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.

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