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Industry Pro Newsletter: Broadway Lawsuits Find Resolution, Garret Receives Death Threats

This week introduces a new feature of the newsletter from Cara Joy David

Settlement was the word of the week on Broadway, with both the Rudin/SpotCo suit and JPP/Wagner Johnson lawsuits finding resolution through settlement - the latter is the subject of a new regular feature for this newsletter from our Industry Editor Cara Joy David. On the regional front, we continue to explore the challenges of reopening - from new audience trends in the Chicago market to the far more serious death threats received by Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Nataki Garret.

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Industry Trends

Dealing With the Problems of The Bard

With significantly advanced cultural understandings of appropriateness, dealing with some of the stickier situations in the Shakespeare canon can be a challenge for even the most deft of directors. Writing for The Stage, David Jays speaks with some of the leading directors of Shakespeare about handling the plays for a modern audience. Click here to read more...

Broadway/New York

JPP and Wagner Johnson Lawsuit Comes to a Close by Cara Joy David

A year after producer/general manager Joey Parnes sued previous partners Sue Wagner and John Johnson, the parties have settled and the case is now closed.

This ends an ugly chapter for the well-known Broadway figures. In September 2021, Parnes and Joey Parnes Productions LLC ("JPP") sued Wagner, Johnson and their Wagner Johnson Productions, LLC (collectively, "Wagner Johnson"). The suit alleged that Wagner Johnson, while employed by JPP, "conspired to destroy" JPP's relationship with a Scott Rudin production company. It further alleged that Wagner Johnson agreed to share revenue from Rudin productions with JPP but had failed to do so. The suit sought, among other things, "an amount to be determined at trial, but in no event less than $1,500,000 for past damages. . . together with punitive damages in the amount of at least $4 million[.]"

The suit took many in the industry by surprise - when Wagner Johnson Productions was announced in September 2019, the release stated that the company would work on "the full range of Scott Rudin Productions' theatrical ventures." It also included a laudatory quote from Parnes about Wagner and Johnson, calling them "industry powerhouses." (At that time the trio were supposed to work together on ALMOST FAMOUS, which only Wagner and Johnson remain involved with.)

The lawsuit surprised many for another reason as well: months before it was filed, Rudin had already stepped away from his productions (nominally at least), placing his potential as a long-term rainmaker in doubt.

Wagner Johnson answered the complaint, denying the majority of allegations and countersuing, alleging that in October 2019 (a month after Wagner Johnson Productions was officially announced) "Parnes and JPP stopped distributing the contractually agreed to profit-sharing monies" from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD to Wagner Johnson. Wagner Johnson sought the very specific award of $61,559.77, an amount that they alleged was continuing to accrue. Parnes responded in a court filing a month later, denying the majority of the allegations.

No further public filing was made, other than one for a confidentiality order. The terms of the settlement between the parties are confidential. However, Nicole Gueron of Clarick Gueron Reisbaum LLP, attorneys for Wagner Johnson, provided the following statement to BroadwayWorld: "The Parties have resolved the lawsuit amicably and to their mutual benefit."

Scott Rudin and SpotCo Settle

SpotCo, a Broadway advertising firm, and producer Scott Rudin have resolved their legal dispute around more than $6 million in purportedly unpaid fees. This month, the two parties filed a settlement of discontinuance with prejudice that definitively ends the case. The stipulation, which was submitted to the New York State Supreme Court, did not include any information regarding settlement terms or money amounts. Click here to read more...

Applications Open for TheFrontOffice Foundation Grant for a Female Identifying Director

One of the largest financial prizes ever given to a single director will be given by TheFrontOffice Foundation, the charity arm of director/producer Wendy C. Goldberg's TheFrontOffice (an entertainment firm). The sizeable grant, for a female identifying theater director, of $25,000+, will be merit and need-based, commemorate the career of a deserving artist, and work to keep a spotlight on the persistent gender disparities in our industry. Click here to read more...


Oregon Shakespeare Festival is Evolving - But Not Everyone Is Happy About It

As the Oregon Shakespeare Festival works to emerge from the pandemic, it will be Artistic Director Nataki Garret's first full season of programming for the company, despite being in the job since 2019, when the festival hired her as one of the first Black women to lead an institution of the size, scope, and history of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. A force for positive change throughout the industry, Garret is not only dealing with institutional challenges in her role, but with death threats from members of the mostly white community the festival calls home. Click here to read more...

