Thursday, November 11, 2010

Episode 36: After Horror Show

This appeared on one of the RFT's blogs today.


By the Boards
After Horror Show, Ivory Theatre is Alive and Well
By Aimee Levitt
Thu., Nov. 11 2010

The curtain is about to rise on the Ivory Theatre's second -- or third? -- act.

​As of last Friday, November 5, the homepage for the Ivory Theatre went dark, sparking rumors of the troubled theater's demise. But those rumors are unfounded says Scott Steele, the new general manager who replaced Donna Perrino, known to some in the St. Louis theater community as "the Ivory Theatre Horror Show."

"The Ivory Theatre is alive and well!" Steele informs Daily RFT.

So what about that website?

"When Donna Perrino was removed -- or whatever the term is -- when she ceased to be part of the Ivory family, we couldn't continue to use the old website," Steele explains.

And why is that?

"I can't comment on that. But we have a new website now." The Ivory's current online home is

"We're not going to become a country/western saloon, either," Steele adds. "Some people have been saying that."

Instead the Ivory will continue to show plays. Steele says its latest show, the Unity Theatre Ensemble's production of Ntozake Shange's for colored girls, was "totally sold out," and Unity has pledged to return to the Ivory in 2011. Family Musical Theater is also staging shows there. Steele has not, however, spoken to Scott Miller of New Line Theatre, one of the chief complainers about Perrino.

But the space will also be used as a performing arts center. Steele has been in talks to bring in comedians and concerts and opera and dance and live radio shows.

Says Steele, "We've put the controversy in the past. This will be huge for the Carondelet area."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Episode 35: The Incredible Disappearing Theatre

Just a quick note today...

The Ivory Theatre website has been taken down.

Just one more sad, weird chapter in this awful story.

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Episode 34: The Public Humiliation of The Horror Show

This article was posted on the Riverfront Times website today:


Curtain Goes Down on Ivory Theatre "Horror Show"
By Aimee Levitt
published: Wed., Aug. 25 2010 @ 3:39PM

​Ever since it opened three years ago, the Ivory Theatre in Carondelet has been beset by controversy. Aggrieved theater companies have accused the Ivory, specifically its general manager Donna Perrino, of negligence and general mismanagement. Among other things, Perrino was said to have reneged on agreements to let groups use the space, ignored requests for improvements and trashed the theater. (For more, see "Stage Fright: The Ivory is turning into a horror show for some St. Louis theater companies.")

But times have changed. Perrino has left her position at the Ivory. Or, as the anonymous blogger who has been chronicling Perrino's misdeeds on the blog The Ivory Theatre Horror Show puts it, "Ding Dong the witch is dead."

Mike Allen, co-owner of Red Brick Management, which owns the Ivory, confirmed Perrino's departure.

"We were trying to find ways to broaden our range," Allen says. "Donna's focus was on musical theater. We decided to part ways."

Now Perrino has found a new home on the Goldenrod Showboat, which is currently moored on the Illinois River outside Kampsville, Illinois, about 70 miles due north of St. Louis. The century-old boat has had a long and varied history (for more, see this account by preservationist Michael Allen), but has, in recent years, lapsed into a state of decrepitude.

Steve DeBallis, who published the "historic" Globe-Democrat (the one that reprinted old G-D articles, not the current online revival), bought the boat recently and, under the aegis of his company the Historic Riverboat Preservation Association, plans to restore it to its former glory. Perrino, who is dating DeBallis, has been appointed project manager.

(Comments the Ivory Theatre Horror Show blogger: "As badly as she messed up the Ivory, imagine what she'll do to the poor Goldenrod...")

And even with the departure of Perrino, all is not well at the Ivory. Cast and crew of this summer's production of Cabaret, produced by Perrino, claim they haven't been paid. Red Brick's Allen also says that the theater didn't get paid for the rental.

Perrino herself has been telling people that her partners forced her into bankruptcy in the wake of Cabaret. (Daily RFT could find no record of a bankruptcy under her name in court records.) She did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Cindy Walker has replaced Perrino as the Ivory's general manager, but even with the change in personnel, local companies are still reluctant to stage their productions at the theater.

"It's such a terribly designed space, practically speaking, and it also got run down really fast because Perrino didn't take care of the place," alleges Scott Miller, artistic director of New Line Theatre. (Among Miller's complaints: The raised electrical outlets onstage impede choreography, the stage door was so narrow that sets had to be constructed directly on the stage and, worst of all, there was only one toilet available for the cast and crew to use during intermission.)

Allen hopes that his plan to expand the Ivory's offerings beyond musicals will improve the theater's fortunes. (So far, however, the Ivory's next two shows, Altar Boyz and The Rocky Horror Show are musicals, and the two after that, And the World Goes Round and A Country Christmas, are musical revues.)

"With outside financial support," he says optimistically, "we're even closer to breaking even."

I'll say it again...

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Episode 33: Halloween, Part 33

This was posted to the St. Louis Theater chat group today:

I guess Donna Perrino (aka Horror Show) is kinda like Michael Myers...

She posted this comment a couple days ago on a blog about the late, lamented Goldenrod Showboat. Steve DeBellis, mentioned in her post below, is a guy she's been dating. He does not own the new Globe-Democrat which was recently resurrected online, as Horror Show implies, but for seveal years he has been publishing a fake version of the old G-D which reprints past G-D articles (I never understood the point of that).

As badly as she messed up the Ivory, imagine what she'll do to the poor Goldenrod...

Here's Horror Show's post...

August 22, 2010

Hello. I am the Project Manager of the GOLDENROD SHOWBOAT RESTORATION PROJECT/2010. We have just begun the long journey into the process of determining the necessary repairs needed to get this beauty back in business.

The company that currently owns this boat is the Historic Riverboat Preservation Association. It's President is Steve DeBellis, also owner of the Globe Democrat newspaper in St. Louis, MO. We are dedicated to this effort so please give us your help and support.

A new website is on the way and many fundraisers will be held. We welcome your input and information.

Please contact me, Donna Perrino, at my email address until we develop the site:

Thank you.
Donna Perrino


Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Episode 33: Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead...?

Rumors are flying around town that Horror Show has finally been fired and put out of our misery. A couple people "on the inside" confirm this, but no one has heard anything official...

Hmmmmm.... Is it possible? Has justice finally been done?

And will New Line and the other abused companies come back now?

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Episode 32: West Side Story... I mean, Cabaret...

Family Musical Theatre is currently presenting Cabaret on the Ivory stage, but of course the Ivory website says they're producing West Side Story. It's easy to see how you could get those two mixed up -- pre-war Berlin and 1950s New York...

The only review I've seen of the show complains that the sound was really awful, some of the cast didn't know what they were doing on stage, and best of all, there were no programs!

Now rumors have circulated in the St. Louis Theatre Discussion Group chat list that the Ivory will no longer be a legit theatre after Family Musical Theatre's current contract is up at the end of the year. Apparently, it's going to be just a concert venue for country-western singers.

Because Horror Show is such a profound fuck-up. Once again, no press releases were sent out for this last show, so there were listings for it anywhere. They did buy an ad in the Post with the super clever tag line: "Come see it... You'll like it..." Man, that just HAD to sell tickets, don't you think?

It's so sad that what could have been a really nice new theatre space in St. Louis -- a town where we NEED new theatre spaces -- was so badly designed, so badly managed, and put in the hands of a woman whose elevator rarely gets to the top floor.

Cabaret might be a depressing show, but it's not half as depressing as the story of the Ivory Theatre in St. Louis.

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Episode 31: Bland Ambition

Anybody been keeping an eye on the Ivory website? A whole shitload of musicals has turned up on their calendar, but with no indication of who's producing them. If Horror Show thinks she's going to mount a season that ambitious, there's even more hilarity ahead than I thought...

The shows listed for production at the Ivory, all this year, are:
Little Shop of Horrors
The Cotton Club
West Side Story
Altar Boyz
The World Goes Round
The Rocky Horror Picture Show [sic]
(Will someone please tell her that the stage show is called The Rocky Horror Show, and the movie is called The Rocky Horror Picture Show? How many times has this show been produced locally?)

How on earth does she think big shows like West Side Story and Annie are going to fit on that tiny stage? And seriously, seven musicals (in addition to the Patsy Cline debacle and something named A Country Christmas which is also on the list)...? Even The Muny doesn't do that many musicals in one season!

And if producing her own show is as big a clusterfuck as the illegal Sweet Dreams of Patsy has been, then trying to pull off large-scale Broadway shows is going to make her head explode.

Which can only be a good thing.

But why don't we get to see the hilariously bad musicals she has written??? Remember that disastrous backer's audition she dressed up as a variety show back when the theatre had first opened, when a few dozen unsuspecting strangers were treated -- I'm sorry, I mean subjected -- to scenes from the awful musicals she's written, While You Were Sleeping: The Musical, Equus: The Musical (I wish I was kidding), The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao: The Musical, and most bizarrely, an awkward and clumsy "jazz opera" of some sort... The whole point was supposed to be that Horror show would produce her own shows at the Ivory, and then rich folks would throw fistfuls of money at her to take her shows to Broadway. She really told people that.

Stay tuned...

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Monday, February 1, 2010

Episode 30: Hackneyed, Trite, and Implausible, Oh My!

