Monday, October 29, 2007

It's raining men

Am I the only one who is impressed over the amount of press Rock 'n Roll is getting? I mean, I never thought it... And I don't understand it really... but there you go! Huge national breaks for it! Huge! I just hope I understand the show. I've received a primer so I have faith.

I was going to write about how glad I am that Roger Rees is gone from Williamstown (has anyone previously buried a theater company that quickly?), but instead I feel compelled to respond to the Variety article about female playwrights. I’m all for the rise of the woman—I am like the proudest Wellesley alum ever—but I feel this story is a little odd. It is title is “Women scribes boost play cache” and its subtitle is “Writers seeing gain this season,” these things said to me that this story was going to be all about how many women are having off-Broadway plays produced this year. That’s a valid trend story. But a major thrust of the story is actually that women are not well represented in terms of new plays on Broadway, but neither is anyone who is not white and male. Why are we having this discussion about women and not about everyone non-white? Because women are actually not a minority so it is all the more striking? I just don’t get it. I can’t even address this point anymore because I so don’t understand it.

Let’s imagine however that this story were a valid trend story just dealing with off-Broadway. The story quotes Playwrights’ Tim Sanford as saying he does think having a woman playwright on his season schedule is important. Playwrights is doing four shows with female scribes this year. Now, I read the script for Sarah Treem's A Feminine Ending before Playwrights decided 100% that they would do it and I thought “this show will never get produced anywhere—it is so bad.” Then Playwrights announced it for their season. I hope it wasn’t because the writer was a woman. I’d like to think that the Playwrights people just have bad taste and thus would have produced it if it were written by Samuel Treem. I hope that. That would make me happier. Because producing crappy work by women does nothing to further the cause of women.

That said, I'm all for the advancement of women. So I cheer any good new play on Broadway, but I indeed may secretly cheer a little louder if the good new play was written by a woman. I feel like Lynn Nottage is the big hope in this area. I look forward to seeing a play by her at the Biltmore.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

No Dark Angel Fans Out There?

I thought the blind item from Sunday was the easiest blind item ever written, but apparently I was wrong. That makes me think a lot of you need to watch more bad movies. Bad movies are very important. Really.

Speaking of bad stuff, I think we all need a minute of mourning for Viva Laughlin. I watched the first episode with my friend, super manager Jeremy Katz and he couldn’t really get through it, but I was sort of transfixed. I mean—come on. Who thought this would work? Starting with that horrible lead guy, it was all so misguided. But, of course, I am drawn to ridiculous musical numbers. I believe the experience of watching it was similar to the experience of watching In My Life. Speaking of In My Life, Joe Brooks is doing a new New York reading of his other musical, Metropolis. This one opened in the West End in 1989 and has played regionally. Brooks gave a bunch of interviews in 2002 saying it was Broadway-bound, but, well, we got In My Life instead. But fans of Metropolis have no fear—he is apparently still trying to get it here.

I was supposed to be covering the possible strike for an outlet and last week, when my first story was about to run, they showed it to me and I told them that I wouldn’t put my name to it. Because, practice what you preach. How many times have I complained about biased reporting on this blog? I complain about it because I think it sucks. I don’t want to put my name to a story that sucks. Plus, I want to be able to call out stories that suck and not feel like a hypocrite. Like I am going to do right now.

So you don’t think I just pick on Bloomberg, I have to call out the recent “League Begins Implementing Terms of Rejected Stagehands Contract” on It DIRECTLY comes from documents sent out by the League. Thus, while it could be argued that what is presented are “facts,” they are certainly spun facts. Now, I’m not saying they can’t be used, but they need to be credited to the League. And here they aren’t so they seem like un-spun (if that was a word) facts. That’s why I think this story sucks.

People, I’ve said it here many, many times: believe nothing. Maybe you don’t even believe that, but, well, I can’t get into a philosophical circular reasoning argument.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Your flavor's hot!

So, as you may have noticed from my posts earlier this week, I've fallen totally behind on all things strike-related. Thus this post will not be about that.

What shall I speak about? Let's talk about revivals. Recently I've heard around town that a certain Invisible Woman, let's call her, I don't know, Honey, is in talks to do Speed-the-Plow in the UK. I hear it might actually happen, which is more than I can say for Mr. Spacey's other attempts to get Hollywood stars out to appear with him. Remember all of those Philadelphia Story rumors? Who was actually reported as fact? Calista Flockhart? I certainly think Honey would be more of a get than Flockhart would have been. (Of course, Flockhart is a stage actress and Honey isn't, but, we all know I'm in favor of random celebrities taking to the stage.)

