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Theatre League head Jed Bernstein announces "the first step, not the last step" to shore up Broadway finances following the World Trade Center tragedy. logo

Jed Bernstein
The theater community continues to find creative and enterprising ways to deal with the box-office chill created by the World Trade Center disaster--and recent developments indicate that the much-discussed ripple effect need not be unrelentingly negative.

One of the latest cases in point is the ripped-up closing notice at Kiss Me, Kate; the company members of that show have voted unanimously to forfeit an additional 25 percent of their pay beyond the 25 percent salary trim taken last week by Rent, Chicago, Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, and Cabaret. The extra Kate money will go toward the purchase of tickets that will be administered by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It's entirely possible that casts of other shows may follow this initiative, which will last for two weeks and is presumably subject to renewal. (The plan was devised by trumpeter Dominic Derasse and carpenter Joe Maher of the Kate crew.)

Meanwhile, the League of American Theatres and Producers has announced what executive director Jed Bernstein insists is "the first step, not the last step" in a campaign to market a staunch Broadway. Print, television, and radio ads are about to appear incorporating an "I Love N.Y. Theater" slogan (the "Love" represented, as has become customary, by a heart) with the tagline "Let's Go On With the Show" (lifted from Irving Berlin's anthem "There's No Business Like Show Business"). At a noon press conference today, Bernstein estimated that the campaign represents a $5 million expenditure, all of it donated by the outfits involved. The Twin Towers Fund will receive five dollars for every ticket sold through September 30; Bernstein said, however, that some money will go to downtown Off-Off-Broadway theaters that suffered structural damage in the terrorist attack. Donations will also go to "The Broadway Firehouse" at Eighth Avenue and 48th Street--Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9.

For the time being, tub-thumping will be concentrated in the tri-state area, League director of marketing Jan Svendsen added to Bernstein's remarks. She said that souvenirs like T-shirt and hats are on the way, as well as (possibly) a CD. A video will be filmed this coming Friday in Times Square; it's expected that 500 performers will participate, including such over-the-title stars as Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Betty Buckley, and Bernadette Peters.

Bernstein, repeating an observation he made last week when the pay cuts were announced, said that these steps further indicate a "galvanized" front for the theater's 14 guilds and unions. But that "galvanization" doesn't seem to extend to the Off-Broadway community; the advertising and marketing measures listed above are limited to Broadway offerings, although the slogan more generally heralds New York theater. (Bernstein said that the workings of Off-Broadway are sufficiently different from Broadway to preclude any coalition of the type so far achieved on the Main Stem.)

There are some stirrings Off-Broadway, nonetheless. Mark Roth, executive director of the League of Off-Broadway Theatres, said today that the only new policy in effect involves ticket stubs. Meant to "encourage the kind of people who go to Off-Broadway theater" to do so soon, the gimmick is that anyone who brings a stub from an Off-Broadway show to the box office of another show (or the same show, for that matter) can exchange it for a 50-percent-off ticket. This offer holds through October 31. Noting that there was box office "progress" last week, Roth says he and his members are "continuing to monitor the situation."

Those inclined toward optimism regarding the Broadway fall-off might want to focus on some statistics that David LeShay, communications director of the Theatre Development Fund, had handy this afternoon. At the TKTS booth, which TDF administers, 25,303 tickets were sold for the week ending Sunday the 23rd, as compared to 9,846 during the week of the attack. LeShay was careful to point out that the more recent figure was about half of what TKTS does in an average week, saying: "I don't want people to think this is over."

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