The Sweet Dreams of Patsy review from KDHX has been posted. Sounds like the cast is good. But wait till you get to the third paragraph and the part about how awful Horror Show's unauthorized script is... and how she claims credit for arrangements that aren't hers...
There has never been anyone else quite like Patsy Cline. I've never met anyone who dislikes her, nor even anyone who claims to be ignorant of or indifferent to her legacy. If it seems dissonant to think of her as a "superstar," it may be because her persona was so wholesome, so much an Everywoman. So trying to present her on the stage for a present-day audience is obviously a challenging job. Kudos, then, to Irene Jones, whose memorable work in the title role of Sweet Dreams of Patsy, currently being presented by Perrino Productions at the Ivory Theatre, more than meets our suspension of disbelief and takes by itself nearly all the credit for making an audience very happy.

I hadn't known of Ms. Jones' work as a singer before this, and that's to my regret. Of course, if her singing could actually match that of Patsy Cline herself, she'd have left town for stardom long ago. But what Ms. Jones achieves is a surprisingly valid and compelling reproduction of Patsy Cline's interpretation: by turns subtle, energetic, contemplative, powerful, and vulnerable, always full of life, and always with a sense of ownership of whatever the song was. She hasn't quite the power at the bottom of her range or the control at the top as the real Pasty Cline had. That's a trivial observation, given how easy it is to forget about it as she channels that unique style and personality with such remarkable success.

Ms. Jones is also a talented actor, at least while she's singing. It would be enough that her physical type is comparable to Patsy Cline's, but in fact, part of what she delivers in the songs is a joy in singing that somehow seems to belong to the character rather than to the actor-singer, and that is a noteworthy acting accomplishment. But she's very poorly served by trite and implausible dialogue (written by producer Donna Perrino), and at least partly as a result of that, she comes off seeming to be less.

Steve Isom has a nice turn as Arthur Godfrey, and Judith MacDonald is entertaining as Minnie Pearl. Thom Crain, as the manager, Owen Bradley, has the burden of the dialogue and narration, and I think he does as well with it as anyone could, but again, it's too hackneyed to be acted well. The six-piece band (Justin Branum on fiddle; Tim Sullivan on piano; John Jump on guitar; Rich Smith on pedal steel; Jeremy Phieffer on bass, and KDHX's own Fred Gumear on percussion) makes the music feel effortless, which means, of course, that a lot of effort probably went into it, or a lot of talent, and the musicians' rapport with Ms. Jones seems very comfortable. The arrangements are credited to Ms. Perrino, though they mostly sound like decent by-ear reproductions of what's heard on the old Patsy Cline recordings. The sound engineering by Dan Kury is flawless. -- Daniel Higgins
Now maybe Horror Show will finally realize how profoundly untalented she is. Then again, who am I kidding -- just look who we're talking about here, a woman less connected to reality than Courtney Love. It'll be someone else's fault. Just watch.

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Episode 29: Horror Show the Outlaw

Posted to the St. Louis Theatre Discusson Group this week:

The person who holds the rights to the show contacted me over a month ago and told me to remove the [Sweet Dreams of Patsy] auditions on as they had did not have any legal authority to produce the show at the Ivory Theater. Since the audition was already over I did delete the entry, but I never saw such an angry attorney who represented the estate of Patsy Cline, who apparently wants nothing to do with the Ivory Theater and you know who.
And then there's another post:

This made my laugh so hard! I received a Patsy Cline press release today, and at the top is a quote from the woman who wrote this unauthorized show and is producing it. Amazing how much she loves herself...

Here's the quote --"In this production, the GRAND OLE OPRY meets ST. LOUIS! This wonderful, heartfelt production brings back the TRUE sound and culture of Professional Live Country Music. It's surely one of the best original shows in St. Louis." – Donna Perrino, Producer

The release then calls the show "a profound and enlightening musical." Seriously? Profound?

Oh yeah, and there was this one too, from the person who oversees the theatre reviewers at KDHX radio:

Does anyone know whether this is actually happening or not? I've got a reviewer lined up but calling the phone number on the web site only gets me a "memory full" message from the voice mail and I haven't had any response to my email. The show is still listed at the site, but it would be nice if my critic knew whether or not there was going to be a show to review.

They're due to open their illegal production tomorrow night, and it looks like Horror Show fully intends to, even without permission from the rights holder. Who wants to bet that the owners of the theatre don't even know there is a legal problem...?

It'll be fun to watch this play out...

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Monday, January 11, 2010

Episode 28: And Then There Were None...

Quick news from the local theatre Grapevine...

Both the leading actress and the director have apparently dropped out of Sweet Dreams of Patsy.

And I believe there might still be a legal shoe to drop before this is all over. From all reports, Horror Show still does not have the rights to Patsy Cline's song catalog. We'll wait and see...

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Episode 27: WWHSD?

Apparently, the Ivory Theatre is being used for theatre so infrequently that it's actually becoming a church again -- The King is Coming Christian Church.

Shakespeare himself couldn't have come up with a stranger on-going drama...

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Episode 26: It's Alive!

It's true! Horror Show is mounting yet another Patsy Cline show! The folks who brought us A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline in 2008 refuse to return after all the abuse and dishonesty they encountered at the Ivory. And I'm told the people who control the other Cline show, Forever Patsy Cline, talked to the folks who did the first production and decided they did not want to be involved with Horror Show in any way. So now she's either found or written a third Cline show, this time called Sweet Dreams of Patsy.

Anybody wanna lay bets on whether she has the legal performnace rights to the Cline catalog? I bet she doesn't... Remember, she approached Cline's husband about creating a new piece and he said No.

Here's the audition notice for the show posted last month on

The IVORY Theatre, in association with Perrino Productions LLC is producing SWEET DREAMS OF PATSY—a new musical theatre tribute to PATSY CLINE. Because of its success at the IVORY in 2008, it is being mounted again due to high public demand.
Now here is the first Big Lie. This show was not at the Ivory in 2008 and is not being mounted "again."

Casting Equity and/or non-Equity actors. All roles are paid positions.
PERFORMANCE DATES: Preview weekend: January 28, 29, 30, 31; (4 shows)
FEBRUARY 2 - 7 (8 shows);
FEBRUARY 9 - 14 (8 shows);

OWEN BRADLEY Actor: Middle-age 1950’s Nashville businessman.
MOTHER Actress: Late 50’s.
AUTHER GODFREY Actor: 1950’s television host.
MINNIE PEARL Actress/comedian/singer. Late 30’s, country femaleGrand Ole' Opry.

Auditions by “appointment only” at the IVORY Theatre -- December 1st – 4p.m.-6p.m.. Bring a short monologue. We’ll also have you read a section of the script/cold reading. Please schedule your audition by email to: if you are serious about auditioning and cannot make this date, please email your conflict to us and we will try to reschedule you at a later time.
And I have to ask (because it's so much fun) why "appointment only" is in quotes -- does she mean it ironically or sarcastically?

I'll be amazed if this thing ever actually makes it to the stage. How many Ivory-related projects has Horror Show started but never finished? Let's see... the children's troupe, the classes, the outdoor jazz concerts...

The saga continues.

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Episode 25: How to Humiliate the Actors

Heard about this earlier this week...

This new story comes from someone who was actually in the audience for this latest insanity from Crazy Ol' Horror Show...

Family Musical Theatre, the community theatre that is still trapped at the Ivory (in fact, the only company still working there regularly), was producing A Chorus Line. Near the end of one performance (that we know of), Horror Show placed herself down in front of the stage, over to one side, where she was completely visible to the audience, from which she watched the show's finale. That's bad enough...

Then the minute the finale is over, Horror Show pivots and turns to the audience, still down in front of the stage -- this is her show now! And throughout the entire curtain call, she's clapping loudly, like Tinkerbell is gonna die if she stops, but even worse, she is gesturing for the audience to get up and give the show a standing ovation. She's screaming at the top of her lungs, "Stand up! Stand up! Aren't they great?" And she actually forces the audience to give the show a standing O. No shit.

I hear the FMT people were outraged and made it clear to her that she is never to do that again. Except we all know she will... It makes me think she's never been in a damn theatre before this!

She really needs to see a professional. Or at least be one.

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Episode 24: Memories of Bad Management

This forwarded email showed up in my in-box this a.m. --

Steve Davis (Memories of Elvis) was supposed to do three shows at the Ivory last year, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. [Horror Show] told him they would publicize it and they didn’t want him to do any publicity. Suffice it to say that they didn’t even run an ad in the Riverfront Times. Steve’s fans follow him really closely, so they know where he’s going to be, and they started calling the Ivory box office to get tickets. No one answered. For days no one answered. Steve's manager finally got [Horror Show] on the phone and asked her, and she said that there had been someone in the box office the whole time, but no one was calling to buy tickets. So Steve's manager was taking ticket orders herself from fans off of Steve’s website and then going in and buying them – like fifty at a time.

Instead of doing three full shows with full band, horns, girls, etc., he couldn’t afford to do more than the band, and for an act that can sell out the Pageant he couldn’t get tickets sold fast enough to sell out any of the performances, because the only way people could get tickets was if they asked Steve's manager for them. It was a horrible experience for Steve.
Not a surprise, though, right?

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Monday, April 13, 2009

Episode 23: Karma Is a Bitch

Just heard this through the grapevine over the weekend. Horror Show has been unable to get the rights to bring back to St. Louis A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline or to produce the other Cline tribute show, Always...Patsy Cline. It seems word has spread about the way Horror Show runs her little sandbox and no one dares to get involved with this woman.

So she decided to try a new approach...

The grapevine (and this one is usually pretty reliable) says Horror Show called Patsy Cline's husband and told him she was writing her own Patsy Cline show and needed the rights to all her songs. After all, Horror Show does write musicals (if you define "musicals" really loosely). Cline's husband asked if he could read Horror Show's script, but she refused, claiming that someone might steal it if she sent him a copy. Since she wouldn't let him see a script or tell him anything about her intentions, he refused to give her rights.