Anyway, this is a big year for Speed-the-Plow. I mean, it's a big year for any play that has Alicia Silverstone in a production of it anywhere. And I gotta ask--why? Is this a play we've all been thinking we need to see again? I mean, I feel like "been there, done that, moved on." Though, if you've all been waiting for it, congratulations. But there was just a big production of it in London in 2000. I don't know...

Godspell has got me thinking about this. I feel like, I just saw Godspell. I saw it off-Broadway. I saw a concert of it. I saw it at Paper Mill. Wait, so, I did just see it. Well, maybe not just, but.... And the thing about that Paper Mill production was that it was cleverly staged but it no way made me think "Broadway." Actually, the clever staging made it more comical and lively, but, um, it also made it seem more minor. It seemed small. So, yeah, sure, Adam Epstein is giving all of these quotes about how he was shocked to know it hasn't been on Broadway in a long time, but--who cares that it hasn't been on Broadway in a long time?!?! There are tons of people out there that love Godspell and I'm sure they'll enjoy this production... But have you all been sitting out there thinking "I need Godspell at a Shubert theater NOW!"? Honestly, tell me if you have, because I'm really curious. And, for those of you who are excited about it, do you think it will succeed without a star?

You know, there are things that don't seem great on paper but end up being huge hits. Maybe this is one of those. They are billing it as "From the composer of Wicked" because we all know people go see shows based on the composer. That happens so often. So, yeah, that's the way. But let's forget about that for now...

This doesn't look good on paper to me. I just don't see it working in a Broadway house for an extended run. If it gets great reviews, then they'll be good, but, for that to happen, I think they are going to need a very tiny house. And can you run a musical for profit in a very tiny house? These are the things that have to be assessed. With Xanadu's great Times review and low, low running cost, they still probably won't recoup. Unless Godspell somehow becomes a Rent for young Christians (which is a possibility), I don't see it happening.

Again, there are things that just happen magically on that stage. Stay tuned for that.

Meanwhile, yes, today was the union strike vote. Authorized. Duh. Supposedly no strike until December though. Yay? I know I said this post wasn't about that and it wasn't, but, if you are too bored to read more Times coverage (I only recommend Times coverage on this subject), there you go for the big update.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I've come undone...

It's a never-before/never-again emergency blog post. I was wrong about the Nederlanders (as my new 12 messages tell me). They apparently will be exercising their power to not join the League in imposing the new contract on the union. This is a blow to the League the implications are tricky to assess. I have something due so I don't have time to go into it, but, the two arguments are: 1) This is a BIG hit to the League in terms of public perception and it could also affect theaters on the fence (I'll discuss what I mean by that in just a second) and 2) It has little practical implication in terms of what will be going on next week and will only effect things if there is a strike. More on this on Sunday. (Not only do I have something due, but I've turned off my phone so I actually knowing NOTHING. I like it too.)

Now, you'll note in the releases today that they sort of made it sound like "Well, Nederlanders are with the League but they CANNOT use this strategy." Ummm... I don't think that is true. Even though they have their own contract, my understanding (and indeed every one's understanding) was that they could do just about anything in solidarity. And they are clearly choosing not to do anything in solidarity, other than allow some odd statement to be released using their name.

Meanwhile, the answer about the Helen Hayes is that each of the individual theaters can still choose what to do. So, as of yesterday, the unions thought the Hayes may go along with the League. But I'd say that's unlikely now. But that's just me.
This is what I mean by no one ever really knowing what is going to happen in these types of things... Everything can change in an instant.

If you want to destroy my sweater...

I previously thought this week was going to be quiet in terms of negotiation talk. But, in what surely is a sign that if there is some controlling being s/he hates theater journalists, it hasn't worked out that way. I went out last night, I turned off my phone and I turned it back on and had a dozen messages. Now, while my personality is very winning (a fact I continually tell press agents), I usually don't receive twelve calls in 2 hours and 40 minutes. But, apparently I do when the mayor gets dissed by a major broadway union and the League makes a big threat. That combination does it. Hopefully it won't occur too many times again.

So, meanwhile, I had wanted to talk about why i think Steven Pasquale will be a good Cable or the campy Orfeh-replacement rumors (I would be SO HAPPY if Kathy Griffin, Clay Aiken and Chaka Khan were all on Broadway at the same time--especially if Bruce Glikas could capture them all in a 'family portrait') or why I believe this Godspell revival is a bad idea, but I guess that will all have to wait because, considering I have 42 emails about the latest developments, that is clearly what people want to know about.

