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Letters to the editor
by Tribune Staff
Jul 26, 2008 | 1111 views | 4 4 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In response to the article in the July 25 issue of the Tribune, “Tahoe Shakespeare Festival Fires Musicians, Angers Union,” the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival would like to clarify statements made in the article.

1. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival was never contacted by either Equity or IATSE that the unions were threatening a walkout. At no time have we ever received an official notification from the Musicians Union that they were threatening to picket the venue/organization.

2. There was no dispute with the composer, Omar Alexander. The ultimate goal for the festival is to ensure that the customer experience and the performances are of the highest quality and following the premiere it was evident that changes needed to be incorporated into the musical, CAMBIO, to ensure success. Changes included scripting, delivery, casting, audio as well as the musical accompaniment. Following the premiere, the musicians were spoken to about the need for additional rehearsal time. The festival was informed by the musicians that the schedules of some of the musicians would not permit that and therefore the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival was forced to seek alternative arrangements. The logical choice was to work directly with the group that created the original compositions considering time was of the essence and there are limited performances remaining.

3. Alexander provided a CD to John Shipley several months ago and the festival contracted with Shipley for $2,500 to have the music charted. This is common practice. This check was processed, signed and mailed on July 16.

4. Neither Alexander or Jan Powell, festival artistic director, demanded the musicians be fired – the festival attempted to continue working with the entire group but they were not available for additional rehearsals. Alexander spoke with two of the musicians in the band who were available for additional rehearsals and wanted to remain involved. However, according to the musicians involved, union regulations prohibited these gentlemen from continuing to work with our organization.

5. Checks were issued immediately to the musicians involved in the performance. Some have received and cashed their checks while others indicated they have not received payment. The payments were made on the same day and mailed together. For the remaining members that required payment, the festival's legal counsel has been in consultation with the head of the National Musicians Union, Sam Folio, to draft a settlement. The remaining checks were issued on June 24 following the agreement and Paul January collected these directly from the office of the festival director.

6. From the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s standpoint, the musicians are indeed experienced and talented. However, the type of music featured in CAMBIO is not typical of the repertoire of the musicians and that is why the festival requested the enhanced rehearsal schedule for which they would have been compensated. The musicians declined.

7. Geno Menchetti, the festival’s legal counsel, has been working with the union’s designated representative and the festival’s executive staff to resolve the situation in a timely and efficient manner.

8. The union and Powell were in negotiations from July 16, following a letter from the union dated on the same day. The union representative followed up on July 21 to say that the original offer made by the festival was declined and we would need to discuss further. At this point, the festival’s legal counsel became involved. As of July 24, a resolution was reached. We believe this is a more than appropriate timeline for resolution.


Catherine Atack

Executive Director

Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival

In response to the Shakespeare Festival’s comments concerning the Musicians’ Union. The below addresses Ms. Atack’s comments point by point. Without digressing to “he said she said”, this matter boils down to specific matters. That matter being the Shakespeare Festival breached the contract under the guise of “artistic interpretation” and violated State Law concerning payroll. The Musicians’ Union attempted to resolve the matter quickly but the Shakespeare Festival failed to respond to my communication efforts in a timely manner. The Union made every effort to resolve the matter without this going to press. That was not possible. I guess the Festival believes they are about reproach when breaching contracts and State Law.

I asked the musicians involved for their input in addressing Ms. Atack’s comments. Below is what was stated to me.

1. Lake Shakespeare Festival’s Counsel was notified my AFM local 368 Secretary/Treasurer, Paul January, of our intent to picket if this was not resolved on Thursday July 24th.

2. I stand by my statements that Omar Alexander was difficult to work with and wanted major changes to the music in the last 15 minutes of rehearsal when we needed to finish with the cast and get ready for the first performance one hour later. Amazingly Mr. Alexander didn’t even seem to know his own music very well. In one on one rehearsal with him I several times had to point out differences in what he was playing as to what was played on his CD by the recording session musicians. He seemed to not understand drums cannot be played at a concert volume when there are not enough microphones on them. The sound system was completely inadequate for an outdoor venue. There were only four channels for the entire band, which isn't even enough to mic up a complete drum set, let alone seven musicians. If a professional sound company had been contracted for the festival, many of these issues would have been non-existent. Speakers had to be unplugged several times during the show because of unbearable feedback. The band was subjected to Mr. Alexander's many negative comments that the drummer wasn't striking the snare drum loud enough, showing his lack of awareness regarding the amplification issues, since the drum didn't have a microphone on it. For this show my drummers played much louder then what any musician would consider to be musical.

3. Once again Ms. Atack is factually incorrect. I never met Mr. Alexander until the week before the first performance. He never gave me a CD of his music. Jan Powell provided me with the CD 6 weeks before opening night, not months as stated by Ms. Atack. It is not common place to give a conductor a CD and have him write out all the charts for the band. Most musicals provide the charts and the musicians read what is written. In this instance, because Mr. Alexander can’t read music, the festival hired John Shipley to transcribe and arrange the music for our local musicians. It is never common place to begin work on a project like this until there is a contract is in place and a deposit is given. This contract was not signed until May 21st, 2008 45 days before the opening night, again not months prior, as Ms Atack states. Also at that time a deposit was to be received by Mr. Shipley. The festival’s CFO, John Anderson, delayed payment to Mr. Shipley telling him through Jan Powell that he would be given full payment on opening night. The check was not delivered as stated on opening night, and has yet to be received. The festival still just blames the US Postal service for the missing $2500.00 check for Mr. Shipley’s writing fees and the other five payroll checks that have not been received. It does not take over a week to get the mail from Incline Village to Reno.

