Monday, November 12, 2007

From One Frustrated Audience Member To Another

From One Frustrated Audience Member To Another

As Day Three of the stagehands strike nears the end -- for those of you just now tuning in, Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E.) is striking against The League of American Theatres and Producers -- I just received an e-mail from a frustrated close source who is also a member of a union, albeit in another industry, who has provided me permission to run the following missive:

Those links to the stagehands' blogs (The Humble Nailbanger and OneNYC Stagehand) were a great idea.

I really don't know what the real story is here. Are the jobs the producers want to cut really unnecessary, or would they jeopardize safety? I don't know.

It's clear you shouldn't need as many people to load in Frost/Nixon as August: Osage County. I realize this is highly skilled work. But if you only need 25 stagehands instead of 50, should you be required to pay the other 25 so you won't be cutting the jobs of hard-working blue-collar Americans? That's ridiculous.

But these comments from The Humble Nailbanger really made me mad: "Well, we’re on strike. As I expected, what news coverage I’ve seen has been centered on all the disappointed little kiddies who don’t get to see The Grinch, and no news about the disappointed little kiddies -- children of hard-working, blue-collar men and women -- who would result from all the stagehands’ jobs that management is looking to cut. At times like this, it really is all about how the story is told. Oh woe, the disappointed kids from wealthy families who can afford Broadway tickets, and nothing about how most if not all of these men have families as well, and how the jobs that would be cut back would result in deprivation for them. And real deprivation, like no Christmas and a sparse Thanksgiving. Or, how the owners are looking to 'save money.' Which, of course, means 'more profits.' What’s a few out of work blue-collar Americans when yet another rich guy gets richer? I am, of course, not surprised in the least. I come from stagehands, this is what my family knows for generations. We grew up not seeing our fathers until late at night, unless they were laid up in bed, hurt from….working! Stagehands work through lunch and vacations. We work hurt and retire with permanent injuries, all so the show can go on. We are the first there to turn the lights on in the morning, and the last to leave and turn them off at night."

Oh, cry me a river! Do they know how many jobs have been cut in the [insert name of countless other industries here]? And guess what, I know people who work their whole careers at night. They didn't see their fathers until late at night. But that was the career their fathers chose. It was their decision. No one made them do it. And c'mon, no one has a guarantee of lifetime employment. You'd think they were doing this for nothing, out of the goodness of their hearts, all for the love of the the theater, risking life and limb every day.

I'm sorry, but they're not police officers or firefighters, who really do risk their lives every day. I'm sure if they're hurt, the stagehands call in sick or go on disability. And really, permanent injuries? No vacations? Really? Am I missing something?

I'm sure the union mandates that they get a lunch break! One of the most telling comments is that his family have been stagehands for generations. Hmm, wonder how he got his job? Merit? I doubt it. Connections? Probably.

Gee, I wonder how many women and minorities are in the stagehands union? I bet not many, because their fathers and grandfathers weren't in the union. And they complain about the producers being trust-fund babies! And to imply that it's only the children of wealthy families who are being disappointed by the strike is insulting!

I have to say that I agree with every single point this union member has made. I'm particularly annoyed by the dismissive remark on "disappointed kids from wealthy families." What about the disappointed kids who are from middle class and working poor families who are taking advantage of special opportunities to see that once in a year Broadway show?

My message to both The League and Local One is simple: Don't ever, ever disparage your audience. Ultimately, it's our hand that feeds you. We can easily shift our patronage elsewhere. If you didn't have those of us willing to plunk down the ever-increasing price of the tickets, there would be no job, no return on investment, no Broadway.

