The producers of the Broadway play The Ride Down Mt. Morgan have filed formal charges against the production's star Patrick Stewart, in reaction to an April 29 speech he gave from the stage of the Ambassador Theatre denouncing the producers, and the Shubert Organization in particular, for not properly promoting the play.
The extraordinary move followed hot on the heels of Stewart's surprising decision to take his grievances with Mt. Morgan's producers to the public. Following the curtain at the Saturday matinee and evening performances, Stewart, reading from a speech endorsed by playwright Arthur Miller, said, "There are many elements that go into making a Broadway play a success... People need to be told that a play is out there. Arthur Miller and I no longer have confidence in our producers commitment to this production (especially the Shubert organization) or their willingness to promote and publicize it."
The Shuberts initial response to the speech was a simple statement in which they reiterated their support for the production. But soon after, they lodged a complaint of unprofessional conduct with Actors' Equity. According to the New York Times, the motion could result in Stewart's being reprimanded or fined or, at the far extreme, his expulsion from the union.
The next step in the battle between the two will be an Equity hearing, at which both Stewart and the producers will get the opportunity to present their case. No date has been set for the meeting. Equity head Alan Eisenberg was not available for comment at press time.
Prior to his weekend statement, Stewart had been complaining about the lack of critics' quotes outside the theatre and the paucity of advertising in the Sunday "Arts and Leisure" section of The New York Times. "Clearly the play has dropped through the memory hole," Miller said. "Promises have been made repeatedly that were never kept. I told [Stewart] I agreed with the statement."
Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Shuberts, meanwhile, has attested to spending more than $1 million in advertising support of Mr. Morgan. And the play's publicist has said that more money was being spent on promoting Morgan than had been on The Blue Room and Amy's View, two other limited run plays of last season. He also noted that Morgan was the only straight play on Broadway that had received television advertising.
Such spats between cast members and producers are not unusual, although recent fights have concerned Off-Broadway shows with much lower profiles than Mt. Morgan. Last season, Lillias White openly feuded with the producers of Dinah Was, and Uta Hagen bitterly complained about the lack of promotional support for her play, Collected Stories.