Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 19: The Final Frontier

The Little Mermaid will "swim" again!!!!! I genuinely am so excited.

I have to say--I had heard hardly anything from the room all day. And I got worried. Then I left messages for some people not in the room who know stuff and no one got back to me. And I got confused. And then I decided I didn't like people. THEN, before I headed into the St. James for tonight's performance of The Grinch, I heard almost everything was settled other than some drama over what the retroactive pay rate would be. So I thought, "I know they'll announce the settlement during the 4th reprise of 'Who Likes Christmas'." But, they waited until well after all the Whoville had shut down for the night. But, that moment finally came.

If there was no settlement tonight, I was going to offer my mother's theories about what the compromise should be. (They somehow involved confusingly involved maintaining the status quo for current members but creating new rules for new stagehands, which doesn't make any logical sense, which she eventually admitted, but she really sold the idea, and over half the time that is what matters.) But all the talk of what could be done seems irrelevant now--what is done is done. And that's why I'm not going to talk figures or anything because 1) it would be based on random rumors and 2) that's the job of Campbell Robertson or Gordon Cox.

I will say how fascinating this strike has been to me. First of all, it shows you how few press people actually cover Broadway. You had like 5 reporters who knew what they were talking about and then reporters asking Local One members questions like, "What do you do, just raise and lower the curtain?" (I heard that. Seriously.)

Then, and here was my favorite part, depending on who a person's sources were, they had completely different outlooks, especially this week. On Sunday night, when I wrote the blog, random people kept calling and telling me "settlement," but when I spoke to people in-the-know the picture was less rosy (obviously with good cause). On Monday, when I spoke to more people actually involved, everyone on the producer's side was like "we're so getting it done tonight." That's why you had a story in Tuesday's New York Post being like "Mamma mia! - the shows may go on tomorrow." That was sourced primarily by producers, I'm 99% sure. Now, for me, Monday, I heard from producers that they were close but then I also spoke to union guys who were like "umm, no way." I'm sure that is why The Times stories were all more cautious. Of course, you always get different stories depending on who you speak to. That's obvious. But this was one time when actual written reports were so flat-out different. If you read the writers strike reports, it's not as like that (in my opinion, at least).

So this brings to an end our weeks of tumult. (Well, assuming union approval in 10 days.) Let us all chill out. And so I am cutting this short to catch up on TV. I figure it doesn't matter because not so many people are going to read this blog on the day after the strike because they are going to have so many fact-based strike stories to read. As it should be. Feel free to email me at with questions or if you have anything you want me to touch on Sunday.

Anyway, I'll leave you with a moment from my night. At The Grinch the ENTIRE middle F orchestra row was empty. So my friend Mikey says to me: "Is it an emergency row in case Angelina Jolie decide she wants to bring the children?"

Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 16: Enough Already

Poor Playbill. Really. Lets all take a minute to mourn the career of the person who put that "strike over" story up today.

Over it?

OK! Well... what do I have to say? Really nothing--this will be lame. I heard very little from the room today. Then again, instead of paying attention all day, I went to Cymbeline. Seriously. I gave up on caring the one day some progress was actually made. All I've heard since I got out of LCT's pretty three-hour epic (after the initial flurry of "it's over" and then "oh, wait..." messages) was that we very well could be in for a settlement. (Though I'll believe it when I see it.) IF it happens--who won't cheer? I mean, there will be those members of both the League and Local One who don't think whatever compromise they work out is a good one, but those people will barely be heard over the cheers of others. As it should be.

And I feel lame writing this without knowing if there will be cheers. By the time, you read it, there could possibly be, so everything I'll write now may be pointless. Nevertheless, I'll write for a bit, but don't count on genius.

IF (I caps that) there is a settlement, the question then becomes: Will this strike have a long-lasting effect on Broadway? This hasn't been the best PR for our little community, of course. But I don't think it will have a long-lasting effect. For a couple of weeks, attendance will be down as compared to where it would have been had it not been for the strike. But that's about it.