4- Musicians schedule their work months in advance so that they know they have income. The festival job was once a week for five weeks, obviously not enough to support anyone. So, all of us musicians filled in our schedules as best as we could. Some of our musicians declined work that would take them out of town so they could fulfill their contractual obligations. So blaming our availability is not the problem here. The rehearsals that were needed were for the cast, actually singing lessons is what was needed, not the band. The band was praised by many theater goers that night, many saying “ The band was the best thing about this show”. (Debra, I can get names if you need- John) These people knew that they were hiring pros and that because of our abilities scheduling more rehearsals would tough. I actually did add a rehearsal the day before the show opened because I felt the band needed it and I was told that there was no money for that rehearsal. After much negotiation with Jan Powell, the Artistic Director of the festival and Shipley’s immediate boss, this extra rehearsal the band was OK'd. The band was there and rehearsed but only one member of the cast bothered to show up.

5. Checks were not received immediately. On July 21sit I had to drive from Carson City to Incline to pick up 2 of the check as the festivals book keeper told me she had them because she didn’t have their addresses. When I picked them up they mysteriously appeared on the checks. On July 25th Paul January Drove from Reno to Incline to pick up the remaining payroll checks. But once again the check for Shipley’s arranging was not among them. The deposit is now 56 days late and Shipley was told to call the festival’s bookkeeper to ask that another check be issued to him as the US Postal Service must have lost the first one. Any of you Postal Workers out there care to comment?

6. I appreciate Ms, Atack’s comments on the abilities of my musicians but there is nothing special about Mr. Alexander’s music and my musicians were more than capable of performing it. What they were incapable of doing was covering for a cast of novices and amateurs. Maybe Omar Alexander and his non-union musicians can do that, maybe not. Only the audience can answer that question. I do know that Omar is a great vocalist and a very talented writer and the festival should have hired actors and singers of his quality to perform his music.

7. This and issue between A.F.M. Local 368 and the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. There can be no negotiation between them and Sam Folio Secretary/ Treasurer of the International Federation of Musicians. The International only has an advisory role here so to state that there were negotiations is another factually incorrect statement by Ms Atack.

8. Paul January Contacted Consul for the festival on Thursday, July 24th One week after the festival said they would send the payroll and 8 days after payment was due to the fired employees of the festival. Nevada labor law states that a fired employee must be paid immediately, not 9 days later as the festival has done.

9. Ms Atack misstates once again as no resolution has been reached and none will be until Shipley’s arranging fees have been paid and the checks are cashed.

Paul M. January


American Federation of Musicians

Local 368, Reno Nevada
Comments-icon Post a Comment
August 02, 2008
You are a miserable person with nothing better to do. I feel very sorry for you.
OH and P.S.
August 01, 2008
I did check out the website. The "actors" resumes show that with few exceptions, they are a bunch of amateurs who should continue to stay off the stage. AGAIN, I am really upset that I wasted money on this piece of garbage (all around, by the way - the play itself would have been better-written by my 5th grader!).
Yeah Right - Seen it
August 01, 2008
This was absolutely the MOST ridiculous think I have ever paid to see, and frankly, I wish I could have my money back. The actors may have "worked hard", but they still were AWFUL. And they don't even sing. They have one guy singing all the songs, even the "girl" songs, and the actors lip sync! It's STUPID! Without seeing the one performance without the original band, I would have to say that if the band was playing in one key and the actors were singing in another, it was because the actors COULDN'T SING, which is why this one guy has to do it all now. I've seen productions in the past, but I won't go again. YOU, my friend, are obviously one of those talentless "actors" I just wasted money on... Go back to your day job.
August 01, 2008
I think it is very insulting that you are blaming everything you can possibly blame on people other then conductor's ( John Shipley) attitude, and sound of the band. Leave the Actors OUT OF THE PICTURE, and take responsibility that in this business-if you don't cut it-then your fired. These actors have been working EXTREMELY hard!! You have NOT even a clue how much time and effort has gone into this show on their behalf- not only in Cambio but in other shakespeare shows in the season, THAT IS WHY they couldn't come to your rehearsal the day BEFORE the opening show. Believe me--if they had an extra 4 hours in the day, they would have found away to rehearse with the band--but that never happened. The day OF the show when they were in rehearsal the band didn't even get through every song that was in the musical with the actors-how were they supposed to sound perfect come performance time if the band was playing a different key? tempo? and in some cases a different songs then they were singing??AND if you saw the show NOW, with the NEW, YOUNG and TALENTED BAND, who actually CARES to be there, is prepared, sounds better, looks better, and doesn't SPEAK during songs and scenes-you wouldn't have anything to say. These young actors have worked SO hard all summer, how dare you insult their work because you got fired? The lack of prep for the band has NOTHING TO DO WITH the actors. Have you seen their resumes? Their training? Obviously NOT. It has nothing to do with them--and they are much better off without your negative energy on that stage.

Letters to the editor by Tribune Staff

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