Cast-members of Hedwig and the Angry Inch made a strong impression when performing at the 1998 Village Voice Obie Awards. Perhaps too strong.
Obie spokesperson Gail Parenteau told Playbill On Line the actors' union sent Hedwig's company manager, Adele Bove, a letter assessing the show "a two-week breach penalty" on behalf of the stage manager and actors. The letter, dated June 1, was signed by Mary Kennedy, of the TV News & Tapings division.
Equity apparently spotted a camera taping the performances at the Obie Awards, which would be forbidden without the union's advance permission.
Reached June 17, Kennedy told Playbill On-Line she had "no comment" on the situation. Equity spokesperson Helaine Feldman (at Dick Moore & Associates) told Playbill On-Line (June 19), "The claim is being investigated, we have no comment." She could not elaborate on the definition of a breach penalty.
The Actors' Equity letter reads: "Thanks for your letter of 5/13 stating that there was to be no taping for television broadcast of the presentation of a scene from Hedwig. Unfortunately, the scene was taped by the Obie staff for "archival purposes." Since no Agreement was in place, Equity is forced to assess a two-week breach penalty on behalf of the Stage Manager and the Actors. Please note that Equity did try to negotiate terms after the fact for the subject taping with the Obie's... The only legitimate tape would be through Theatre On Film and Tape at Lincoln Center... We realize this is an unexpected claim. But the Obies, who seem to have an unreasonable resentment toward the Union, would not listen to the fact that the production would be liable for any taping..." Parenteau contests the finding: "Mary Kennedy called me May 15, the last business day before the Obies and asked me every question under the sun. I told her the show was not taped for any kind of broadcast or sale. We only have a camera there taping it for the archives. She then asked if she could get a ticket to the Obies, but I told her we were already full and I was turning press away. Besides, there were already two tickets to the Obies reserved on behalf of Actors Equity, so Equity was, indeed, covered. The Obies go by, then she calls again saying she got into the Obies using another name . . . and when she was there she noticed the camera. I told her again it was just for the archives and figured I'd hear no more about it. Then she sent the letter."
Added Parenteau, "There was an oral agreement in place when we spoke on May 15th. I was also told by another press agent that the letter is frivolous because the band didn't even perform in costume. How can they imply that Hedwig will make a profit off this gig? The tape went nowhere, and we've been taping for four years with no problem. In fact, the Obies have always had a very good relationship with Actors' Equity.
Asked about the Equity letter, Hedwig spokesperson Tom D'Ambrosio told Playbill On-Line (June 18), "We were invited to perform on the Obies and were thrilled to do it. The company manager checked with the Obies, who said it wouldn't be broadcast anywhere, and it hasn't been. In the past I've worked on shows that performed at the Obies even when they were broadcast on NY-1. Tons of Equity shows have performed at the Obies, and as far as I know there's never been problem."
D'Ambrosio also said the producers are going into arbitration with Equity over the matter.
-- By David Lefkowitz