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Episode 22: Never...Patsy Cline

More Patsy Cline news...

Last time I checked the Ivory Theatre website, the show Always...Patsy Cline, which was being produced by Horror Show's production company, Triangle Productions (yes, that's as in "the Bermuda Triangle," no doubt), was running at the Ivory March 11-April 12, 2009. You can still see the dates in Google's cache of that page.

But not no more!

Has Horror Show fucked up yet another show, before it even opened this time??? So she couldn't get A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline back because of all the abuse and dishonesty last year, and she instead announced this replacement production, but now that one's dead too...?

This bitch could screw up a one-car parade, I swear to God.

All she's got left is two community theatres. I remember when the Ivory was going to house professional theatre companies, when it was going to be a place to tryout new shows before New York. I remember when Horror Show was going to employ local artists to teach classes and workshops, to write new shows. There were going to be jazz concerts on the front lawn during the summer months. There was going to be a restaurant in the rectory next door where cabaret performances would happen after shows. People were going to be making money hand over fist.

Yeah, right.

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Episode 21: No It Isn't.

I just stopped by the Ivory Theatre website to see if they're ever going to produce the Patsy Cline show that Horror Show had posted the audition notices for. But nope, apparently, that's a big bust just like everything else she touches.

And on the site's homepage, I noticed this little passage, which cracked me up...
The Ivory Theatre is a an exciting year-round professional theatre facility presenting a diverse calendar of musicals, dramas, comedies, concerts, cabaret performances, youth and family theatre programs, corporate functions and special events that appeal to all levels and styles of entertainment tastes.
Ummmm.... No it isn't.

It has no drama or cabaret or youth programs or corporate functions or special events anywhere on the calendar. Just community theatre. After all of Horror Show's belly-aching last year about how the Ivory is Professional and the original resident companies weren't professional enough for her, it is mildly hilarious that her only solid tenant now is a community theatre.

And just because I'm like this, I have to ask what an entertainment "level" is, anyway...? And while we're asking, what is a "style" of "entertainment tastes"?

Oops! I almost forgot -- we're talking about Horror Show here! Meaning and sense are just collateral damage in her ongoing War on Honesty and Ethics. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...!

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Episode 20: Patsy Cline in Hell

Donna Perrino, aka Horror Show, has put out an audition notice for another production of A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, the show she mangled and mismanaged last season. The funniest part is that she's holding auditions for the five-piece band as well, apparently not aware that theatres do not generally audition musicians.

Significantly, Gail Bliss who starred in the production at the Ivory last season, is not returning. That can hardly be a surprise considering the wild and bizarre abuse Bliss and the rest of the cast and staff suffered under Perrino's pudgy hand.

But now the folks who saw the show last year may well buy tickets to come see it again, thinking they're going to get the remarkable Gail Bliss in the title role. As talented as the talent pool is here in the Lou, is there anyone here who can sing and look like Patsy Cline? We're told that Cline's husband has seen Bliss do the show and told her he had never seen anyone capture Cline like she does. Odds are there's not another performer like that here in town. Cline had a very unique voice...

But all that aside, who in the St. Louis theatre community would work with Perrino after the gobs of press coverage about her abuses and insanity? Let's hope whoever considers auditioning will take a look at this humble compendium of horrors first... And if they do get hired, let's hope they demand to be paid in cash and in advance! Perrino has a nasty little habit of bouncing checks and refusing to pay people... Just ask the folks who did the Patsy Cline show last time...

The adventure continues.

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Episode 19: Predator vs. Family Musical Theatre

Family Musical Theatre, a community theatre group, was the last of the local companies to agree to use the Ivory before all the bad press hit the public. Though they usually only produce one show each summer, Horror Show pressured them into agreeing to do three shows a year.

And she also lied to them through her crooked yellowed teeth. Surprise!

The Ivory has a very small stage for a legit theatre, big enough for a small concert or even a very small show, but not a big, old-fashioned musical. And that's what Family Musical Theatre does -- big, old-fashioned musicals with casts of 40-50 people, including kids and seniors. Unfortunately for them, the Ivory's dressing rooms can accommodate only about fifteen people comfortably. And there is no Green Room and there is very little room backstage. When the Family Musical Theatre folks first came to see the Ivory, a few well-placed ears overheard Horror Show lying to them about how many the dressing rooms could hold, how many the stage could hold, how much room there was backstage, how much she would help with promotion and PR, etc. And because the man who runs the company uses a wheelchair, he was unable to get up on stage or backstage to see that Horror Show was lying. Leave it to Horror Show to take advantage of someone's disability.

Although I'm told that before they moved in, they did read this blog...

Of course, while FMT ran "Anything Goes" in July, they ran into some of the same abuses everyone else has suffered through -- no one ever came to clean the bathrooms or restock them, no one cleaned the theatre, and they received virtually no support whatsoever. Horror Show loves telling people the Ivory is a "professional" theatre, yet how many professional theatres have no support staff and never get cleaned? How many professional theatres house only community theatre groups? Then again, how many professional theatres are run by compulsive liars? Hopefully only this one.

It's fun to check out the comically lean Ivory calendar of upcoming shows -- it includes "Anything Goes" in June even though it was actually in July (Horror Show gets dates wrong a lot); and a one-weekend FMT event, the Rodgers and Hammerstein revue, "A Grand Night for Singing" in September. They had had a two-weekend show in October scheduled called "Deeper Shade of Blues" produced by something called "The Producers Group," but it disappeared from the calendar (I guess the producers heard about Horror Show!). Then there are two performances of one of Horror Show's awful kiddie Halloween shows; and four performances in November of FMT doing a community theatre musical called "Something's Afoot." And that's it. For the whole season. If you click on the "Coming Attractions" link on their website homepage, it takes you to a blank page. How fitting.

So the Ivory will be open only 16 nights in the next several months. I wonder exactly how they'll make the $6,000 a month they say they need to break even... Does Horror Show have any plans at all on how to fill this theatre and with what...?

I'm sure there will be more stories to come. Until then...

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Friday, June 13, 2008

Episode 18: Lock Up Your Kids!

Horror Show is now peddling a "Summer Theatre Forum." Of course, it's not really a forum (a public meeting to talk about public issues); it's actually cluelessly ill-conceived classes for kids. I guess she doesn't know what "forum" means... but all things considered, that's not really a surprise, is it?

This "forum" is under the auspices of the Ivory's Kids On Stage program, a name she half-stole from Robin Berger's Leaping Lizards On Stage, from back when Robin had agreed to work with her. This is a program Horror Show has been running ads for since last fall, even though it has never yet even existed -- mostly because she expected Robin to do all the work for her (which is a longstanding pattern with Horror Show) and Robin has run away from the Ivory along with everybody else.

At a recent performance at the Ivory, Horror Show distributed these amateurish-looking packets, just sheets of paper stapled in the corner, to promote her summer program. On the front page they say, "All KIDS ON STAGE students will learn theatre arts and technical stage crafts and will also be a part of the FINAL SHOW PRODUCTION on August 3rd -- MAKE A WISH -- at the IVORY Theatre. Register for 1, 2, 3 or 4 weeks of strong and professional performing arts instruction at the new IVORY Theatre. It's an exciting way to meet new friends with similar interests, work with caring theatre professionals while experiencing theatre arts." Then in bold, italics, AND underline, it says "Don't miss this opportunity!!"

Holy cow! That sounds like a threat! And will someone tell her the term is "stagecraft," not "stage crafts." We're not talking about macaroni pictures of comedy and tragedy faces... or are we? Also, why is "IVORY" always in all-caps? Is it an acronym for something? Like maybe "I'm very obnoxious and a real yahoo"...?

The best part of the packet is A Brief Synopsis of a "Hands-On" Performance Program (also bolded and underlined, though not italicized this time). When you read this, you'll swear I'm making it up because much of it doesn't make any sense, but this is really what she wrote. Notice how much she loves using meaningless quotation marks. Here it is, exactly as it is in the packet, clumsy punctuation and all:

KIDS ON STAGE combines the artistic skills of acting, music and dance in a theatrical environment in order to assist and provide young people with a more defined approach to:
-- Positive Behavioral Understanding;
-- Good Decision-Making Skills;
-- Situation Analysis;
-- Comprehension and Appreciation for the Arts.
-- Character Building and Self-Esteem

In today's society -- community violence, peer regard, television/movie products, computer accessibility, divided homes and educational difficulties have led our youth into great confusion concerning their life path and the choices they need to make in order for it to develop into a productive existence. It has become increasingly more difficult for young people to advance in positive directions due to their lack of understating and analysis of situations and people in their community and what they "perceive" to be their surroundings. Young people start out with the same dreams, hopes, and aspirations as Mozart, Mick Jagger, Kennedy, Whitney Houston, Stan Musial and Ted Drewes; however, their path is much more confusing today and it demands more decision-making skills.

KIDS ON STAGE is a theatrical program that takes all theatrical art forms such as acting, music, dance, costuming, lighting, set design, and group management and utilizes them for the benefit of providing a fun and accessible learning product and experience for youth. This theatrically artistic vehicle is able to mirror a set of circumstances that are pertinent yet detached from the student, introduce conflict and complete the process with positive resolution thereby introducing the "actors/students" to alternative ideas, behaviors and patterns that will lead them to positive life-long productivity and happiness -- as well as be great fun.