Some quick hits based on today's emails:

Yes, the Nederlander theaters do operate under a different contract and the Nederlander Organization isn't technically supposed to be negotiating. However, they will abide by all things happening and Nederlander theaters will be effected by a strike. My understanding, and I am by no means swearing this is true, the only theaters not effected by whatever happens will be the non-profits (Biltmore, AA, Studio 54, Beaumont) and individually-owned houses, the New Amsterdman and the Hilton. The Circle in the Square and Helen Hayes haven't really been mentioned much in this shuffle and both have shows currently running. I actually hadn't thought about it until recently (sorry--I have a lot of other things on my mind) and I don't feel like calling people now, so, I'll get back to you on this point on Sunday if it still remains unanswered. I will say I know the info the actors originally heard did not list either of them in the "show will go on" department, but they are indeed both independently owned... Campbell Robertson in The Times listed the Circle in the Square as one of the theaters that would not be effected. That makes sense to me, except then I don't know then why the Hayes would be effected... So, yeah, I'm no help here. (If I were to have picked only one of them to be strike-free it would have been the Hayes, as the Circle in the Square is under the co-direction of Jujamcyn President Paul Libin, so has a stake at the table, but, clearly that theory would not have served me well.)

Yes, I do hate the Bloomberg theater coverage. I've complained previously about their big news stories and now comes this irresponsible coverage... Apparently Jeremy Gerard's stories are editorials because they are in the "muse" section, but they are written like news and presented like news. It's really, really shady, especially considering Gerard is a reporter and is writing for an outlet that is reporting on this situation. If they put "EDITORIAL" in big letters up top or he kept saying "In my opinion" but neither of these things are present in the articles in questions, so, basically, they read like news and they are not. Making this situation worse (though through no fault of Bloomberg) is that, in our little world where there are less than 10 media outlets covering this "huge" issue on a consistent basis, people are believing the things presented and its firing some up.

No, we are not on a daily strike watch. Despite the huge rhetoric, this is going to drag out for a little while longer. Shows will go on this weekend unless some union member does something horrible (I won't give anyone ideas) and the League suddenly decides to have a lockout in retaliation. But, as that is highly unlikely, I believe we're safe. Now a bunch of you have asked about the 10-day gap supposedly required after the strike vote and before the strike. I'm sure all of these emails were from people concerned LADIES NIGHT OUT ON BROADWAY would not go on as scheduled next Wednesday. That gap is supposedly 100% required, but I'm hearing about it less and less for whatever that means. So, I don't know...

Yes, I do think the union will try to avoid the mayor as much as possible and will succeed in standing tough way better than Local 802 did. I've previously explained why I think this is so... I hate to repeat myself. Well, that's not true, but, still...

Yes, I did hear that the mayor told Claffey that the partial implementation would take place on the 17th. I have no easy reasoning to explain that.

No, partial implementation does not mean salary increases will be going into effect next week. These implementations are purely pro-League.

That's it. I am indeed too bored to go on. To the rest of you who emailed me, I'll try to get back to you individually tomorrow. Until then, the balcony is closed.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What do we know now?

So last night, I went to see The Ritz then went briefly to my friend Bret's birthday at The Ritz and then returned home and got yelled at by a producer. Sounds like a fun night, right? You may ask: "Why would anyone want to yell at Cara?!" I mean, I'm very nice. But, alas, some people are blind to my charms. This particular producer took issue with the "no-win" stance I presented in my last post. He kept saying this new "force a strike" strategy would be the way the producers would win.

So, yeah, let's talk about that. Thursday this was the big brainstorm that went sweeping around town. I didn't pay much attention to it because it seems to me like it will take a lot of guts to implement and, well, I just wasn't sold it would happen. BUT, I will say from the producer's standpoint it is a wise strategy, smarter than a lockout would be at this point. Once we're talking about a strike, we're talking about a completely different thing. The headlines will be "Stagehands Walk Out! Stop Broadway!" It also gets rid of the thorny legal issue related to paying the other unions. If there was a lockout, the other unions would show up, expecting to be paid. The League wouldn't pay them, thus setting up a legal battle. This way, the other unions probably won't cross the picket line, thus meaning they are striking too... (Equity has authorized funds to go to its actors in any work stoppage eventuality.) Along with the pros, there are of course obvious cons to this producers' strategy, but there are major cons to every strategy either side could come up with at this point.

You know, as I said previously, it is hard to know what the truth is in these situations. Everyday you hear something new and very few people know the real deal. The best sources can let you down--not because they are protecting their side, but because they think they know the truth and they don't. Right now, it's 100% certain that, if there is not a lockout, the union strike vote has been scheduled for next Sunday. That's about all we got that I believe. This whole Local One-Iatse split would be very bad for the union, if it is true... but.... who really knows? And even if it's true now, it may not be tomorrow.

