Received a stunning email from Michael Casselli, production manager of NYTW, and one of this blog’s sustainable theater heroes this morning. I think it would be best to break the bad news in Casselli’s own words, so that there is no chance of misinterpretation (emphasis mine):
The entire production staff of New York Theatre Workshop will be eliminated as of May 30th, 2008. Reason for our dismissal-Board mandated a 1 million dollar reduction to the operating budget so of course who goes first? Production. Season will consist of 3 main-stage productions and an ancillary program of musicals to follow the model of the Encore series basically a bare stage and many performers remounting off-Broadway musicals. So of course production can be handled by either seasonal hires or show by show hires. People have lost their livelihood through no fault of their own and the shortsighted planning of people who really don’t understand what it is production does, we do more than shows, we maintain the theaters and provide a loyalty to the whole of the organization which in turn translates into working to make the productions here as cost effective as possible.”
What can I say? This news is simply mind boggling. And unbelievably unfortunate — for many reasons, of course.
According to Casselli six production staffers (including Casselli himself) will lose their jobs, with an estimated annual saving in salaries for NYTW of $280,000 (I wonder what the AD and MD are earning?). One of them, master electrician John Anselmo has been with the company since “before Rent premiered,” and received the news of his dismissal over the phone while on vacation.
(it should also be noted–as Casselli mentions in a comment below–that all but one member of the box office staff will also be terminated)
What may be most confusing about all of this is NYTW’s seemingly unabated plans to build new scene and costume shop facilities according to LEED standards that were to be up and running sometime next year. What’s the point of having such facilities if there is no production manager, no technical director, and no costume shop manager? “The ground breaking ceremony for our LEED certified scenic/costume shop is slated for May 14th, though now there is no staff to run it,” Casselli said. “We might have to have some sort of protest about that. It is a huge slap in the face.”
The information I have on this development is one sided at the moment, though I have no reason to doubt Casselli’s trustworthiness. I have attempted to reach NYTW’s press rep, and I will post more information as it becomes available. Since it is the weekend, I might not hear anything until Monday.