On the other hand--will it have an effect on labor relations on Broadway? I think it will. I think the League has shown they can act tough, but the unions have proven they can stand firm in solidarity. I've been very critical of Jeremy Gerard's pieces in the past, but people emailed me that they liked his most recent column, "Questions for Dim Bulbs Keeping Broadway Dark," so I read it. He raises some valid questions, but I am going to answer one right now. The question went to John P. Connolly, executive director of Actors' Equity Association, and it asked: "Do you seriously think Local One will get your backs if you walk out for two weeks with no end in sight next summer when your contract expires?" I want to say, first of all, let's hope there is no strike in 2008. (Those of you who believe in a supreme being, please pray.) But, then, I want to answer, "yes." Here is why--remember back when Local 802 had their strike and there was all that talk that the show would go on with 'virtual orchestras' if Equity would cross the picket line. For hours we were sitting at Equity waiting for them to decide what to do--then came word that Local One would not cross the picket line, so Local One made the decision for Equity. If they were willing to stand behind the musicians firmly, I believe they would be willing to stand behind Equity, especially after this. But, again, I am going on the assumption that no one will need to stand behind anyone next summer (other than those randomly dancing in a conga line, that is).

You know, normally, I'd fight against anything that brought back the current revival of Grease and, yet, I'm so beaten down now I will applaud its return. That's what this strike has done to me. Alas. I just want to be able to see The Little Mermaid. Is that too much to ask? Really?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Day 12: Who Is Happy in Whoville?

I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.

John Lloyd Young played his last performance in Jersey Boys tonight.

Oh, wait...

Anyway... I can no longer count what day we are in on two hands (you of course know this if you know me and know my hands are not freakishly deformed). I'd say "things have gotten nasty" but, of course, they were nasty before this block of time, the general public is just seeing more of the nastiness now.

Let's discuss how genius a PR move this Grinch thing was for the union. They agreed to remove the picket line knowing Jujamcyn wouldn't let them in. That's so obvi. And even though I consider something odd about The Grinch actually coming back (I still believe there is something decidedly unjust about it), by lifting the strike lines the union pulled the PR momentum away from The League. And I've discussed how essential PR is a couple of posts below. Plus, the fact that Jujamcyn lost in court is a big actual hit. Note that for all the hype, I don’t think the decision has much consequence on the whole deal, but, it’s still really something.

So the grosses came out for last week and the Broadway shows that are open weren't all sold out. Partially I think that is because very few people know that any of Broadway is open--the headlines all read "Broadway dark" not "All but some shows dark." I sort of wish people involved with currently running shows would make their own signs and march, or at least stand. Like someone in Xanadu could stand near 45th and 8th (in the image in my head it's Xanadu press agent Pete Sanders, but feel free to invision Douglas Carter Beane or anyone else there) with a sign with a big red arrow that says: "Some shows are open! Xanadu is Thataway!" But, also, it's a result of what is currently running. Notice Mary Poppins is basically selling out. That's because it's family friendly. I made the point about Mr. Alabama, saying that it was almost impossible for him to make alternate plans at this stage for his family. The reason is--no good tickets are available for the family-friendly shows. Is a family going to see The Ritz? A non-family friendly show will obviously see a lower leep than a family-friendly show would in like circumstances.

What grounds the Nederlanders are suing on, I'm not quite sure. I know what they are saying, but, well, legally, I don't think that argument holds much water. My favorite part of it is the picket sign part. Did everyone hear/read this? Part of the Nederlander "proof" is that the picket signs say that the union is protesting against the League and the Nederlanders are saying: "But our agreement isn't The League agreement! So that shows we shouldn't be involved!" OK, well, they do have a different agreement. But, umm, they are members of the League (and of course their contract with Local One is expired also). So I'm not sure what the sign evidence is really getting them, but I can see complaining that the signs should be more colorful.

Anyway, the producers had this big hope, left over from last week, that Equity would really be the ones putting pressure on Local One. Equity hasn't been obliging. However the Equity execs know that some of the rank-and-file is getting a little edgy, so they've made an effort to really clarify the points of the strike. In particular, members now have available to them a Myths v. Facts sheet, which I love. The thing I love about this document is that the first page directly counters League points, but by the second page it goes a little beyond its purpose (and randomly brings in some Young Frankenstein-related color). For instance, page one talks about the mopping payments, the flyman requirement, the alleged real truth about Local One salaries, etc. But then check out two examples from page two:

MYTH: The League came to the Stagehands with honor, respect, and good faith, and the greedy Stagehands have walked out on them.
FACT: The employers continually attack the Stagehands in the media. They don't treat the Stagehands with honor and respect. Instead of continuing negotiations in October, the League walked out and unilaterally imposed non-negotiated work rules. That's usually seen as a declaration of war on a Union. The stagehands went to work under these rules and kept pressing to re-open negotiations which began again on November 7th. See Next Fact.