End of story.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
Strike Fallout, Part Two? Opening Nights In Question (November 12, 2007)
Strike Day Three: The "F" Word (November 12, 2007)
Union Of The Snake? Duran Duran Moves Remainder Of Broadway Gig To Roseland (November 11, 2007)
Strike: Day Two (November 11, 2007)
STRIKE! (November 9, 2007)
A Broadway Stagehands Strike Appears Imminent (November 9, 2007)
Roll Up Your Sleeves And Get To Work! (November 7, 2007)
Now That The Union Has Spoken... (October 22, 2007)
It's Unanimous! (October 20, 2007)
D-Day Indeed (October 21, 2007)
$5 Million Per Day (October 19, 2007)
Nederlanders: On Their Own Again? (October 18, 2007)
The Broadway Theatres Not Impacted By Labor Dispute (October 17, 2007)
Bloomberg Appears Ready To Step Into Fray (October 16, 2007)
If You're Holding Tix For Broadway This Week, You're Safe (October 15, 2007)
Stagehands To Vote On Strike...October 21 (October 12, 2007)
The Shows Must Go On...At Least Over Weekend (October 12, 2007)
Still No Lockout (October 12, 2007)
No Lockout Tonight (October 11, 2007)
Lockout Likely (October 10, 2007)
Is This The One For One? (October 9, 2007)
Stagehands' Union Concedes Key Point (October 5, 2007)
Stagehands Talks To Continue This Afternoon (October 5, 2007)
No Monday Lockout (September 29, 2007)
Before The Holidays Strike? (September 25, 2007)
Thanks, Mel! (July 6, 2007)

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At 12 November, 2007, Anonymous WORKERBEE said...

Gee, I wonder how many women and minorities are in the stagehands union?

LOL More than you would think
besides the Shuberts Dont hire or discriminate by Race or cread "LIKE YOU SEEM TOO"

I bet not many, because their fathers and grandfathers weren't in the union.

At 12 November, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Worker Bee, I'm not sure to whom those comments were directed "LIKE YOU SEEM TOO" but they're out of line.

And a note to every other person wishes to comment: Please keep your comments rational and devoid of insults and vulgarities or they will be deleted.

At 12 November, 2007, Anonymous Darren said...

Good post and good email. I partially agree with both sides here too--more with the producers though.

At 12 November, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Darren, I am sympathetic to the men and women who work hard behind the scenes to give us the live theatrical experience, including the stagehands.

But there is, after all, a reason why it's called "Show Business. Like every other venture that is not government run or a non-profit, it is a business.

At 12 November, 2007, Anonymous QueOne said...

Dear frustrated
How many men and women are in your union? Miniorities?
It is Obovious,You only read history books
Local One has over 3000 members.
We are all not from one genetic pool as you suggest.
If you had ever been on a load in
you would have an Idea of how many stagehands it takes
The F word is frequent with people who know very little about the busniess
Believe me everyone hired works their ass off.

At 12 November, 2007, Anonymous MIZ MOM said...

I guess you believe everyting you read too.
I make $160,000,
I have a job that I dont need to show up for
And I am my own first cousin.
Hunny Nobody Rides for Free in My Department.
I am a Woman Head of Department

At 12 November, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Careful folks, you're teetering very close to the edge of what's acceptable here...

At 12 November, 2007, Anonymous KathyLongIsland said...

I think both sides are missing the point
The stage hands haveto go now
this is when they have the most leverage.
I was reading that they make 60% of there money this time of the year
So Of course the Theatre gowers are upset
But is there anger misdirected
These guys work hard are middle class family men
weather they are men women miniorty
Should not make a difference
I do side with the stagehands
Because I like the underdog

At 12 November, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Bravo Kathy on your cogent thinking.

I completely understand the timing of this strike and hand it to the stagehands for seeking the most leverage possible. I'm more than a little upset that the two sides are fanning the flames instead of working toward a solution.

What I object to is slandering the audience. Ultimately, we are the ones who keep theatre alive by purchasing the tickets. It is folly to disparage those of us in the audience with the same broad brush as the producers.

At 12 November, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I AM A 16 year old working kid, who purchased two tickets to take my friend to see Hairspray this weekend. That comment takes away the remaining respect I had for those stagehands.

At 12 November, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Anonymous, Let's hope you'll have your opportunity very soon. And don't let just one person's comment influence how you feel about all the union members.

At 12 November, 2007, Anonymous Autofly said...

