With most of
Broadway dark because of the stagehands strike, business is
booming off-Broadway, especially for those theaters in the
Times Square area.
negotiations have been scheduled between Local One, the
stagehands union, and the League of American Theatres
and Producers. The stalemate has forced theatergoers
to find other attractions, and off-Broadway has some
48 productions now playing, according to the League of
Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers.
On Monday in the
theater district, people were passing out flyers
advertising off-Broadway shows -- defined
as productions in theaters with fewer than
promoting the off-Broadway musical Altar Boyz, said
some people think all theaters are closed and
don't realize that off-Broadway shows
are open for business. ''They don't understand the
difference,'' he said.
At New World
Stages, a five-theater complex on 50th Street just west of
the Times Square area, 11 weekend performances of seven
different shows sold out. The theaters house an
eclectic collection of productions, ranging from the
family-oriented Gazillion Bubble Show to the
campy Charles Busch comedy Die Mommie Die! to
Make Me a Song: The Music of William Finn,
a revue featuring songs by the composer of Falsettos
and A New Brain.
''We did very
well,'' said Daryl Roth, one of the producers of Die
night we had a large group of people who were disappointed
to not get into the Broadway show they had tickets for,"
Roth said. "They just took a chance and they came
stagehands union, which has between 300 and 350 members
working on Broadway at any given time, walked out Saturday
on short notice, two days after the parent union,
the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage
Employees, granted Local One authorization to strike.
represents a show's electricians, carpenters, and sound
people as well as those who move the scenery and
props. They work for the theater itself and are paid
for the duration of a show's run.
The dispute has
focused on how many stagehands are required to open a
show and keep it running. That means moving scenery, lights,
sound systems, and props into the theater; installing
the set and making sure it works; and keeping
everything functioning well for the life of the
and producers want to be able to hire only the number of
stagehands they think they'll need for an individual show.
For example, a play with one set might not require as
many stagehands as a large-scale musical with many
scene changes or special effects. The union wants to
maintain its rules on how many stagehands must
be hired, how they work, and for how long.
shows that have separate contracts with the union remained
open and did strong, often sold-out business over the
weekend. Among the attractions still running are
Young Frankenstein,Mary Poppins, Xanadu, and The 25th Annual Putnam
County Spelling Bee, as well as four shows --
Pygmalion, The Ritz, Mauritius, and
Cymbeline -- playing at nonprofit theaters.
discount tickets booths in Times Square and at the South
Street Seaport remained open, serving the Broadway shows
unaffected by the walkout as well as all off-Broadway
had went,'' said Sue Frost, one of the producers of
off-Broadway's Make Me a Song, which officially
opens Monday. ''A lot of it was people coming in at the last
minute paying full price at the box office. They were
wandering around looking for something to do.''
Frost said ticket
sales had increased for the coming week too. ''But
I think people are waiting to see what is going to happen or
if the strike is going to resolve itself quickly,''
Still, it's a
challenge to get tourists to go to off-Broadway shows, said
George Forbes, president of the off-Broadway league, because
the shows don't have the name recognition, star power,
or production values of Broadway productions. And
because many off-Broadway shows have limited runs,
those planning vacations months in advance may have
difficulty securing tickets.
''The thing that
makes off-Broadway special is that you are experiencing
something with no more than 498 other people,'' Forbes said.
''There is not a bad seat in these theaters, to the
extent that you are not going to be in the third
balcony. These are small, intimate playhouses, and you
are going to get a unique experience.'' (AP)