MYTH: The Stagehands walked away from the table.
FACT: Local One stayed to negotiate until 2 a.m. in the morning on Thursday, November 8, only to be told that the League was "too tired" to start at 9:30 in the morning. Thursday night, the League negotiators felt that preparing for the opening night party of "Young Frankenstein" was a bigger priority than negotiating. The League also reneged on compromises that had already been agreed upon, undermining the entire negotiating process. The producers knew that their final offer would result in a strike.

I mean—isn’t this stuff more worthy of a strong statement letter than a Myths v. Facts sheet. I’m just saying… I’m also just saying that I spoke to a big contract lawyer today and he agreed with my reading of the Equity Production contract. So that clearly will be legal battle #52 to result from this thing.

Meanwhile, on this Thanksgiving, I wish I was thankful for the progress that has been made in this battle, but, sadly, there has been none. I’m also not sure how the talks will resume with a Nederlander person at the table. Like: “Hey, I’m suing you for $35 million, but please let’s talk like civilized people.” Also—does anyone know how they got their damages figure? Because I think $30 million is a better number. It’s all about the evens man.

Well, instead of going to see theater this weekend, I’m going to see Enchanted. I need my musical fix! I wish all of you a happy Dead Turkey Day. I hope you all celebrate it with a vegetarian feast.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Day 9: What will become of us?

On Friday, I was not as optimistic as some of my counterparts. They thought Disney magic would make it all go away this weekend. I hoped with all my heart they were right. Sitting in the Westin Hotel today before talks broke down, I sensed dread, yet I still hoped that some progress was going to be made. When I heard talks broke down I just thought: "So now what?"

Really. That's my question. The League announced that shows would be cancelled until Sunday, November 25, meaning Broadway theaters will surely be dark through Thanksgiving, one of the most profitable times for the industry. Prior to the announcement, while I didn't honestly think we'd be seeing a re-opening by Thanksgiving, I held out a tiny little hope that somehow the mayor would bang his way in and do something. That hope is now gone.

The pertinent part of the statement read as follows: "Out of respect for our public and our loyal theatergoers, many of whom are traveling from around the world, we regret that we must cancel performances through Sunday November 25." I have a little issue with this statement. Lets start with the first part--do we really believe anything about this whole mess has to do with "respect?" I think not, but, moving on...

Supposedly the announcement was made so that tourists could make alternate plans, but that doesn't make sense to me. I don't really have a better justification; I just think it's crap. If, lets say, Mr. Alabama is flying to NYC with his family and part of their plan is to go see Wicked on November 23--if Alabama cancels now and decides to stay home, he is going to be charged extreme airline fees, so that isn't very practical. So, Alabama is coming anyway--what kinds of alternate Friday night plans is he making? He is going to make a later restaurant reservation based on this info? Now, of course, some notice to Alabama is better than no notice. But is giving him this notice really worth 100% guaranteeing that no progress will be made in the next few days?

Also, "we regret we must" is very misleading. They didn't have to cancel performances through Sunday. They could have waited to see if something happened in the next couple of days, they chose not to do so. At least own up to it as a choice.

My question remains--why make this choice? I don't know the answer. Did they do it so Thanksgiving weekend could no longer be held over their heads? Was it to get a leg up in the public perception war? (I can see the coverage now: "Stagehands force League's hand and ruin Thanksgiving.") I mean I can see it being like a "we'll show you"-type thing... But isn't that where my grandmother would use the "cut off your nose to spite your face" expression? I just don't get it.

