Sunday, March 2, 2008

Episode 1: In the Beginning...

This will be a blog about the crazy nightmare that is the Ivory Theatre in St. Louis, a new venue created in St. Louis in 2007 out of the old St. Boniface Church. Redeveloped by some high-powered St. Louis real estate developers, the project was inexplicably laid in the hands of perhaps the worst theatre manager in the history of St. Louis theatre, a woman so incompetent, so dishonest, and so lacking in experience or knowledge of theatre that in this blog we'll refer to her -- as many others do -- only as "The Horror Show," you know, to protect the idiotic, or however that goes.

If you'd meet her, you'd understand.

This epic misadventure, which I'll dub The Ivory Theatre Horror Show, began back in 2006 and looks likely to end (badly) in 2008. It began with Donna Perrino... oops, I mean Horror Show... calling local theatre companies asking them to be a part of this Exciting New Theatre. What none of these companies knew at the time (but they sure know now) was that Horror Show was making promises never meant to be kept, that she rarely tells the truth, and that in fact her reputation as a confirmed lunatic preceded her in St. Louis. But three local companies, oblivious to all that, signed on anyway.

New Line Theatre was the first to suffer through her continual and increasingly bizarre abuses, throughout the summer and fall of 2007, but many others have gone down this sad, surrealistic road since. The NonProphet Theatre Co. suffered through two shows; several local actors suffered through a failed fundraiser showcasing scenes from the (painfully amateurish) musicals she's written (attendance was 42 when the show started, 12 when it ended with her "jazz opera"); several individuals in the theatre community suffered their own private hell with her; and finally, when she brought in a production of A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, both local and non-local artists suffered through her abuse and incompetence.

(After foolishly scheduling a run of four weeks, eight shows a week, Horror Show neglected to send out any press releases, so three of the four weeks of the Patsy Cline run played to houses of six people a night, eight people, fifteen, twelve... Attendance for the first twenty-something performances only broke thirty twice.)

As far as this blogger knows, watching this catastrophe somewhat from the outside, everyone who suffered her abuse -- three different theatre companies and several individuals -- has reported everything to the developers, including the artists from out of town. And the developers have done virtually nothing.

Most of the people and companies involved with the Ivory Theatre are now trying to escape, and sadly, this beautiful theatre may soon be without any tenants at all. The developers are convinced that Horror Show is Just Terrific at her job, that the Patsy Cline show was a tremendous success, and that they owe their tenants neither protection from the abuses nor explanation.

This blog will attempt to record the history of this mess going back to late 2006, as accurately as it can be reconstructed. Luckily there are lots of records since most of the victims wrote long letters to the developers detailing the lunacy and sent dozens of emails back and forth to each other, to their boards, and to others involved (me included). New Line also kept detailed notes on all of this, which were emailed to their board, to the owners of the Ivory, and to the other companies and people involved; a lot of the details in this blog have come from those emails.

If this chronicle can help others avoid the horrors that have already terrorized so many, then it will have accomplished its goal.

Sic semper tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor