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