Theatre skills and the artistic use of music can successfully combine thereby introducing the support platform of "audible" emotional control, inspiration and association. For example: It may be disturbing to combine a picture of a delicate flower with a drum solo -- the flower is usually associated with "beauty" as well as supported emotionally with the lush sounds of strings, piano and harp. These same types of pre-conceived, learned associations are prevalent in daily life. Learned concepts are found within family groups, educational classroom settings, and basic society structures. They are around us daily and have increased dramatically with the complexity of our society -- yet the definitions and positive decision making skills have become cloudy and young people are lacking in their understandings.

KIDS ON STAGE program takes a positive step toward combining theatre arts and the youth of today and allows the young people to learn to make mistakes as well as have experience successes without the dangers of permanent punishment or failure. By utilizing the strength of "Make-Believe", that is common to all young people, we can shape understandings, encourage their desire for achievement and assist them with their daily living units such as the family and school to make a continued positive impression that is laced with skills that will carry them throughout their lives.

Please peruse the following brief structure for the KIDS ON STAGE Workshops. We feel that all young people enrolled in the program will improve their concentration and focus skills as they continue to draw from their imaginations. The students will also understand that all "projects" are formed through the collective efforts of many people with many different types of skills. The IVORY Theatre is an excellent example for the students in order to expose them to the power of lighting, sound, direction, costuming, set design, music and backstage help. All work as a fine tuned engine -- one is never more important than the other.

Theatre is team attitude, team efforts, team support, and team achievement. Thank you.
I don't know what "permanent punishment" is, but it sounds like something you could find on Cinemax late at night. Also, I think young people can "learn to make mistakes" without anybody's help. In fact, that's always been a specialty of young people, hasn't it...?

Horror Show is offering six different classes, all Monday-Friday for four weeks, which she'll never be able to fill. The class descriptions are so funny and illiterate that I have to quote them too. She's heard a lot of theatre terms but doesn't exactly know what they mean or how to use them... Notice the meaningless use of quotes again in the last description...
Acting for the Stage, ages 7-10. Learn to create characters in a story, become familiar with staging and acting directions and play a role in the... (Builds character and self-esteem.) Final Performance. (Snacks included.)

Acting for the Stage, ages 11-14. Learn to create characters in a story, become familiar with stage phrases and directions and play a role in the... Final Performance. (Snacks included.)

Acting for the Stage, ages 15-17. Character analysis, scene blocking, presentation and projection, performance and role understanding -- (Great college prep course.) Final Performance

Technical Theatre, ages 12-17. Assist with designing professional lighting and sound systems for final performance project with professional designers. (Students learn that all "roles" are valuable in all endeavors.)

Music/Vocals, ages 9-16. Professional music instruction -- reading and voice. Be a part of the IVORY's Children Chorus! (Great fun!)

Contemporary Dance, ages 9-16. Special workshop studying "dance" from 1700s to date. It incorporates the music, dress, styles and "reasons" for movement in human society. (This is really educational and great fun.)
Did you know that the 1700s were "contemporary"? I did not. And why are "dance" and "reasons" in quotes? Did someone say those, or is she being sarcastic? Also, me personally, I think it sucks that the older kids don't get snacks. If I was 16, I'd be pissed!

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Episode 17: The People Respond

April 21, 2008

Poison Ivory

Good theater, bad landlord: In Aimee Levitt's article about the Ivory Theatre, "Stage Fright," theater manager Donna Perrino tries desperately to make the case that all the various individuals and companies who have suffered through problems at the Ivory are just overreacting or lying. In other words, it's everyone else's fault but hers. But the real shocker came at the end of the article, when Donna Perrino said, "Honey, it's community theater." No, honey, it's not. In fact, all the companies that have suffered through the abuses at the Ivory have been professional companies, including New Line Theatre and the NonProphet Theater Company. Perrino knows this, but perhaps she thinks her condescending dismissal of St. Louis theater artists makes her look better in this whole sad mess.

For the record, New Line is now in its seventeenth season of professional, alternative theater, and has been treated with enormous respect and professionalism by the press, funders and previous landlords — everyone, in fact, except the folks at the Ivory.

Scott Miller, artistic director, New Line Theatre

Put a gag on her: WOW! I can't believe Donna Perrino still has a job. And I can't believe that Mike Allen would be backing this horse. It sounds like much of what she says is lies. I have seen shows by both New Line and NonProphet, both professional companies, not "community theater," as she falsely states. And it makes me sad that this woman is allowed to get away with treating these companies with such disrespect and disregard. St. Louis has a great theater community filled with talented people, but it is small, and pissing people off who are fairly influential is a bad PR move by Peter Rothschild, Allen and Perrino. Maybe they should gag this Perrino lady. She obviously shouldn't be allowed to talk to the press. Pity. It could have been a great space and a great addition to Carondelet.

Appalled, via the Internet

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Episode 16: Horror Show Fights Back!

From today's Riverfront Times -- as you might guess if you've read this whole chronicle, much of what Donna Perrino (aka "Horror Show") and Mike Allen (aka "The Lackey Owner") say below is largely or entirely untrue. And contrary to Horror Show's lies, the NonProphets and New Line are both professional theatre companies, not community theatres as she pretends. And yes, she knows they're not community theatres. That's just another lie among thousands...

The Riverfront Times
May 7, 2008

Stage Fright:
The Ivory is turning into a horror show
for some St. Louis theater companies
By Aimee Levitt

Marble Stage Theatre's artistic director, Greg Matzker, recently learned that after lengthy discussions -- and what he considered a verbal agreement with the Ivory Theatre's managing director Donna Perrino -- his group would not be permitted to stage its upcoming production of Bye Bye Birdie at the Ivory after all.

Matzker says he's aware of problems other local theater groups have had with the Ivory. Both New Line Theatre and the NonProphet Theater Company left the Ivory after various disagreements with Perrino and Red Brick Management, the company that owns the building.

"Repairs needed to be done with the relationship between the theater community and the community in general with the Ivory," Matzker says. For the past month, he adds, he talked often with Perrino about arranging a series of theatrical programs at the Ivory, including a fairy-tale theater for small children and a performance of The Sound of Music to honor the Ivory's previous incarnation as St. Boniface Catholic Church.

Matzker says Perrino asked him if he'd be interested in choreographing and directing an all-Actors' Equity production of The Fantasticks. But Perrino claims otherwise. "I don't know the kid," she counters. "I met with him twice to talk about Bye Bye Birdie. He started tap-dancing on the stage and I took him to lunch. I had to meet with him and talk with him and find out where he was coming from. But I can't commit to anything until I talk with my partners [Red Brick's Pete Rothschild and Mike Allen]."

She couldn't lease the theater to Marble Stage, says Perrino, because "there were conflicts with scheduling." Marble Stage wanted exclusive rights to the Ivory during Bye Bye Birdie's weeklong run, while Perrino preferred to allow two or three groups to share the space in order to maximize profits.

The news came as a shock to Matzker. He and Marble Stage had already invested several thousand dollars into Bye Bye Birdie, part of which they raised by selling fresh eggs from door to door.

"Now I have to go back to the group and say, 'We've been dropped like a hot potato, guys,'" Matzker says. "Now we're without a place to do our show. I'm scared to death now that we may have to cancel the season. I'm literally fighting back tears right now."

Like many local theater companies, Marble Stage has no permanent home. For the past few years, it had staged shows at Bayless High School in south county, the best facility it could afford. But this summer Bayless will be under construction, so the Ivory seemed an ideal solution.

Open since last summer, the Ivory, located in the Carondelet neighborhood, is the product of an $800,000 renovation of St. Boniface. Red Brick had purchased the church from the archdiocese, and the theater was meant to be, in Perrino's words, "a
functional professional theater. We plan to upgrade as we go."

Though the Ivory has mostly housed community productions, Perrino hopes to attract touring professional companies. Its first Equity show, A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, opened last winter to positive notices and minuscule audiences. Still, Perrino considers the show a success. "Patsy Cline brought us up to ground zero," she says.

Perrino's relationships with the local groups were less successful. "We let New Line pay the same rent at the Ivory they paid at the ArtLoft [their previous home]," Perrino explains. "I personally put up the blackout drapes and paid for things they said they had to have. We did so many things to make them comfortable. But kindness can be mistaken for weakness. Maybe that's what happened."

New Line, naturally, tells a different story. "The Ivory had no one involved in any aspect who understood theater," says Scott Miller, New Line's artistic director and one of the Ivory's most vocal critics. In Miller's opinion, the theater itself was inadequate. The doors were too narrow, he complains, so the crew had to build sets directly onstage. Plus, he says, the raised electrical outlet covers on the stage made choreography nearly impossible.

When New Line took possession of the Ivory the day after Patsy Cline closed, the company found a theater full of leftover sets, props and trash. Red Brick's Allen says management came in the following day to clean up.

NonProphet also took over a messy theater, but its biggest problem with the Ivory concerned rent. NonProphet's managing director, Tyson Blanquart, claims that he had a verbal agreement with Perrino that another group could use the theater on days when NonProphet wasn't there. In exchange, NonProphet would receive a reduction on its rent.

Instead, the NonProphet actors and crew returned to a trashed theater. The set had been destroyed and the public spaces, including the lobby and the bathrooms, were full of garbage. "After the dust settled and we received our bill for rent," Blanquart writes in an e-mail, "we noticed that management never reduced the rent for us the way they said they would."

Untrue, counters Perrino. "NonProphet didn't pay their bill. It got blown up out of proportion."

After New Line and NonProphet left the Ivory and word spread about their mishaps, Perrino became a persona non grata in St. Louis theater circles. Members of other groups, including Matzker, posted complaints on New Line's listserv, and an anonymous blogger composed a lengthy chronicle of Perrino's misdeeds on a Web site called the Ivory Theatre Horror Show.

