11/13/07

Off-Broadway shows strike box office gold

With most of Broadway dark because of the stagehands strike, business is booming off-Broadway, especially for theaters in the Times Square area.

No new negotiations have been scheduled between Local One, the stagehands union, and the League of American Theatres and Producers. The stalemate has forced theatergoers, particularly tourists, to find other attractions, and off-Broadway has some 48 productions now playing, according to the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers.

Yesterday, in the theater district, people were passing out fliers advertising off-Broadway shows, productions in theaters smaller than 499 seats. Jeramy Peay, promoting the off-Broadway musical "Altar Boyz," said some people think all theater is closed, not realizing that off-Broadway is open for business. "They don't understand the difference," he said.

John Parker of Los Angeles and his friend Paddy Reilly, from Dublin, Ireland, were at the discount ticket TKTS booth, where they collected fliers advertising various off-Broadway shows. They had bought tickets to "The Lion King" for Thursday, but planned to bring the fliers back to their wives to consult on what to see instead. "You can't be in New York and not see some shows," Parker said.

Bernie Cohen is one of those benefitting from the strike. Cohen, a Hudson Valley resident and former principal of Middletown High School, has a role in an off-off-Broadway production of "Mina" at the La Mama Experimental Theatre Club. The show opened the day of the strike. Cohen said they went from 25 or 30 audience members on Thursday to crowds of 50 or 60.

"Usually, the tourists are attracted to the theater district for the big productions. Now many of them are going the opposite way but still seeing professional theatre, New York-level professional theater," he said yesterday.

Cohen, an Actor's Equity Association member, didn't even have to cross picket lines to work. Off-off Broadway doesn't have stagehands.

The strike applies only to specific Broadway theatres. Chris Silva, executive director of the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie, said the strike won't affect performances at Bardavon or the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston.

(recordonline.com)

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