Hurricane Ian Causes Full Production Cancelation at Gulfshore Playhouse

The Baker Theatre and Education Center, which is still being built, suffered some damage during Hurricane Ian, with a portion of one wall collapsing. The building site and supporting structures experienced some flooding, and the storm surge carried away a significant amount of the dirt. Due to damage across the city and the delays caused by damage to the construction site specifically, Gulfshore Playhouse has announced the cancellation of 26 Miles by Quiara Alegra Hudes. The production, which was scheduled to start performances on October 13 on Tuesday, September 27, ended rehearsals on that day to prepare for the storm. On November 12, 2022, the 2022-2023 season will now begin with Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias, directed by CEO & Producing Artistic Director Kristen Coury. Click here to read more...

Chicago Theatres Work to Navigate the New Normal in Audience Behavior

Claire Rice, executive director of Arts Alliance Illinois, reports that businesses in the cultural sector are consistently reporting a 30-50% decline in sales from 2019. The rate of no shows has climbed, memberships have decreased, and despite the loosening of limitations, consumers continue to make last-minute purchases, making planning difficult for those who produce and present events. Click here to read more...

Newsom Signs Bill to Support Small Non-Profit Performing Arts Organizations in California

The law provides grants to small non-profit performing arts organizations to refund them many of the costs associated with payroll. These grants are designed to support the hiring of staff of all kinds at these organizations - support staff, artists, and more. The grants would not work the same for those hired as independent contractors. Click here to read more...


Industry Pro Newsletter: Broadway Lawsuits Find Resolution, Garret Receives Death Threats

Ian McKellen to Have Edinburgh Venue Named for Him

A theater will be named in Sir Ian McKellen's honor. Following his well-regarded production of "Hamlet," which was seen at the venue by a record-breaking 13,000 theatergoers during the Fringe, the venue will be renamed the Ian McKellen Theatre at Saint Stephens in his honor. Click here to read more...

Slaight Family Foundation Gives $22 Million To Canadian Theatres

The gifts are earmarked for production and marketing, and were given in sums ranging from $125,000 - $1.5 million. The Shaw Festival was one of the recipients of one of the $1.5 million grants. Click here to read more...

In the UK, How the Royal Family Works to Control the Narrative

In a rare glimpse of how the Palace asserts control over the Royal narrative, British news outlets have been told that they must submit a one hour collection of clips they would like to retain of the Queen's funeral for approval by the royal family. Once the one hour worth of clips has been approved, then any other clips would require approval from the royal family on a case by case basis. Click here to read more...

Missed our last few newsletters?

September 26, 2022 - Checking in on Industry Evolution, Gender Pay Gap in the UK Closing

Stories of transformation highlight the newsletter this week - with two different stories below - one looking at the evolution of Broadway, the other examining how Regional Theatres are transforming. Both are asking questions in light of the work done by We See You White American Theatre and other, wider racial justice protests that have occured over the past few years, alongside an increasingly powerful moment for the American labor movement. We've discussed many times in this newsletter how the industry is at a crossroads, and both articles serve as a strong check in on where the industry is in its development toward a more equitable future. Click here to read more...

September 19, 2022 - New CEO of Second City, New Leadership Across the Country

While the fall season gets underway, this week's newsletter is packed with stories of new leaders settling into their jobs - and facing the new realities of the theater industry. With the announced closing of Broadway's longest running show, questions have risen about tourism (the numbers in New York actually look much stronger than a hot take on Phantom might suggest), about the resiliency of brands (also highlighted by what the future might hold for Second City), and what gets audiences excited to come out to the theater. There aren't easy answers, but we'll continue to bring you the newly developed industry best practices as they develop each week in this newsletter. Click here to read more...

September 12, 2022 - Victory Gardens Terminates All Staff, A New Broadway Season is Underway

Last week, the Board of Directors at Victory Gardens opted to terminate their full staff and change the fundamental direction of an institution that was, for a long time, a very important incubator of new work. This is the latest development in a sweeping labor reset taking place across the industry, and after a series of victories for the labor movement, what feels like the first set back in asserting the rights of workers in the performing arts industry. In the UK, the West End paused to remember the Queen, and in New York, a new theatre season is underway. Click here to read more...

BroadwayWorld Resources

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As audiences get set to return to in-person performances, and as your company works to market your own return to the stage, make sure you've got your upcoming shows in our regional events calendars. Listings are free of charge, with boosting options available. Get your show listed now

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