16 year old working kid?
Kid I dont want to be out on strike
It's not fun.
I love Theatre, Its a great biz
But I do have to feed my 2 kids
pay my mortgage
Your one night of being inconveinenced , I am sorry about!
But this is my lively hood
But The league wants to turn me into a part time worker
my kids like to eat everyday
they want to go to college
Just like the producers kids.
No One wants to kill the producer
But they do want to get rid of 38% of the people I work with
Maybe thats my job they cut?

I have been a Bway stage hand 30 years.
Now about respect thing
think about this when you 59 years old
And maybe you can put it in perspective

At 12 November, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the Marriott Marquis Theater. Stagehands will take down their pickets and work for free to allow a charity fundraiser to proceed.
Funny how no one is reporting about this

At 12 November, 2007, Anonymous Kami Kazi said...

Because Bigguys Control the press
So this Good will News will be squashed
Remember not so long ago the league was gonna "LOCKOUT" the evil greedy stage hands
They raised 20mill in a ticket surcharge (Yes Folks your money)
What was this money to be used for?
To break the union
they have been planning this for 3 years

At 12 November, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Kami Kazi, Thanks for your comments. Before the current stagehands' contract even expired, I was decrying the greed of some producers exemplified by the announced $450 top ticket at Young Frankenstein. I covered the threat of the lockout extensively and blasted The League for even threatening such an action.

I don't blame the stagehands for taking the action that they have. But as an audience member and theatre lover, I want to see the two sides come back together and work in good faith to reach a settlement. Is that too much to ask?

At 12 November, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Anonymous, That supposed "tool" of The League called has indeed reported on the Marquis fundraiser.

Regretfully, since I work my own 65+ hour a week regular (read: non theatre-related) job on top of my blog, which I write solely because of my love for live theatre, I unfortunately can't cover every story out there.

But I believe my track record shows that I am squarely in one camp only: that of the ticket-buying public.

At 13 November, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Steve... Bravo!
you are a fair and square kinda guy
I feel no one truly understands this load in work rule.
I have done some regional theatre
with out automated moving scenery
with out automated lighting
It was heavywork, hard drity work, long work, long hours rehursals, tecks
we stayed very late we could of used many more volunteers.
How do you put a number of employes
on need , because every show is diffrent.

At 13 November, 2007, Anonymous what said...

League president Charlotte St. Martin called the strike ''unnecessary''

I challange anyone on the League negotion committee,To come do a entire load in with me.
Its like running a marathon everyday
Start at 8am work till midnight
As a Soundman(actually WOMAN)
I run cable everywhere in the building. I install heavy speakers.
I crawl and work inplaces where "DirtyJob" guy wouldnt fit.
Then I get to sleep on my commute
in and out of the city (Who except producers can afford to have apartments here)
And do it again/again and again!
If a producer ever Wore my shoe's
I'd love to see it

At 13 November, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I am not a Local One member, but I am an IA member. I was also a member of Actor's Equity, as a stage manager. I joined these unions because I looked around and realized that producers can and will screw the workers in theatre particularly--theatre work is not like any other work and requires strange hours and a lot of difficult and dangerous tasks. It is really, really important that stagehands have protections in place in the form of work rules. Sure, a producer would delight in hiring only 10 stagehands to do a load-in, figuring any injuries which might result in a smaller crew are just part of the cost of doing business. Yes, it is true that sometimes you will see some stagehands standing around during a load-in while waiting on another crew. But they are ALL needed.
To all you audience members out there complaining, well, I am sorry you can't see your show. That does suck. But ask yourself why you are paying such high prices for those tickets--is it because of the stagehands? Uh, no. Stagehands account for 7% of the producers' costs. Plus, you can trust that any money the producers "save" on the stagehands' backs will NOT be passed on to the consumer, but will be pocketed by the producers. Yes, it is a business and obviously the stagehands wouldn't want the producers to NOT turn a profit--they wouldn't have jobs if the producers didn't. The stagehands just want to be treated fairly and decently.

And, for the person who thinks there aren't many women or minorities in the union, well, I'm a woman and I can tell you there are lots of us.

I would just ask all of you audience members to stop a stagehand walking the line and ask him or her exactly why they are on strike and also ask him or her what he or she does on her job. Through education comes understanding...


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