Plus, I think, and this is pure speculation, this might cause an odd salary wrinkle. The producers don’t think they have to pay the actors because of this clause in the League contract: “If the company cannot perform because of fire, accident, strike, riot, Act of God, or the public enemy, which could not be reasonably anticipated or prevented, then the Actor shall not be entitled to any salary for the time during which Actor's services shall not for such reason or reasons be rendered…” Look at the “could not be reasonably anticipated or prevented” worded. Well, last week, the producers probably couldn’t have “reasonably anticipated or prevented” the strike in the legal sense. But, given this announcement from the League, what about the coming week? Just something to think about.

Anyway, my source from the negotiations this morning told me he was "bored" in the room. I assume that is because both sides feel like they're hitting their heads against a wall. From both sides I heard tonight: "We made concessions, we had a good plan, and they won't meet us." Well, that seems like the same thing I've been hearing for weeks. So no wonder it's boring. The Disney guy apparently didn't hurt negotiations, but both sides said he wasn't as helpful as they'd hoped (which is obvious at this point). So now what?

I wish I felt like anyone was dealing at a rational level at this point. All the union guys I speak to feel like the producers are treating them like they are stupid. The League thinks they are being bullied. As I believe I've previously said on this blog, I believe the producers' tough-talking rhetoric from the beginning was a mistake. This is not a union you want to piss off--this is not a union (like some of the others we have in this industry) that you can bully. On the contrary, I think this might have been a time that the producers could have attracted more flies with honey. (Though I have no idea why you'd want to attract flies, but, still.) Apparently in the room this weekend the producers again claimed the Broadway failure rate was attributable to the union. On the other side of the table, a union guy said to me today: “Well, you have to understand, these people are rich.” So? That doesn’t matter. What does that have to do with anything really? I just don't see how those kinds of things are helping anyone. It just makes both sides dig in. So we have a bitter stalemate. It’s a situation where, in a way, an average observer sort of can’t be pro either side, you have to be anti both. The issues are so confusing I can barely follow them and both sides seem sort of ridiculous. That’s bad for us. And until the posturing stops, we’re not going to have a solution. And we need one. Soon.

Speaking of soon, it's in The Times that The Grinch producer is saying that his show will be up and running again on Tuesday because of some special arrangement The Grinch has with Local One (needed due to its souped-up schedule). This makes no kind of sense to me. I understand the sort of "We're already paying them more, so, our deal isn't the one they are striking over" aspect of it and, yet, still, overall, it doesn't make sense to me.

First of all—why didn’t he bring this special deal up to begin with? Isn't that something he would have realized? Secondly, my understanding has been, and clearly I’ve been wrong before, that the strike was sort of venue-related. So, for example, Disney is not a member of the League, but its shows in Nederlander houses are currently dark. If The Grinch in its Jujamcyn house comes back on—-why not The Lion King or The Little Mermaid at their Nederlander houses? After all, Nederlander was technically just observing in this negotiation, so shows in its houses should be more likely to get a break. Is it that when Disney went into those theaters they assumed the terms of the standard League deal but Grinch couldn't because of their schedule? And, if that is the case, what happens if Disney says "We'll give you extra money if you just reopen Mermaid"? Would that be cool? It just makes no sense to me that we’d see The Grinch on Tuesday. We might, but it would just be odd. If the union is coming back for them in their Jujamcyn house—-where does it end? This is another thing I just don’t get. I can’t even talk about this stuff anymore it’s all so ridiculous and confusing.

Last night, a Yale graduate student died striking down a set. My understanding is that the Yale practice is to have people do all-night strikes. So they were taking down the set from the Rep production of Trouble in Mind and something hit this student. It's so unbelievably sad. The person who told me about the incident said that he hoped it would draw attention to the odd and unsafe practices at Yale Rep. Except, instead, we’re all talking about The Grinch.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 5: Oh Mi God You Guys, It's Still Going On

You know, I didn't want to officially cover the whole strike because, well, after getting home from sitting shiva, I just wasn’t in the mood. (Not to mention the fact that I missed 3 deadlines.) So I helped out a paper on Saturday by doing some reporting from the lines and then I thought I’d put it behind me. But I get 20 phone calls a day about it, so I feel pretty much like I’m officially working on it. And, in that spirit, I’ll of course talk about it. Because what else is there anyway?!?!