Perrino has worked in theater for twenty years and says she's never experienced anything like this. "They don't treat it as a business," she says of Marble Stage and other local groups. "They take it so personally. There's nothing personal. They took every allegation to the max."

She sighs. "Honey, it's community theater. That's what I've learned."

What a crazy bitch!

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Friday, April 25, 2008

Episode 15: Fresh Victims

Posted to the St. Louis Theatre Discussion Group today:

Well I must say that I am on board with so many of you now. Marble Stage has officially been burned by the Ivory as well. We had been under negotiation for over a month now to use the Theatre at the end of July. We had a verbal agreement for the last week of July for the space. They were so hopeful and so willing to get my company in there. They spent weeks pumping me for information on how to repair the relationships with the theatre companies and the surrounding community. Donna Perinno was so happy to talk to me and was ready to start so many projects that Marble Stage and the Ivory would work on together.

Well we were just dropped like a hot potato with no explanation other than "we don't want to rent to you." I can't help but wonder if that was all she was doing was pumping me for info and help to get lines of programs set up so she could take credit for them herself. We had talked about a Youth Program, Cabaret Shows, I was working on getting a World Premiere of a new musical in there, a Fairy Tail Theatre. All things that I had talked with Donna in depth on how to start and how to run. I will be very interested to see if these programs now go into effect.

Shame on Donna and the Ivory. The Ivory is a horrible blemish on this wonderful community.

I know that Scott [Miller of New Line Theatre] and I almost never see eye to eye, but in this case I have to side with him and the other theatre companies that the Ivory/Rothschild is severely hurting. So needless to say, as of today we are without a home for our summer production of Bye Bye Birdie. I would do anything at this point to find a location. I admit I am scared. Marble Stage has worked so very hard for everything we have. And the people who do shows with us are some of the most hard working people I have ever worked with, community or professional. It's not that we don't have money to rent a space, it is simply that either all the spaces are filled or they simply will not rent them out. If anyone out there thinks they could help recommend a space, please email me off the list.

Greg Matzker
Marble Stage Theatre
Artistic Director

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Episode 14: More Press

April 16, 2008

Many St. Louis theater companies are homeless
By Aimee Levitt

In the good old days, if Hollywood musicals are to be believed, all an aspiring impresario needed to stage a successful show was an abandoned barn and a dream. Of course, St. Louis is strangely bereft of abandoned barns, which means managers of small theater companies have to make do with churches, schools and community centers.

The Ivory Theatre is nicer than a barn and was, indeed, intended to be one of the nicest small theaters in the city. For 145 years, it was St. Boniface Catholic Church in Carondelet. Then the archdiocese sold it to Red Brick Management, which announced last summer that it planned to spend $800,000 to convert the structure into a state-of-the-art theater. For local theater companies strapped for performance space, it seemed like a godsend.

Even before construction was completed, three avant-garde groups — New Line, NonProphet and Hydeware — had signed leases on the Ivory. Six months later, only Hydeware remains.

"It really sounded terrific," says New Line's artistic director Scott Miller. Over its seventeen seasons, New Line has had six homes, most recently the ArtLoft Theatre on Washington Avenue. "We do musicals — only musicals," Miller stresses. "We need more space for a band and a bigger cast, and we need a fairly good-sized house, 150 seats, to make our budget balance. Our shows have adult content, so we can't use the Catholic schools or the secular schools."

New Line hoped that the large, secular (and student-free) Ivory would solve its perpetual homeless problem, but the arrangement turned sour almost from the moment the company moved in last August to begin rehearsals for its fall show, Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll.

"We didn't have a good relationship with New Line from the beginning," admits Mike Allen, co-owner, along with Pete Rothschild, of Red Brick. "The construction was supposed to take ten or eleven weeks, but it ran a little later, and New Line had to push their rehearsals back. After that, it was one thing after another, in my view, all small things. The more we did, the more New Line found to complain about."

To Miller, though, the problems weren't just "small things."

"They installed outlet covers on the stage that stuck up so we couldn't do choreography," he complains. "And the outlets were on the front half of the stage. We needed them in the back where the band would be." Also, the doors to the stage were too narrow, so the crew had to build sets directly onstage. The counters in the dressing rooms were at bar height instead of table height, so actors were forced to stand while they attended to their hair and makeup. Worst of all, the Ivory had only one backstage toilet, which had to accommodate the entire cast and band during intermission.

"It's not like they said, 'Let's make this difficult,'" Miller says. "It's just that there was no one involved in any aspect who understood theater."

If Red Brick's lack of understanding of the requirements of a functioning theater irritated New Line, Miller's lack of understanding of construction equally irritated Allen. "We built the theater in an old church with state and federal historical tax credits," Allen explains. "The rules were that we couldn't change the way the building looks. We had to build within the confines of the church space. Scott Miller admitted he had never been involved in building anything. We built what we thought was appropriate. Scott saw the plans. He never complained until he got in there."

The tensions between New Line and Red Brick during Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll might have been attributed to opening-night jitters, but they only escalated during New Line's second show at the Ivory, Assassins.

When the company prepared to move in for rehearsals in February, it discovered that the theater was full of sets and props from the previous show, the Ivory-produced A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, which had closed the night before. Allen says the Ivory management removed the Patsy Cline material the following day.

The NonProphet Theater Company, which mounted two plays at the Ivory, confronted similar obstacles. They, too, took possession of a messy theater and had to spend rehearsal time cleaning. The Ivory's management conducted tours during a dress rehearsal that were so loud, claims Tyson Blanquart, NonProphet's managing director, the actors had to stop performing.

During the week between performances of NonProphet's second show, second, Blanquart says, NonProphet agreed to allow another group to use the theater, provided it left the second set undisturbed. In return, Red Brick would reduce the rent. "When we came back to the theater," Blanquart writes in an e-mail, "we were met with a truly disturbing sight: Our set — which was screwed into the floor — had been moved. Not only was it moved, but it was broken. There was broken glass on the stage and in the carpet in the house. There was trash literally all over the theater."

Blanquart says the company also never received its rent reduction. "We attempted to air concerns with the owners," he writes, "but the owners of the property refused to rebuke management for any of the problems that we'd had."

The Ivory's managing director, Donna Perrino, could not be reached for comment.

Hydeware, the third company to rent out the Ivory, completed its first production there two weeks ago and will open its second, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, next weekend. Ember Hyde, the director, declined to comment about the state of the theater. Instead, she writes in a recent e-mail: "I don't think it would be fair to Hydeware, the Ivory, or any potential audience members, to have any preconceived notions about any aspect of the space or possibly our performances."

The Ivory has not been especially hospitable to audiences, either. The theater's stadium-style seating keeps viewers suspended over the stage and seems more suited to a concert than a play, says Riverfront Times theater critic Dennis Brown. "Both at second and Assassins, I felt removed from the production."

In the end, both New Line and NonProphet have decided to pick up stakes and go elsewhere. "We agreed it was in their best interests for them to move out," says Allen. NonProphet has now returned to its previous home, the Tin Ceiling. New Line will stage its next show, High Fidelity, at Washington University's A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre in June, but will be homeless again come fall.

This is not the first time a St. Louis theater has disappointed its tenants. In 2005 the Soulard Theatre lost all five of its resident companies. But the theater did not remain dark for long; other groups took over the space.

"The great problem in this town is performance space," Brown says. "No question about it. All these vagabond companies are looking for a home."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Episode 13: The Press

New Line Theatre sent out a press release after they escaped the Ivory Theatre, announcing that their summer show, High Fidelity, would no longer be presented at the Ivory. High Fidelity would be at Washington University's blackbox theatre. And that announcement made the press want to know What Happened at the Ivory?

Judith Newmark at the Post Dispatch was the first to write an article. Unfortunately, several of the players involved couldn't or wouldn't tell her the whole story of what happened, although several told her a lot "off the record," so though she couldn't print those details, she understood what was going on. Here's the article:

Sunday, Apr. 06 2008

Two theater troupes leave Ivory Theatre
By Judith Newmark

New Line Theatre has left the house.

The NonProphet Theatre Company split, too.

Both long-lived St. Louis troupes say things didn't work out at the Ivory Theatre, developer Pete Rothschild's new house in Carondelet, the way that they hoped or expected.

Landlord-tenant disagreements led both New Line and the NonProphets to make an exit.

At the same time, however, other troupes plan to perform at the Ivory, and Rothschild's company, Red Brick Management, is making plans to expand the theater's offerings."We are setting up arrangements to do more things like 'A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline'" said Mike Allen, Rothschild's partner. "(Elvis impersonator) Steve Davis is going to do shows here, and we are developing a new property with him based on Buddy Holly."We've also started discussions to bring back ('A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline' star) Gail Bliss. We'd like to do more shows like that, properties that work in a smaller venue."I don't think we'll have a problem getting people to come."

Last summer, it was a different story. Scott Miller, New Line's founder and artistic director, felt he had found a real home for his troupe, which specializes in edgy musical theater. New Line was to be the resident company at the Ivory, an elegantly refurbished former church at 7620 Michigan Avenue.

But New Line staged only two shows there: "Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll," a revue that sparked a minor dust-up with the St. Louis Archdiocese, and "Assassins," a biting political satire by Stephen Sondheim.

Although both productions fared well, Miller says that backstage problems never let up."I think two things went wrong," Miller said. "First, there weren't any theater people involved in the planning and creation of the space. And we expected the theater to be run in a more conventional, professional way."