This producer, while yelling, asked me whose side I was on. And of course I responded that I'm impartial, which I am. But really, even if I wanted to pick a side (and I do not), I don't know enough to pick a side... and I know more than most! Which is why I say yet again: "Believe nothing." That sounds very like I've turned goth, but have no fear, I was wearing a pink blouse today.

Wednesday, unless there is a lockout, I will post about something not related to this issue. Even I'm bored by it. Actually, I was bored by it a long time ago. On Wednesday, I could have a whole discussion over why these things don't really close shows, even though that is what the spin is, but... I'd rather discuss why I hate CD box sets that have like two original songs and special edition DVDs that come out shortly after the original DVD; or something maybe theater related, to go along with the title of this blog.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Where are we now?

People keep saying to me: “Aren’t you excited about the lockout? You’ll finally have something exciting to write about!” UMMMM… yeah, no. Covering a lockout or a strike is not exciting, it’s tedious and tiring. I just thought I’d get that out there.

So where are we now? Well, what I hear is meeting tomorrow. From all appearances this is sort of a Last Stand at Sardi’s. If there isn’t significant progress made, lockout Friday.

What does this all mean? I was at a Local One gathering yesterday (I am very equal opportunity and totally would have gone to a League gathering, had I not been afraid of being physically removed that is) and there was a lot of strong talk. A bunch of things were said against League Executive Director Charlotte St. Martin who has put her name on a bunch of strong anti-Local One statements and many see as having no knowledge of how the theater industry works. Note, though I did not say anything yesterday, I do not believe Charlotte St. Martin has had anything to do with these negotiations—I think she’s just sticking her name on things, as the public face of the League. But, regardless… Let me say, I don’t think the union folks are in a very flexible mood. And they have the advantage at this point.

I did back down and read the Bloomberg article. I wasn’t happy I had. This wasn’t written by Boroff, but, in my opinion, it was not solid journalism. I believe it was sourced by people on only one side of the aisle. By just crediting those folks as “two people involved in the negotiations” and not “two producers” or something of the like, it made it seem like a more balanced report than I think it actually was. I don’t think there was really a big “yield” on Thursday night. I think what happened was like “OK, you can hire less people like you want, but you need to give us giant theater masks in platinum and diamonds.” Of course, that is not EXACTLY what I’ve heard, but you get the idea. There were some foreseeable advantages to portraying the union as if they were truly buckling--I don’t think any of those panned out (and I actually think the move may have backfired), but it was a respectable try.

OK, I’ve complained about that enough all day today, let’s move on to what position I see the producers being in as of now. If there is a lockout, they appear evil and lose lots of money. If they go back to the table and back down from their tough “final offer” stance they seem weak. So it’s sort of a no-win for them unless the union totally buckles. (In my ideal world, there would be some sort of "does anyone think we can spike their drinks?" discussion going on.)

You know, one thing the producers have going for them is, if Manny Azenberg went to someone on the street and said: “Hey, they make us hire 10 people even if we only need 6” a bunch of people would totally think, “That is completely unfair.” I tried to explain it to my grandparents today and my grandmother said: “Unions are inflexible. This is what makes the theater so expensive!” I’m sure if the producers went to every person and appeared charming (hopefully they’d know to only send the nice ones, there are nice ones) and explained their side, they’d get a lot of converts. Sadly though, they aren’t going to do that. Instead, normal folk will get the story from the media and that story will be that they are locking good, hard-working people out of their jobs; that they don’t want to pay the other unions who did show up to work.

I have spoken to 4 producers in the last 2 hours and they all know they are in trouble. Much more than all the public perception crap I just droned on about, they fear their shows closing if there is a lockout. Meanwhile, the union people I speak to think, “Hey, if this doesn’t work out tomorrow, whatever.” Those attitudes show something.

Again, time will tell. I always opt for the show will go on, but I honestly can’t decide what will happen. I’m confused. I don’t know much—-I know very little about what the actual points and terms are at this juncture. So I can only share with you limited observations. Like the rest of you, I look forward to reading a Times story with the details. Hopefully on my way to a Broadway show.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I'm a bad motherfucker now but I once was cool...

I wonder if anyone reading this knows what that title line is from. It's totally unrelated to theater.

Anyway... I’m back! And, while I’m not caught up on everything in the world quite yet, I couldn’t sleep well if I did not discuss the Local One/League negotiations.

So Local One and the League have agreed to another negotiation session to take place on Tuesday, October 9. That’s where we are.