I hope everyone read this as a basic primer unless, well, you yourself or in the negotiations or are getting reports straight from them:

Now… Does everyone remember that, after the Local 802 strike, it seemed like the producers won? I kept telling people “no… not really…” Because, let’s think back, the whole time during that negotiations, the producers kept saying “We will not accept musician minimums in any way.” Yet, we still have them. They are lower than they used to be, but they are there.

We had a situation where a bunch of producers were saying “Well, we’ve agreed to these things for years, but we never should have. They don’t exist in the West End, and now we don’t want them to exist here. We need to change this industry!” They failed to do that. There is an argument that Rome wasn’t built in a day (a cliché argument, but an argument nonetheless) and the concessions the producers won then began a dissolution of the system, but, basically, in a very significant way, it didn’t work out the way the producers wanted. (There are those that say the producers knew all along they’d never get eliminate the system, they wanted just what they got, but, let me tell you, I worked on it 24 hours a day and I think that is crap.) Yet somehow the public thought the producers won. Everyone I spoke to thought that. Why? Is there some kind of thing that we assume if a striking party makes any concession they lost? Was the world anti-union at the time (and, if so, are they now)? It never quite made sense to me. I think a lot of it has to do with media spin. It was all “Musicians agree to reductions, go back to work.” Now, that’s a valid characterization of events, but it sort of leads consumers to the wrong mental conclusion about the underlying battle.

Fast forward to 2007. We have a sort of similar situation in a lot of ways now. There are a bunch of producers and theater owners saying: “We’ve been doing this for too long. I remember why we did some stuff to begin with, but not others. And, anyway, it’s all not valid now. It doesn’t exist anywhere else. We need to change this industry!” Now, those of you who know the theater, know that it doesn’t exactly embrace change on any level. So there are those, outside the producers’ room, who are supporting Local One because, well, they support tradition. But, I’m not going to go into such things in depth. (I will say there is a certain “The producers made their bed”-type argument. For the union to agree to a lot of these things in 2007, after the producers have been going along with the previous system forever, it would be costing stagehands jobs. That sucks for Local One membership and it also sucks because then Local One leadership has to go to IATSE and say “Hey, we agreed to cost our members all of these jobs.” This is where the union’s whole “We need an exchange of equal value” drama comes in. But, this is all to in depth for this blog post.)

Anyway, getting back on track. Just like we had after the musicians strike, we have a little problem with semi-misleading coverage. This is playing to the public like an anti-minimum fight, just like the musicians strike was. I believe this is because all the talk about featherbedding makes it seem like “We have to hire all of these people we don’t need.” This is especially enhanced by the whole “We need to pay a flyman $160,000 a year even if there is no fly work in the show” sexy producers tidbit. So normal people think the issue is that producers want to eliminate existing minimums. In fact, this isn’t a fight about existing minimums because there aren’t technically stagehands minimums, beyond the hiring of one flyman (and maybe some other random assorted things like that). Read Campbell Robertson’s Times story linked to above and you’ll get a better idea of the actual battle points, but know that the general public, those that won’t read and really analyze Robertson’s story, is hearing something else. They’re hearing minimums and payment for mopping. And it’s going to be interesting to see how public perception plays out post-strike based on what the public is thinking now.

Why does this all matter? Why do the unions care who the public thinks won after a strike is done? There are a bunch of reasons, but I’ll give you just one. It’s true, no one is going to remember the exact settlement (or even what they thought it was) of this Local One settlement by the time the next Local One negotiation rolls around. But they will remember this spring when Equity starts talking to the League. And, even though theater is so insular in a lot of ways, a union is still helped a lot by public support. When a union negotiation is made so public, it in many ways lays the groundwork for another union’s negotiations. So if the public is really, really only pro-producers and thinks the producers made Local One cry, the producers have a little more leverage going into the Equity negotiations. If, on the other hand, the public thinks producers are rich evildoers and just keep trying to beat down working people, the producers know that Equity has the sympathetic momentum going into the fight. In the latter case, the producers are also going to fear that people eventually won’t want to support them.