In particular, he said, backstage restroom facilities were inadequate and New Line's property, including musical instruments and stage props, was not protected "in the way that we were used to."

New Line's summer production of "High Fidelity," a musical based on Nick Hornby's witty romantic novel, will play at Washington University's Hotchner Theatre instead of the Ivory. Because of the move, the show will open June 12, a little later than planned.

The NonProphets have moved on, too. Its next production, a bill of one-acts followed by the troupe's signature sketch-comedy show, will open this week at the tiny Tin Ceiling instead of the Ivory. Its holiday production, "Second," played at the Ivory.Robert Mitchell, the NonProphets' founder and artistic director, says, "The future is unclear, but (the Ivory) is a great space. Maybe down the line, we'll work there again."

But the Ivory isn't going dark. This weekend, Hydeware Theatre was scheduled to perform "The Boycott," a one-woman tour show about global warming. Its production of "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" by Bertolt Brecht opens April 25.Ember Hyde, Hydeware's executive director, said that, so far, she and her colleagues have no opinion on how the Ivory is run. "We haven't been there yet," she said. "We'll see what it's like."

Other troupes, such the Unity Theatre Ensemble, also plan to perform at the Ivory.Although the theater belongs to a portfolio of properties that Rothschild recently put up for sale at $95 million, Red Brick has a long-term lease on the theater. "We will continue to run it," Allen said.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Episode 12: Let 'Em Eat Cake

By the end of February, the owners of the slowly imploding Ivory Theatre had heard dozens of horror stories from the NonProphets, from New Line, and from the Patsy Cline people, as well as from others who will remain unnamed for now. Stories about countless lies both big and little, many bounced checks, violated contracts, broken promises, tantrums, and in general, behavior that was unprofessional, dishonest, and in many cases, childish.

Some had realized over time that Horror Show's behavior was literally that of a child -- refusing to take responsibility for her actions, lying when she thought she might be in trouble, a lack of understanding of the consequences of her actions, and mood swings that would make Tarzan dizzy. Everyone really thought the overwhelming evidence now accumulated and documented would convince the owners that Horror Show just had to go.

Everyone was wrong.

The Big Owner wrote a long letter to New Line, which said in part:

Many, many of the allegations that have been raised about [Horror Show] that have specific examples have turned out to be flatly untrue, were taken out of context, were issues about which [Horror Show] had no control and actually fell on [The Lackey Owner] or me or are things that, had I known about them in advance, I would have supported or at least not been concerned about.

That was it. Game Over. The theatre companies lost. Everyone was lying except Horror Show.

But there was more insanity on the horizon. The last rehearsal before New Line's Tech Week turned out to be the biggest surprise yet. The Lackey Owner scheduled a Democratic Caucus in the lobby during New Line's rehearsal. Yes, you read that right. Without telling New Line, they invited about 40 people into the theatre during a rehearsal.

Over the course of the evening, the New Line people heard them talking, yelling, laughing. And for about 20 minutes, New Line had to endure two children screaming continuously as they ran around the lobby. During the night, about a dozen of the Democrats drifted in and out of the theatre itself because they "wanted to watch." And when they left they set off the alarm and disappeared, so New Line had to stop their show to disarm the alarm. When New Line complained the next day, the owners told them that not only had they told New Line this would be happening, but that New Line had actually approved it. A big, surrealistic lie.

At one point late in New Line's run, someone came in during the day on a Saturday and sabotaged the two refrigerators behind the concession stand -- turning one off and turning the other to "freeze." So that when New Line arrived, half of the concession drinks were warm and half were frozen. Some soda cans had swelled up and exploded covering everything in frozen soda.

New Line started counting down the days to their escape. On closing night, March 29, the New Line people took everything of theirs out of the theatre, did the cleanest, most thorough strike they had ever done (doing their best to take the high road), and left the Ivory forever.

By this time, the NonProphets board had already decided they would never return. Others who were supposed to be doing individual shows there also had walked away. The Hydeware people had decided they would do their scheduled production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the Ivory, but would not return after that. The Ivory was slowly emptying...

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Episode 11: What a Dump!

New Line moved back into the Ivory Theatre in mid-February 2008 for their spring show... to the worse mess they had ever seen -- food left sitting around, trash pretty much everywhere, lots of stuff left behind from the Patsy Cline show. No trash cans have been emptied and some of them were literally overflowing with food, liquor bottles, etc. The exact same thing had happened to the NonProphets in the fall.

Here's a list of some of what they found and reported to the owners and the other resident companies:

1. The thermostat in the house was set at 79 degrees and was locked somehow so that they couldn't change the temperature -- it was so hot in there that they had to leave the back door open while they were working, to keep the room at a reasonable temperature.

2. The bathroom backstage was totally disgusting. There was some black stuff in the sink that they couldn't clean off. The tub was really gross. There was a disgusting trash can in there with some nasty unidentified stuff still in it.

3. The lobby bathrooms were also gross, and one toilet in each restroom was left unflushed, one full of shit and toilet paper, the other full of urine. There was urine and toilet paper on the floor, the sinks had not been cleaned, and all the restroom supplies were run out and not restocked.

4. The stage was not painted back to neutral black as everyone had agreed, as New Line had been promised, and as is standard, and tape was left on the stage marking out the Patsy Cline set.

5. A table was left backstage with a pile of coat hangers, a plate with food on it, used glasses, and trash underneath it.

6. No trash was emptied anywhere in the building. Trash was left on the floor in the dressing rooms, the backstage hallways, everywhere. And there were used water bottles absolutely everywhere, all over backstage, onstage, in the house, and in the lobby. Almost every trash can in the building was literally overflowing onto the floor.

7. There were big piles of curtains, chains, lighting instruments, screws, an ash tray, tinsel, used soda cans, baggies, sandpaper, food wrappers, and lots of other stuff left on the stage. Not only did they not paint the stage back to neutral, but no one even swept the stage or picked up their trash.

8. A large trash can in the lobby was literally overflowing with bottles, food, etc., and empty beer bottles were left in the concession stand sink. Perfect for bugs and mice.

9. There were cookie crumbs and other food crumbs on the carpeting in various places in the house, along with empty cups, bottles, soda cans, etc. Apparently, no one even looked at the house, much less cleaned it.

10. There were also many stains on the carpeting now in various places, in the house, hallways, and lobby. The theatre was only five months old at that point and was already looking like a crack house.

11. The edging on the front of the stage had been removed in some places, leaving bare wood. One piece of the edging was there and they could reattach it -- but the other edging was missing.

12. The pipe and drape that used to mask the rear entrance of the stage was gone.

13. An ironing board was left backstage, piled with stuff, including an open bag of cookies.

14. The sound board and lots of equipment was left in the balcony. It would be left there throughout New Line's entire four-week run. Other equipment was also left backstage.

15. All the chairs from the lobby had been moved into the cross aisle in the middle of the house (they found out later that this was because Horror Show had over-sold the last few performances of Patsy Cline and had to add chairs wherever she could, violating fire codes in the process).

16. There were big, long curtain tracks laying in the house aisle, and a juke box standing in one hallway.

17. About a quarter of the numbers on the audience seats were gone. Because Horror Show tried to do everyting on the cheap, she had bought cheap stickers for the seat numbers instead of permanent numbering. So these stickers would come off on patron's clothing, leaving seats un-numbered or in some cases mis-numbered because a two-digit seat number became a one-digit seat number. Several rows had a seat 1 on both ends... This would not get fixed until the day New Line opened.

18. They found out a few days after moving in that Horror Show and Friends had also run out the charge on the Genie Lift, which is necessary to reach the lighting grid, and they had not plugged it back in to recharge it. So New Line's lighting designer arrived Wednesday afternoon but could not do his work on the lighting grid because the last people to use the Genie Lift didn't bother to prepare it for the next users.

New Line began to look seriously for a new home, knowing this had to be their last show in the Ivory, and the tragedy of this whole thing really hit them. What a shame that a brand new theatre could be in this condition so soon after opening...

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Episode 10: The Sting

In January 2008, the New Line Board of Directors had a meeting with the Ivory Theatre's two owners -- both commercial real estate developers. I heard from one of the people in that meeting about what happened:

The New Line people told the owners that they just could not stay in the theatre if Horror Show remained as theatre manager. They had been lied to, screamed at, threatened, manipulated, conned, and generally treated like crap. At first, the owners tried to convince them to give Horror Show "one more chance," but New Line reminded them that they had been giving her "one more chance" repeatedly for more than a year, and things were getting worse, not better.

Finally, the more powerful and richer of the two owners -- we'll call him the Big Owner -- told New Line that if it was really that bad for them, he would agree that he would be their direct contact from then on, that they would never have to talk to Horror Show again, that she would not be allowed in the theatre during New Line's time there. He told New Line to call him with any problems or concerns, to call him if they needed anything at all. He gave them his home phone number, his wife's email address, his wife's work number, and his secretary's extension number. He even told them that if they called and he was in a meeting, they should ask his secretary to interrupt that meeting. The New Line people told him that last bit would not be necessary.

At the end of the meeting, the two owners stood up shook hands with each board member, looked each of them in the eye, and promised that everything would be different now, and that Horror Show would never bother them again. Then they all went across the street and had a drink together. The New Line people felt pretty good.

Of course none of them knew yet that Horror Show had already taken bolt cutters and broken into New Line's musical equipment back in the theatre. That little gem had not been discovered. And of course none of them knew yet that the owners would go back on their word barely two months later and back out of their pledge.

Then a couple months later, the NonProphets had a similar meeting with the two owners. The difference was that the NonProphets already knew by this time that the owners were not to be trusted. The Big Owner started by telling them what a huge success the Patsy Cline show had been (which they already knew was a lie), and what a terrific theatre manager Horror Show had turned out to be (despite the lies, bounced checks, temper tantrums, and general incompetence).

The meeting went basically like the earlier one with one exception -- the NonProphets called the Big Owner on each of his lies, telling him that they knew these things weren't true. That seemed to throw him momentarily but not for long. Finally, the Big Owner excused himself to go to another meeting, and then the other owner -- we'll call him the Lackey Owner -- presented the NonProphets with an invoice.

If you've read this whole blog from the beginning, you already know that the NonProphets had been promised a big rent reduction for their fall show because of the damage done to their set and props by Horror Show. Since then, they had repeatedly asked the owners and Horror Show to tell them how much they actually owed in rent. No one ever gave them an answer.

But now that the Big Owner had escaped their meeting, the Lackey Owner gave them this invoice. First of all, the NonProphets had only been in the theatre for four weeks, but they were being charged for six weeks. Second, there was no discount as had been promised over and over. Third, and most bizarre, there was almost $1,000 in "late fees" on the invoice. They realized they had to get a lawyer.

Back in the New Line camp, the New Line people had moved in for their spring show to find the most disgusting, filthy theatre they had ever walked into. When they emailed the Big Owner with a long list of the terrible conditions they had found in the theatre, he wrote back,
From this point on I would appreciate it if you can deal with [Horror Show] on minor issues like this. As earth shaking as it might seem to you, it’s not something I am able to deal with and that’s why we have a theater manager. I've gotten the point ad nauseum that you don’t think [Horror Show] is a professional theatre manager and I could care less what you think about her. She is, and will continue to be, the theatre manager. As I've told you in the last three emails if you don’t like it, then get out. As you can probably tell your latest whine is the cherry on the top of our relationship. Do not darken my email again.

Really? "Darken my email"...??? Yes, that's what he wrote. Almost overnight, he had gone from a friendly puppy to Bill O'Reilly. What had happened to the promises and handshakes?

Pretty much everyone was figuring out they had to get the hell out of there, and fast!

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Episode 9: Murdering Patsy Cline, Part 2

The Patsy Cline story gets even worse. Here are a few more tidbits from their time in the Ivory Theatre…

During the first two weeks of the run of A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, Horror Show bounced quite a number of checks to the actors, musicians, tech personnel, and staff. The Patsy Cline people had to insist that they be paid in cashier's check or cash from that point on (and so Horror Show would sometimes deliver big piles of cash to the actors' hotel). Some of the staff demanded to be paid in cash as well. Apparently, Horror Show had bounced checks to venders before this, which made it difficult to get the technical equipment they needed for the show. This problem forced them to delay opening night -- which Horror Show blamed on the actors.

Horror Show couldn't find the production staff she needed until very late because stories about her abuse and tantrums had already been circulating among the theatre community. She actually hired a stage manager through the drive-in window at Starbucks, without seeing a resume or anything. But the stage manager insisted that Horror Show meet with her, talk to her, and look at her resume before being hired.

Horror Show asked production staff to sign contracts with false dates and other information on it. Though the actors and stage manager were all members of Equity, the actor and stage manager union, Horror Show did not note this in the program, as she is required to by the Equity contracts. She told Equity they would reprint the programs later in the run, but never did. She also sold program ads that she never put in the program. (Isn't that called fraud?)

She was habitually late to production staff meetings, sometimes as much as several hours, with no explanation or apology.

One night, Horror Show picked a fight with the stage manager and, in front of cast, musicians, and staff, she yelled, "I can take a big shit on stage if I want to! I am the producer and can do whatever I want!" Later, Horror Show would file a formal complaint with Equity against the stage manager. But the Patsy Cline people would also contact Equity to tell them what a great job the stage manager had actually done.

Horror Show had bought a very old lighting board to save money when the Ivory opened, and it wasn't adequate for the Patsy Cline light plot. So Horror Show went to Cine Services to buy a new board. Then the checks to the artists started bouncing. So she called back Cine Services and told them that she thought she was only renting the board, not buying it. Which they knew was a lie.

After the show finally got a couple reviews late in the run and attendance improved, Horror Show double-sold seats and over-sold the house, selling seats that did not exist. She sold wheelchair seating to non-disabled patrons and sold patrons with wheelchairs regular seats. And because the numbers on the audience seats were very flimsy stickers (that often came off on people's clothing), many of the seats were not numbered after a while. This led to multiple fights among patrons over where they were sitting during the last week of the run. And of course, Horror Show never held back "house seats" for emergencies, the way every other theatre does.

Everyone heard later that the staff at Metrotix hated Horror Show as much as the theatre companies did. All through the run of Patsy Cline, Horror Show would call Metrotix and she would scream at them that she wanted her money, conveniently forgetting that they had told her it takes a week for Metrotix to process settlement checks. Yet it would happen a day later all over again, more yelling, more threats. It was kind of like Horror Show had no short term memory. Like an Adam Sandler movie. Except the real reason was that Horror Show is a crazy bitch.

Almost impossible to believe, isn't it? But there's more...

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Episode 8: Murdering Patsy Cline, Part 1

Horror Show and Her Developers decided they wanted to produce their own show at the Ivory Theatre.

Of course Horror Show knows literally nothing about theatre, less than my dog really, so she had to ask some actual theatre people what shows would be appropriate for the Ivory. Too bad they hadn't talked to actual theatre people when they were designing and planning the theatre. That would have prevented a whole lot of problems.

They eventually settled on a show called A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, and they hired a director and actor team who had toured the show and performed it in many cities, to recreate the show here in St. Louis in January and February 2008. (Originally, they scheduled it to overlap the dates New Line was supposed to be in the theatre, and New Line had to fight to keep their promised dates.)

It would turn out to be a genuine disaster in most respects. Horror Show abused and pissed off everyone involved in the show, both local people and non-local, several of whom were more than happy to share their stories, complied here in abbreviated form. They ran this show 32 performances over four weeks, and for the first three of those four weeks, they had pitiful crowds. They spent a fortune on this show, big ad buys, lots of union people, a full union band, the whole shebang. But because Horror Show knew nothing about producing, she totally screwed it up. There were performances with only 8 people in the audience, 15 people, 13 people. One performance had 16, and 10 of them were comps. During the first three weeks, they only broke 30 four times.

Maybe the problem was that Horror Show just forgot that she doesn't know anything about theatre. Or she thought she could just bullshit her way through it, which is how she had gotten this far. Earlier in 2007, New Line had given her their press list, some sample press releases, a detailed list of deadlines, and a list of specific names to pitch feature stories to, but she didn't do any of that. As far as anyone can tell, she just lost all that information.

In fact, no information at all about the show got to the press until well after the show opened. Press releases never went out at all. A week before opening, members of the press were calling New Line asking for information, which New Line didn't have. Later, one of the owners would defend Horror Show by claiming that they had hired a professional marketing manager, but she got sick two weeks before the show. Perhaps Horror Show didn't know that marketing and PR are different things, but she should have. Perhaps she didn't know that two weeks before the show is already way too late to send out a press release, but she should have.

Because there were never any press releases sent to the press, they totally missed out on reviews. They did get one short review after opening, from the RFT, because they had bought ads with them. (Not exactly the right target audience for Patsy Cline, the RFT readers, but who's counting...?) Halfway through the run, they finally begged the Post for a review and got one, as a pesonal favor from Judy Newmark to the developer. So with a nice review, the last week of the run, ticket sales picked up, and they ended up selling out twice -- not that great for a 32-show run in a 230-seat house with a show that sells out most performances in other theatres.

They also bought ad time on KMOX (again, not the best target marketing, but KMOX does have a big audience). But the radio ads did not mention a phone number for tickets! That's a pretty big oversight. And the ads focused mostly on the theatre and its "two bar areas" rather than on the show. I guess no one told Horror Show that people don't buy tickets to see a bar, they buy them to see a show. She also neglected to get approval of the ads from the actor/director team, as their contract stipulated, which delayed the ads and cost extra money.

A week before opening someone discovered that there were 53 unanswered messages on the theatre phone's voice mail. Horror Show didn't know how to access the messages, so she just ignored them. Even after the show opened, they apparently didn't know how to erase messages either, because the theatre voice mail was full and wouldn't accept any more calls for the entire run of the show... which of course made patrons irate.

And then they opened on a matinee, a really bad idea. They did this because Horror Show had screwed up and did not have the technical aspects of the theatre ready in time for the cast and band to rehease on stage before the originally scheduled opening (reportedly because of bouncing checks to venders in the past). Later, Horror Show would blame the actors for this. Of course.

One performance during the run, in early Feburary, had to be canceled due to illness. But to this day, no one has yet received a refund for their tickets for that night. By the time New Line left the Ivory after Assassins in late March, they were still getting irate, screaming phone calls from angry patrons wanting their money back...

But these screw-ups would pale in comparison to the hell visited directly upon the poor actors, musicians, and tech people during the run the show. There was more drama to come...

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Monday, March 31, 2008

Episode 7: The Next Victims

A couple weeks after New Line moved out of the Ivory Theatre in fall 2007, the NonProphet Theatre Co. moved in to bring back a show they had done earlier in the fall: Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather. And they experienced much of the same nonsense the New Line people had been through. No one had cleaned the theatre, all the marketing Horror Show had promised disappeared into thin air, and they were getting lied to just like New Line had. Still, Corleone opened and closed without major problems.

