War has been declared on the Pasadena Playhouse, as the executive board of the Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers has decided to strike the theater and its corporate controller, the Theatre Corp. of America.
The strike was called late last week after TCA reportedly ignored previous agreements with the union and refused to negotiate with the SSDC. Playhouse officials had no comment on the situation.
Meanwhile the union has taken an aggressive stance against the Playhouse, vowing that their members will not work there until a contract is negotiated. The union currently represents about 1,100 directors and choreographers.
“We regret that Theatre Corp. of America has taken a step backwards in their treatment of artists,” said SSDC prexy Julianne Boyd. “We have made extensive efforts to resolve our differences with (them), however, they refuse to negotiate.”
The dispute began when TCA allegedly refused to pay appropriate compensation to a director when the company moved its production of “Solitary Confinement” from the Playhouse to another city. Kenneth Frankel directed “Solitary Confinement” when it opened at the Playhouse in 1991.
The move was part of an expanded production, allowing for the show to play at four theaters, all of which TCA now operates as a mini West Coast circuit.
The strike extends to all of those theaters, including the Spreckles Theater in San Diego, the Poway Center for the Performing Arts in northern San Diego County and the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara.
Union officials say the dispute continued when TCA then refused to comply with the provisions of the League of Resident Theatres collective bargaining agreement, which they had previously agreed would apply for SSDC members.
David S. Rosenak, SSDC exec director, who recently met with TCA prexy David Houk, said the dispute was “not over economic issues, but rather over the basic principle of union representation for artists.”
Meanwhile, one of the repercussions of the SSDC’s strike has been Charles Nelson Reilly’s decision to not direct the upcoming production of Jonathan Tolins’ “Twilight of The Gods,” which was due to go into rehearsals last week.
The Playhouse is not a member of LORT but, like most independent theaters, has abided by the provisions in the LORT contract. The theater also has used the LORT contract in dealing with members of Actors Equity, although that contract will expire at the end of February.
As for LORT, they are due to go into negotiations both with the SSDC and Equity in January or February.
Rosenak, in commenting on the situation, noted that SSDC’s offer to let the Playhouse use the LORT contract was a “good deal for them.”
“The situation at the Playhouse is that the Theatre Corp. of America is really a commercial producer hiding behind the veil of nonprofit because the Playhouse is a nonprofit corporation,” he said.
While TCA prexy Houk has already vowed to not use grants to fund the Playhouse’s operations, Rosenak said the theater itself was restored through grants from individuals and from federal funds.
“And they are now benefiting from those monies,” he noted.
SSDC president Boyd, meanwhile, said, “This is a serious challenge to all West Coast theater artists who struggle to establish a meaningful professional theater community in Los Angeles.”