Oh my god, this is so long I’m not even going to be able to get through it myself. Sorry about that. Stopping soon. I just want to say a couple of major last things: 1) I’m so happy that they’re at least going back to the table. 2) If it isn’t going well that first day, if I were running the stagehands and I wanted to swing public support a little, I’d give in on some of the sexy points and then hold a press conference. Of course, Local One is on muzzle mode and so this probably won’t happen. But, honestly, this negotiation is so not about flymen and mopping, that I might say, if I were a stagehand person: “Well, we eliminated the mopping charge and the flyman requirement and still the greedy producers want MORE, MORE, MORE.” This would also be something to show Bloomberg they are trying, incase somehow city leadership does become involved. Again, I don’t think that will happen, but that’s the Full Force musing on what I’d do if I were James Claffey. (Though hopefully we’ll amazingly have a settlement quickly and then if I were James Claffey I’d play “We Got The Beat” and dance.)

It’s 3am, I've lost track of whether this makes sense and I must go to sleep now. Know that I had an extra 30 minutes on my way to Young Frankenstein tonight and I decided to make my mother (who was with me) walk around so I could see what was up on the lines. There were a lot less people than there were Saturday, which I suppose is to be expected. But know that the cheeriest stagehands seemed to be outside Grease. I share incase you are in the mood to chat with one.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day 2: The Terror Continues

Well, huh. I don't want to talk about the specific points on either side, but I of course will talk about some strike-related things. This is a difficult situation, with a decidedly different feel than the musicians strike had a few years back. You know, the thing about the Local 802 strike was that it didn't seem quite as bitter beforehand. Also, it didn't seem like it would last that long. So though picket lines are never fun, the musicians were seemingly more laid back, chatting with people who passed and talking to the press. From what I saw yesterday and today (and my experience is by no means comprehensive), Local One has closed ranks, giving the general public very terse responses ("read our statement" is a big one) and making it a policy not to talk to the press. And consequently there was a more ominous feel on the streets today than there was some years ago.

I want to share one from yesterday. Patrick Paige was one of the actors nicely singing to people outside the theater. I mean I honestly thought that was genuinely kind (some other actors did likewise at other theaters). Yet someone, with two children in toe, passed him and called out "You really are The Grinch!" Now, you could take that two ways, but, as she had unhappy children with her, I don't think she meant it to be complimentary.

The difference today as opposed to yesterday was that there were many more actors on the picket lines. Apparently there was some miscommunication yesterday as to whether they were supposed to full out picket, so some did and many didn't. A bunch yesterday were just standing around. Today, with the clarification that they were encouraged to picket, they snapped into the march. But, alas, there was also a harsher feel out there today, maybe owing to the tough-talking producer's press conference of yesterday or the primarily pro-producers media bent. (If you didn't know anything about the situation and simply saw tons of kids crying on the street--wouldn't you want those losing strikers to suck it up and go back to work?) Claffey is of course not bending and that toughness is seeping down.

I thought the unions came off well in their press conference today, but the producers had more catchy sound bites from their press conference. They said sexy random things like "we're paying them extra to mop!" Those are hard things to counter-act public perception wise. People don't usually feel bad for producers, but then you hear them saying the average Local One member gets paid like $150,000 and, though your heart may not bleed for the producers, you also, if you believe this figure is accurate, sort of think to yourself "why should they get more?" So, there you go on that media-related front.

I feel one thing that hasn't gotten enough attention is this refund policy. The big line is to go to an open show if your show was cancelled, but there is a problem with that. Because the only way to get an instant refund is if you paid by cash or check at a box office and happen to find that box office open, it leaves a lot of people with tied up funds. So if you have a credit card with a low maximum and you charged your tickets online, to the sum of over $600 for a family of five, you don't get credit for days. Then maybe you cannot afford to go to a new show now. I think this whole "Well, you can get tickets to these lovely open shows..." mentality is a little faulty at times.

So I had tickets to Duran Duran last night, tickets I had to call in some favors to get. As most of you know, Duran Duran was scheduled to end their Broadway engagement this Tuesday. They have moved all their remaining shows now to Roseland, which, well, is certainly not the Barrymore. And while they are honoring tickets for last night at Monday and Tuesdays Roseland shows, it's not going to be the same. So I know the feeling a little bit--though certainly not to the same degree--of the family who is in town for two days and has tickets to see The Little Mermaid and cannot see it. (Let me say again how excited I am to see The Little Mermaid--I have a Little Mermaid calender and everything--and I'm not joking--so I do completely understand the tears a family shed over missing Mermaid, while I did not cry for Duran Duran.)