But according to New Line, Horror Show was still terrorizing them from afar. When New Line had moved out in late October, they still had not been given the locked storage area they had been promised many times since December 2006. So one of the owners told New Line to go buy hardware and a padlock and lock up their musical equipment in a large wardrobe cabinet off stage left. Barely a week after New Line moved out, Horror Show decided she wanted to use that cabinet too. So even though she knew the owner had told New Line to put locks on it, even though she knew New Line had the key, she got bolt cutters and cut off the New Line locks. Better still, she crammed all the equipment into one end of the cabinet, damaging New Line's very expensive keyboard, and then left the cabinet wide open during the next four shows. Miraculously, the only things that were stolen were some patch cords. New Line would not find out about this until January.

Then just a few weeks after Corleone, the NonProphets moved back into the Ivory for their show second, and they finally experienced the full force of Horror Show's ineptitude. According to two members of the NonProphets I spoke with, Horror Show had gotten them to agree that she could put on a children's show during the day, one day between the NonProphets' two weekends, exchange for a reduction in the NonProphets' rent. She promised she would not touch their set or any of their belongings or props, and that the theatre would be thoroughly cleaned.

Then the NonProphets returned to the theatre for their second weekend. To a big mess. Some of the actors got to the theatre early that night in order to run lines, but instead found that their set had been vandalized -- a once functioning door unit no longer worked because it had been ripped out of the floor where it had been anchored. Apparently, Horror Show had decided there wasn't room enough on stage for her children's show without moving the NonProphets' set (which she had promised not to do). And her people were so incompetent that they stripped the screw heads trying to remove set pieces, so they literally just ripped them out of the stage deck, ruining the set pieces and damaging the stage.

Props were missing, including a purse with a CD player in it. Later, one of the owners would claim that the props weren't really "missing" since they were found in the theatre a couple months later; that those props weren't found during the run of the show seemed not to matter to him.

More than that, the house was a mess, littered with programs and paper, pieces of clothing, etc. There was broken glass on the stage and also in the audience. The restrooms were disgusting, urine on the floor, toilets unflushed, all the bathroom supplies run out and not restocked, and the lobby desperately needed a vacuum.

They complained to the owners, who chose not to give a shit.

Welcome to the Ivory.

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

Friday, March 28, 2008

Episode 6: The Fundraiser From Hell

On Saturday, November 3, 2007, Horror Show produced (in the loosest sense of that word) a fundraiser performance for the Ivory Theatre. No, strike that, the invitation said it was a fundraiser for the Ivory, but she was telling people that it was a fundraiser for her nonprofit company, TAFFY (Theatre Arts for Formative Youth), that produces bad children shows that she writes. She swore these children's shows were going to make tons of money for the theatre, which would in turn fund other projects. Yeah, right. None of that would even happen.

It turned out it was actually an amateurish backer's audition (I'm talking Guffman amateurish). She convinced the owners to invite their rich friends, so that she could put on staged scenes from several bad musicals she had written, in hopes that these rich folks would fall in love with her work and offer to produce her shows on Broadway. No, that's not a joke -- she told several people that she really believed that would happen. For her, the Ivory was a place to develop her work before it went to Broadway. That's how delusional she was and is.

The NonProphets agreed to be part of the fundraiser as well, as did Leaping Lizards. New Line and Hydeware declined. What follows is an eyewitness account of this bizarre, tragicomic evening that was forwarded to me (and somewhat edited here) by one of the parties involved in the Ivory mess at that time. I'm amazed any of these people still had a sense of humor about this ongoing nightmare...

The show wasn't just bad; it was Plan 9 from Outer Space bad. What transpired that night was an act of accidental cultural terrorism so brazen, so utterly clueless, that it demands to be written down and recorded in the annals of theatre history. Never before has one person done so much to set back the cause of live theatre in our time.

First, there's a loud chord on the piano from behind the drawn curtain. The audience, numbering 42, scattered among the 230 seats, hushes and waits. (Horror Show was convinced this would sell so well they'd have to do two performances. Oops.) And nothing happens. Nothing continues to happen. Nothing happens for quite a stretch. Eventually the audience collectively realizes that the show isn't starting after all. Oops again.

Finally the lights dim and they hear the voices of two kids. They're coming down the aisles from the balcony, having a cute-as-kittens conversation about the language of theatre: "This is where the audience sits. It's called The House." It went on from there. And on and on. The most valuable information the kids taught the speechless audience was that The Wings are used for storage, waiting to enter, and sight lines. Huh???

The kids yammer on in front of the curtain about nothing and finally execute an awkward segue: "What do you want to be?" "I want to be HER!" And they gesture awkwardly to the curtain. And nothing happens. And nothing... wait... yep, the curtain is slowly, fitfully creaking open to reveal a well-known local musical theatre performer in black sequins (who will remain mercifully anonymous) singing "Welcome to the Theatre" (a song from the musical Applause about how nasty and back-biting the theatre is -- an odd choice to open the show). Soon the kids are singing too. Sort of. And they navigate this jungle gym of dirty black platforms, step units, and ramps randomly strewn around the stage. And then... Big Finish! Sort of. Applause. Sort of. More like golf claps.

Then Horror Show's writing partner enters as Emcee for the evening. (She had actually asked a well-known local singer to emcee the show, but then decided he wasn't good looking enough, so she put out an audition notice for an "attractive" emcee -- without telling the singer she didn't want him.) The Emcee is holding a wireless hand mic and talking into it dutifully, despite the fact that it's not on. And he's really soft spoken. We catch every third or fourth word. The audience soon discovers that he's one of those people who actually possesses negative charisma -- he actually sucks charisma out of others. So he starts telling them all the wonderful things the Ivory's gonna do -- classes, a concert series, weddings, a list of proposed programs so long and nonsensical and monotone that it reminds those in the crowd who are still awake of that Bubba character in Forrest Gump.

Then the audience is subjected to a slide show about the Ivory Theatre. On the bottom of each slide is a charming caption. For example, under the slide of the church's original altar, it says, "Thoughts...... this would be a great place for the stage!" To the audience's great (unintended) amusement, each caption starts with "Thoughts....." The last slide is an artist's rendering of the finished seating area. And of course they leave this last slide up, so it hovers inappropriately in the background of the NonProphets' scene which follows...

So the Emcee introduces the NonProphets, who perform a couple scenes from the play Corleone (with that slide still in the background). They do as good a job as possible, having never had a chance to rehearse the scenes on the stage and all the while navigating that pointless jungle gym of platforms, step units, and ramps that Horror Show has created.

And then the Emcee returns to lull the audience back to sleep. He starts to teach them about How a Musical Is Written. And Exhibit A is his and Horror Show's Halloween Extravaganza Things That Go Bump In the Night. Six or seven kids come out and sing this bland awful song, actually screaming once each verse (is that supposed to be cute?) and running around the jungle gym set like there are child molesters in the wings (you know, where they keep the sightlines).

Then the audiences gets treated to a string quartet from Webster University. A not very good one. And there is a stationary mic set right in front of the stage. Right next to the cello. The cello which can't seem to hold a pitch if it had tar on it.

Then the Emcee returns to introduce the director of Leaping Lizards performing a tap solo. She does a nice job of it but again has a hell of a time navigating the jungle gym. Sadly, there's still more than ninety minutes to go...

The Emcee comes back and announces comically (he thinks) that this is the "fund part of the fundraiser." And he half-heartedly and awkwardly reads his pitch for donations off a sheet of paper. Then throws the piece of paper on the ground. Maybe that's supposed to be funny or something?

Now a whole new part of the evenings begins. The Best Part. No wait, that's wrong, it's the Worst Part. This already suffering audience is going to be assaulted by songs from musicals written by Horror Show and the Emcee. And really, it's not fair to call them songs. They're amorphous "pieces." Or maybe more like "musical scenes." Reeeeeally extended musical scenes. Extended like fifteen minutes long and unbearably boring and generic and bland, so bad that a few audience members consider forcibly cracking their own skulls open on their cup holders just to avoid the unrelenting agony of listening to this crap. Or so I'm told.

It starts with Equus: The Musical. Terrible. Really bad. Not even Guffman bad. Worse than that. Then, While You Were Sleeping: The Musical. More ambitious but also more bad. Then, Dr. Lao: The Musical (based on The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, a bad and fairly racist 1964 Tony Randall film). Worser still. Much worser. And finally an "original jazz opera" which had precious little to do with jazz. And these four pieces (of unadulterated crap) take about an hour to perform, an hour no one in this theatre will ever get back. Horror Show has assembled 10-12 local actors to do these scenes, all of them reportedly walking away afterward hating Horror Show as much as everybody else does.

Now here's the funny part. About an hour into this abomination -- which ultimately clocked out at about two hours with no intermission -- all the rich folks in the balcony are Gone. There's not a soul up there. Which pretty much cuts the audience in half. Of course, the rich folks are the target audience tonight, since Horror Show is really just trying to find investors to take her shows to New York. Then the audience hears them all laughing like hell out in the lobby, which of course carries into the theatre just in time to muck up the Original Jazz Opera -- some woman singing about rain, rain, nothing but rain. As the second hour of the show staggers on, the audience starts leaving one by one, occasionally in couples. Just getting up and leaving. When the Original Jazz Opera and some wholly forgettable final words from the Emcee are done, the 12 people left in the audience (no joke, only 12 out of 42 stayed for the whole show) staggers out into the lobby to find that all the rich folks have actually left the building and gone home. Including the wildly embarrassed owners.

I guess Horror Show won't be going to Broadway after all. At least not this season.

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor