. These people have no protection - no strike fund like Local 1 has nor the MAP fund accumulated by producers and theatre owners. Each side has legitimate issues, but the fundamental issue is that the nature of loading in, running, and taking out of shows has changed dramatically over the last 40 years, but work rules have not changed to reflect these new circumstances. For the first time the producers are seeking change, and the stagehands are not accustomed to being asked to change, especially long established work rules. Unfortunately emotions and ego have taken over on both sides. It will be very interesting to see who can convince cooler heads to prevail!

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The shame of the strike is that they did it during the holiday season. Why they could not have waited until the doldrums of February is beyond me. The strike hurts everyone, from the ticket holder to the taxi driver. As the strike progresses the union will find little sympathy from the public and locally elected officials. It doesn't have mine.

 

It should be noted that there are only 350-500 stagehands employed on Broadway and only about 1,000 members in the union.

 

My opinion.... they should have continiued bargaining until 2008. This is ridiculous.

 

The next round of negotiations is scheduled for tomorrow, but producers say that if the union isn't serious about negotiations and holds firm to it's demands they won't meet.

 

At least the courts provided an injunction for "The Grinch that Stole Christmas" to continue it's run at the St. James theater.

 

Did you hear about the "Broadway actor" who put the following ad into CraigsList? The title of the ad was "BORED BROADWAY BITCH BEGS 4 BIGGIE"

 

 

Reply to: pers-485996719@craigslist.org

Date: 2007-11-21, 7:29PM EST

 

 

NOT an escort! Broadway Star stuck at home. Gotta perform or I go crazy, so here's the deal: You fuck me, raw. But I do the show I'm in while you're in me. And you gotta keep it up until curtain call.

 

I'm not Nathan. I'm not Idina. I'm not Cheyenne. (Cheyenne: sigh!) But I AM known. Liz Smith likes me. Never did Law and Order.

 

Your show canceled? Your stub’s good here! Seat’s available. FREE!!! OK? FREE!

 

Casting director said my ass deserved a Tony®, I showed him I spin faster. What the Union is doing to the Producers, I want you to do to me! Only louder!

 

You: MUST INCLUDE FACE AND BODY PIC FOR RESPONSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Don’t make me call an usher, send a shot)

 

BTW: I am a Trained Thespian, NOT an escort. (Excluding that Weissler gig.) So don’t insult me. Can’t you tell an actor from someone with loose morals? … Let me rephrase that…

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>The shame of the strike is that they did it during the

>holiday season. Why they could not have waited until the

>doldrums of February is beyond me. The strike hurts everyone,

>from the ticket holder to the taxi driver. As the strike

>progresses the union will find little sympathy from the public

>and locally elected officials. It doesn't have mine.

 

If they waited until February, the strike might well last through NEXT YEAR's holiday season, making Broadway dark for the better part of a year. Nobody notices when labor walks out at a convenient time.

 

Strikes don't happen on a whim. They happen only after good faith negotiations have failed miserably.

 

I can't imagine this is a single-issue strike, and I also can't imagine it was started frivolously. It MAY have been prolonged by hard-headedness of the local chief, if the media can be believed. (They can't, generally.)

 

But until I have full knowledge of all details on both sides, I'll side with labor. I do still carry a AFofM card. :-)

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the latest update:

 

 

PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 17-23:

Things Get Nasty

By Robert Simonson

23 Nov 2007

 

Things took a nasty turn during the second week of Broadway stagehands strike. There had been a glimmer of hope at the start of the weekend, when the League of American Theatres of Producers met with Local One again for the first time since the walkout began on Nov. 10, with Disney's hotshot team of lawyers, headed by Robert Johnson, Disney's vice president of labor relations, there to help out. Confident-sounding newspaper reporters murmured that an agreement before Thanksgiving was likely.

And then it all went south. The two sides talked for two straight days, only to walk away Sunday night with no agreement and a new week of cancelled performances, including all those over the Thanksgiving weekend, one of the most lucrative on the Broadway calendar.

According to reports, the League walked away when Local One turned down an offer the producers were confidant would sail through. "We presented a comprehensive proposal that responded to the union's concerns about loss of jobs and earnings and attempted to address our need for some flexibilities in running our business," said League head Charlotte St. Martin. "The union rejected our effort to compromise and continues to require us to hire more people than we need.

Local One, in its statement, said "Just before the talks broke off, the producers informed Local One that what Local One had offered was simply not enough. The producers then walked out."

As the dust settled, many fingers started pointing to James Claffey, the scion of a family of stagehands, and the head of Local One, as the probable roadblock. According to the New York Post and other papers, a rift has arisen between Claffey and Tom Short, head of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, and it was Claffey who vetoed the deal.

The picket lines resumed, but with a difference: Local One ceased marching in front of the St. James, the home of Dr Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Grinch producer James Sanna, who is not a member of the League, successfully argued that it has a pre-existing agreement with the union and was therefore not part of its dispute with the League. (Local One, which had never won any points with the public by picketing in front of the kiddie show and under a marquis that shouted "Grinch," was probably eager to see Sanna's point.)Jujamcyn Theaters, which owns the St. James and is very much a part of the League, was having none of it, however. In a statement released Nov. 19, Jujamcyn asserted that The Grinch would not reopen until the 27 other theatres darkened by the strike also resume business.

Sanna, with visions dancing in his head of his limited-run holiday hit going down the drain, announced he would take Jujamcyn to court to get an injunction against the theatre owner. On Nov. 21, The Grinch stole Christmas back. Supreme Court Judge Helen E. Freedman granted the injunction and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas was set to reopen Nov. 23. In doing so, Judge Freedman uttered the best line of the strike drama thus far, saying, "I'm going to grant the injunction. I think one Grinch in town is enough."

That wasn't the own legal sally of the week. The Nederlander Organization, which owns nine of the Broadway theatres that are currently dark — and which had only been an observer, not a participant, in the League-Local One talks — filed a lawsuit against Local One. Producers of the seven shows in those darkened theatres have also joined in the suit, which claims the union has been striking the Nederlander houses only to pressure the League of American Theatres and Producers to make a settlement with the union, which makes the strike "an unlawful secondary boycott." The Nederlander Organization is suing the union for $35 million in damages.

Shows waiting for their opening nights made adjustments. Disney's The Little Mermaid postponed its previously announced opening on Dec. 6, saying previews would resume when the dispute is resolved and a revised plan for opening night would be announced at that time. Steppenwolf Theatre Company, meanwhile, announced on Nov. 20 plans to extend its Broadway production of August: Osage County by three weeks "to help recover lost dates from the strike by Local One stagehands."

And when will the two warring parties meet again? There were rumors of a weekend rendezvous, but nothing definite.

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  • 2 weeks later...

RE: Back On Broadway

 

August: Osage County received very good reviews today in the NY Times, Post, and Daily News. Not surprisingly, The Farnsworth Invention, which is Aaron Sorkin's latest play, did not get very good reviews from any of the three. I think it will be the Farnsworth Flop!

 

Meanwhile, the Post has some inside info on Equus, coming to Broadway next year, with Daniel Radcliffe waving his "other wand."

 

HARRY RIDES 'EQUUS' TO BROADWAY

December 5, 2007 -- THE stagehands weren't the only ones who signed a contract last week. Harry Potter and Vernon Dursley inked a deal for the Broadway production of "Equus," which will open next fall.

 

Daniel Radcliffe, as the boy who blinds horses, and Tony winner Richard Griffiths, as the psychiatrist who tries to figure out why, triumphed in London earlier this year.

 

"Harry Potter" fans rushed to see Radcliffe wave his other wand during a 10-minute sex scene with co-star Joanna Christie. The show was pretty much a sellout and made a tidy sum for investors.

 

To sign on for the New York production, Radcliffe had to stand up to Warner Brothers, the producer of the "Harry Potter" series. The studio wanted the actor to make back-to-back movies: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

 

Radcliffe, who's earned about $50 million from the series, balked, saying he wanted a break between movies to do Broadway, sources say. He got his way.

 

New York can expect a "Harry Potter" frenzy every night in Times Square. In London, fans regularly mobbed the stage door. A phalanx of London bobbies always escorted Radcliffe to his car. He'd pause on the way to sign "Equus" posters and playbills but refused to sign any "Harry Potter" memorabilia.

 

One night, the crowd was so thick that Griffiths - who scares away kiddie fans with a nasty Vernon stare - got trapped in the theater and had to sneak out a window.

 

It was a sight to behold.

 

A couple of stagehands hoisted the ample actor up to the window. But when he tried to climb through it, he got stuck. The stagehands shoved him until he popped out on the other side. Griffiths hit the pavement, creating a hole the size of the Haleakala Crater on Maui. He then bounced across Leicester Square, flattening both the Empire and Odeon cinemas. He started to roll down The Mall in St. James Park, forcing the immediate evacuation of Buckingham Palace. He came to a stop at the palace gate, steadied himself and ducked into the famous Red Lion pub on Pall Mall for his usual coffee laced with very cheap brandy.

 

OK - I exaggerate. But his producer, David Pugh, did say of the whole incident: "You try to get Richard Griffiths out a back window. It was a bit touch-and-go."

 

Earlier this year, there were rumors that Griffiths might not be well enough to do "Equus" in New York. The list of possible replacements included Robin Williams and Alec Baldwin, who's said to be a big fan of the play. But Radcliffe made it clear to the producers that he wouldn't come to Broadway without Griffiths.

 

And since the window incident, Griffiths has lost quite a bit of weight.

 

You couldn't exactly call him slim, but he should be able to fit into the Music Box or the Booth, one of which is likely to house "Equus."

 

 

michael.riedel@nypost.com

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Guest carter07

Sorry, but as the father of a stagehand I may be biased (I am) but its the League that screwed up this time. Yes, there are some work rules even my son agrees need alteration, but the League thought the time was ripe to rip off these guys without having to suffer consequences. And it's not only theater tickets in New York City that's expensive. Try going down to the union hall every morning at 7 a.m. to see if you have enough work to afford to live there.

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