But this raises an issue beyond my lost Saturday night plans--what about Duran Duran's equipment?!?! Is it stuck in the Barrymore? Even if non-Local One people could get into the theater, it seems to me they can't move the equipment, as that is a Local One job. Now I guess they have backup equipment, but the stuff they were using at the Barrymore must be the cream of the crop. Did they remove it Friday knowing of the strike? It seems hard to believe... I mean, it's one thing to take your personal belongings outside a theater, it's another thing to convince stagehands the night before a strike they want to move equipment out... I don't know the answer to this, but I raise it as a curious point.

Also curiously, I got yelled at today on the street by someone who didn't like something I wrote on this blog. Ummm... People need to stop taking things so seriously. Let me issue a general disclaimer, this blog represents my musings. It's generally written after midnight, which means it is especially free-flowing. On the blog, I say what I am thinking at the moment, but it's not intended to be a declaration of fact. That doesn't mean I don't stand behind it all, I do. It just means I don't think anyone out there should be taking it that seriously. (You know, this is why for like my first year in this industry I didn't like to meet people. My theory was, if no one knew what I looked liked, there would be no public animosity... and I could spy better. I think Michael Borowski was the only one to meet me for like a-year-and-a-half. That was okay because he knew I loved him and thus he would never snap at me.)

Ugh--this strike ruined my planned post about how I think Rock 'n Roll is being given such a brilliantly staged production. (Now that I know people are taking this blog so seriously, it might have been nice to one of my favorite press agents had I been able to write that, but, alas.) I will just end with two more things. First, I rarely promote things written or created by people I know. But, I can, and so I will this time. For those of you who are Fire Island Pines people, I want to promote this documentary, When Ocean Meets Sky, available on It is an interesting documentary on the history of the Pines and it features a bunch of theater people, including Mart Crowley, Jerry Herman, Larry Kramer and Sara Ramirez.

Secondly, I want to send my heartfelt sympathy to anyone adversely affected by this strike and to the people who are covering it. Strikes are sometimes necessary, but they always suck.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


So I’m back. I’m behind on work, theater and television, but, I’m back. I want to thank everyone for their well wishes while I was gone. And now I sense the need to discuss some things that happened during this time.

A League survey came out that said approximately 65% of Broadway tickets sold were sold to tourists. I have no basis with which to contest that factually, but I do want to point something out about this figure that makes me not 100% believe it. This figure (and others contained in the survey) was based on “extensive survey data gleaned from audience questionnaires distributed…” That means people had to fill out questionnaires left on their seats (or whatever). Isn’t it more likely that tourists will do that? I took an informal survey of 20 non-theater industry New Yorkers today and only 2 said they’d fill out a questionnaire put on their seat and hand it in. I didn’t also ask tourists (damn non-scientific study), but I think the number would be somewhat higher if I went to midtown and asked tourists going into The Grinch. Again, I could be wrong… just something to think about.

Meanwhile, I’m very excited about a Take That musical coming to the West End. I believe now is the time for that ‘N Sync musical I’m sure people have been working on. On a non-boy band front, does anyone know what happened to Colour My World, the Chicago musical? I keep thinking about it. I have no idea why.

Also, today Riedel wrote Jessica Alba for a Broadway Speed-the-Plow, whereas I had written London. Broadway makes less sense to me—-another Speed-the-Plow?!?--but I’m all for the random and unexpected. Its possible talk of one grew out of the other, but, whatever the case, I’d be happy to have Jessica Alba on Broadway. I am, as I just said, all for the random.

And, yeah, this union/League crap. As most of you probably know, everyone has been told to keep taking their stuff home until further notice. Negotiations today did not go well, but, well, that’s nothing new.

On a final note--adios Spelling Bee. I’ll miss your cute TV commercials, if nothing else.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cara Joy

Due to a death in the family, Cara Joy will not be posting today or Sunday. She will return next Wednesday.