I’ve heard from a bunch of people that there is a Bloomberg story saying the union is bending, but I’m not reading that story (a previous Bloomberg story completely misrepresented where information came from, so, for a couple of months I just won’t read that outlet). I’ve heard from my people on both sides of the aisle that there has been some agreement, but things are still very, very contentious. This is what we heard at this stage during both the 802 and Equity negotiations, so, you can’t really predict what will happen based on what is coming out of the room. (Remember, employment minimums, a main point in this negotiation, is what also killed the pre-strike 802 negotiations.) I could report to you all I’ve heard on detailed points—but would you care or even be able to follow it? It would be sort of pointless.

Instead, I need to discuss the difference between a lockout and a strike. The musicians had a big fat strike. That means that people coming to the theater from, let’s say, Kansas, arrived at Mamma Mia! to find that the people who play the instruments were refusing to work. Some of those Kansas folks understood, but some yelled at the musicians. Public perception-wise, the musicians were the greedy ones. (Though, of course, there is always the perception that producers are greedy… but, during that strike, it just about evened out…)

In this case, we’re talking about a lockout, which would be the producers not letting Local One members work. This move would effectively shut down the theater for a period of time and some shows would likely not survive. It’s true that the League has been shoveling away money for just this eventuality, but, that won’t save certain individual shows. But, that’s beyond what we’re talking about tonight.

So, the public this time is going to be for the union. They already see producers as fat cats (despite the fact that some have had to mortgage their houses to keep shows running). Now these fat cats are going to be seen as taking food off a stagehand’s table. That’s a big problem for them. It’s a problem not because people will immediately stop buying tickets to Wicked because of the lockout, but because the League wants to be perceived as a shiny happy organization reaching out to everyone. They want the city--and, especially, the city’s mayor and council--to see them as people trying to contribute to the city. The League does not want to be perceived as an evil organization. League members know they don’t want to piss off city brass—they will eventually need them. This is especially true now—with Equity negotiations just around the corner. League folks know they need to be strong before those start up.

So why lockout? Some League members say that exercising their lockout power will make the producers stronger; still others say what they lose power-wise is more substantial than what they gain. So we need to move past this one dimension of the issue.

Local One has been working without a contract since August 1, 2007 and the union is still making tough demands. If it were the case where, let’s say, the union was only asking for more health benefits, a lockout would be completely ineffective. In that case, it would pay for producers to keep living under the old contract until the union was fed up and decided to strike. But here we have the producers asking for something—they want to have to pay less people. So they know it doesn’t pay for Local One to strike. If they want their thing, they have to go out and get it. Many League members believe a lockout will put enough pressure on the union that they’ll buckle on key issues just to get their people back to work with a paycheck. They believe any heat will be worth it in light of the concessions they’ll gain. I personally disagree with this strategy because I think it underestimates the strength of the union they are up against. 802 is not the strongest of unions; Equity makes so many concessions on a daily basis, there is some assumption that a concession is coming even before talks start. Local One is different. IATSE is a big tough force. The union has its own money to help out its members and a lot of its members could get jobs in film and TV if a lockout were to persist. Of course a lockout would never persist because the mayor would get involved. He might not be able to get everything solved as quickly as he did last time, but, it’s not like we’d be sitting here in December only able to go to off-Broadway shows. The League is also well aware of this--they may get some of their demands by being obnoxious because once they mayor steps in, there will be some sort of compromise.

Yeah, so, if anything happens, we’re talking lockout and not strike and they are very different things. That’s basically what I wanted to say. Note, I am not expressing my views about who is right issue-wise because, well, they are too complicated to express in under 2 pages. This post is just to explain things as I see them strategy-wise.

To end, I just want to touch a little bit about what the other unions would do if there is indeed a Local One lockout. The majority of unions (maybe all) have no lockout/no strike contract clauses, so, if Local One is locked out, the likelihood is the other unions would not strike. On the contrary, they’d show up to work knowing full well they cannot work because, well, then they’d get paid. This won’t be seen as crossing a picket line because Local One is all for it. Get the producers to pay the other union folks for not working. Why not? And it won’t be like crossing a picket line because Local One members won’t object and, besides, all they’ll have out there is an “information line,” not a real strike-like picket line. Note, I have no idea what the difference in appearance is between an information line and a picket line…. But I’ve heard there is a difference. Hopefully, Campbell Robertson’s next Times piece or a Gordon Cox Variety story will clarify. I think Riedel will probably call it a picket line because that name is more colorful. Though, again, I always assume settlement. Always. So, as far as I'm concerned, we won't have to worry about any of this.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I'm not in town... AGAIN

I promise things should return to normal on Sunday. I hope, at least. Until then, please think on my new idea for a combination Squeeze/Adam Ant musical.