The Times makes it "a story" today.
Meanwhile, Stage Directions--a magazine specializing in the Design/Tech scene--has some fresh updates on their site about the laying off of New York Theatre Workshop's entire full-time production staff. Also, an official statement from NYTW:
According to NYTW spokesperson Richard Kornberg the termination of the production staff is “fiscally responsible, not reprehensible,” and referred to the goings-on at NYTW as a “fluid situation.”Don't you get it? We're being "responsible"! Not reprehensible. Gee, why don't these techies understand!
Okay, sorry. Unfair paraphrase, perhaps. Just sounds so corporate.
Also from Stage Directions, this sad detail:
[I]nterim managing director Fred Walker informed the production department employees of their termination behind closed doors. The staff was in the midst of teching the Elevator Repair Service adaptation of Faulkner’s The Sound And The Fury (which began previews April 15) at the time.If Sound and the Fury is anything like ERS' Gatz, then it might seem deceptively low tech, and also made NYTW feel they could afford to cut at this time. (After tech rehearsal, of course.) Yes, I know the termination isn't effective till May 31, but as SD notes, production manager Michael Casselli "was also offered a deal to walk off the job immediately without losing pay through the official termination date at the end of May."
Meanwhile, most interesting news from the Times story is that the cutbacks are indeed directly related to the closing of NYTW's B'way cash-cow, Rent.
Look, we all know the challenges to running a solvent theatre company in NYC these days. And, yes, NYTW will continue to hire production staff, albeit as freelancers.
But these freelancers will probably be younger and less experienced. And the six individuals who had built careers in their field, and devoted much of those years to this institution are now out of a job. They'll get other jobs, you say? Not if the trend spreads.
And--just to get really cosmic on you--don't look to Broadway either for those jobs! What do you think that little strike was about last fall? Permanent companies have production departments; Broadway shows have "stagehands." But either way, no matter what you call them, they're the people loading in the sets, hanging the lights, hooking up the electricity--basically making the thing run.
And what we see here is an exact mirroring of the bottom-line, take-no-prisoners strategy of the League of American Theatres and Producers. Namely: "why are we paying these laborers so much money when we don't need them?" The reason they're not "needed" anymore is the shows are getting smaller and smaller, the production values cheaper and cheaper. And that's no coincidence.
Defining production levels downward save you costs not just in materials, but in labor. But, alas, cutting "labor" in the theatre, means diminishing yet again the number of people who can make a living in it.