Eisen's attorneys filed suit last week in Middletown, CT, naming Goodspeed Musicals, executive director Michael P. Price and board president DeRoy Thomas in papers, Eisen said.
Eisen has had a relationship as a press rep for Goodspeed Opera House since 1976, but has not received a traditional payment (weekly checks adding to $10,000 per season) since late 2000, he said.
Although Goodspeed has its own in-house press rep, the troupe has used New York rep Eisen to help stimulate industry interest in the new and classic musicals put on in East Haddam and Chester, CT.
As recently as fall 2003, Goodspeed playbills listed Eisen as its New York press rep. Among Eisen's efforts over many years (and as late as 2003) was the chauffeuring of critics or reporters from Manhattan to Connecticut, a service accepted and acknowledged and apparently appreciated by Goodspeed, he said.
In April 2001, Eisen received a $5,000 check from Goodspeed, but refused it because it was not the traditional amount he received as payment. Variety reported that Price said he verbally told Eisen three years ago that the relationship between the press agent and theatre was over, but Eisen told Playbill On-Line he wasn't fired until a letter dated Oct. 23, 2003.
"Since we again communicated to Max in late 2003 that his services were not required we have made several offers to compensate him but those offers were rejected," a Goodspeed spokesman said. "We believe they were fair. We're sorry at this point after so many years of working together that it has come to this. We'd like to resolve it quickly and fairly."
Eisen said he has not been contacted about compensation. Eisen said he is owed $36,000 and is asking for a total of $50,000 to pay for legal fees.
"Look, it's not about the money," Eisen said. "It's the principle of the thing. To get a kick in the balls like this at the end..."
In a long career, Eisen has repped about 1,000 shows, including more than 100 Broadway plays and musicals.
Eisen, who has no plans to retire, said he still gets a kick banging the drum about newcomers in the theatre.