Avoid Working with David Petro/Broadway Break Thru

Avoid Working with David Petro/Broadway Break Thru

Last December, I wrote a piece on the fact that Broadway Break Thru and its founder David Petro, had not paid its guest faculty for their work during their summer college programs.

Some of the guest faculty hadn’t been paid a dime despite some of them being owed upwards to $1,000.

After publishing the article, I had heard that Petro promised(in writing) that he would pay all monies owed by February 28th. I’ve been told by various faculty, that he hasn’t sent them a dime.

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Bowling Green Students Want to Change Theatre Namesake Over Role in Racist Film

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News coming out of Ohio tooday,

The Black Student Union at an Ohio university is pushing the school’s president to rename a theatre honoring an actress who starred in “The Birth of a Nation,” considered one of the most racist movies ever made.

The Toledo Blade reports Bowling Green State University’s Gish Film Theater was named after actresses Dorothy and Lillian Gish 40 years ago.

Lillian Gish starred in the 1915 black-and-white silent film, which served as a tribute to the Ku Klux Klan and helped revive the white supremacist group.

Black Student Union President Kyron Smith says the push to rename the little-used theatre comes after its relocation to the student union.

University President Rodney Rogers says a task force of students, faculty and other stakeholders will make a recommendation for an immediate change.

So I can completely understand why the Black Student Union might feel this way. Having a facility on their campus named after someone associated with a racist film can evoke some painful and negative feelings. For anyone who has ever seen The Birth of a Nation, it is an infuriating film.

However, what I feel might be getting lost in all the furor, is the possible truth behind Gish’s participation in the film and ignoring everything else she did in her lifetime.

First of all, what should be considered is if Gish had any choice of appearing in the film at all. From what we know of the stringiness of early Hollywood contracts, it’s more than likely that her being in the film was apart of the deal she had signed with D.W. Griffith when she was 19 and she was going to be in that movie whether she wanted to or not. It should also be noted that The Birth of a Nation was one of six films Gish made in 1915 and one of 23 between 1914-1916.

I would absolutely support the removal of D.W. Griffith’s name from any theatre. He was the son of a Confederate solider, opposed Reconstruction and saw the rise of the Klan as potential for a great moment in cinematic history.

Also, if you want to take context of the film into account, her character Elsie doesn’t actually do anything racist. If anything, she’s repeatedly portrayed as a victim. If her character had been dressing in blackface, gleefully participated in a lynching or any other type of racist behavior, it would be an entirely different issue.

At the same time, consider why the theatre was named for her in the first place. Unlike statues of Confederate heroes, her tribute has everything to do with her contributions to acting and film as a whole.

Keep in mind this is the same actress that for Way Down East (1920), floated perilously down a river while perched on an ice floe, trailing her hand in the frigid water in order to make the situation even more impactful which resulted in permanent nerve damage. On the shoot of The Wind in the Mojave Desert, she insisted on the utmost authenticity, including filming in the midst of sandstorms; at one point she suffered third-degree burns on her hands from a car door handle which had become white hot in the blazing desert heat.

It would also be different if Gish was known to be a racist herself and support racist causes. But she didn’t or at least there is no record of it.

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After she died, she bequeathed the the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize which awards $250,000 annually to an individual who has “made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” Recent recipients include Suzan-Lori Parks, Bill T. Jones and Spike Lee.

And remember, this was one credit on a career that totaled over 100. Yes, she appeared in a racist film at the age of 22, but in the years that followed she also played Mimi and La Boheme and Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter.

Should we be getting into to punishing or removing namesakes due to one shameful acting credit? If you feel that way, should the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center remove their namesake because she once appeared in yellowface in Dragon Seed? Should we demand that Julia Louis-Dreyfus give back her Mark Twain Prize because she appeared in Soul Man (where a character spends the entire movie in blackface) more than 30 years ago? Should we rename the Mark Twain Prize because of his usage of the n-word in Huckleberry Finn?

As a person of color and someone with common sense, I do believe there are actual issues with race in this country. I supported the tearing down of Confederate monuments. I believe that there is still massive marginalization of people of color on an everyday basis. I also know that this is the second time this year race has been heavily discussed on BGSU’s campus.

So I’m urging students at BGSU and their administrators to look at the entirity of Gish’s career and contributions. But if you feel that one likely contractually obligated credit in a racist film at the age of 22 is enough to strip her name off a theatre, I think that says more about you than it does Lillian Gish.

Issue Over Two Different "To Kill a Mockingird" Scripts are Forcing Local Theatres to Cancel Upcoming Productions

Issue Over Two Different "To Kill a Mockingird" Scripts are Forcing Local Theatres to Cancel Upcoming Productions

This Spring, Curtain Call Theatre in Braintree, MA was set to produce To Kill a Mockingbird. However, after auditions were held and rehearsals were set, the theatre was forced to cancel their production due to legal threats they received from lawyers representing Scott Rudin, the lead producer the currently running Broadway show of the same name.

Normally this would be pretty cut and dry, except for the fact that Curtain Call was set to perform an entirely different script licensed by a different company. And that issue is causing problems worldwide and might even end up in a court battle of its own.

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Student Strike Results in Cancellation of Theatrical Productions at Willamette University

Student Strike Results in Cancellation of Theatrical Productions at Willamette University

In 2015, we here at OnStage Blog ranked the B.A. in Theatre program at Willamette University as the best in the nation. We felt that the combination of academic rigor, bold production choices, outstanding faculty and ample scholarships made them stand out among the rest. Since then, the school has been in the Top 10 on our annual rankings and this past year came in at #3.

However, a recent student strike has led to the cancellation of the program’s two upcoming productions. And if what we’re hearing from the students is true, then it could lead to a swift downfall for one of the country’s best theatre programs.

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A High School in the Philippines is About to Perform Unauthorized Production of HAMILTON Because of Course They Are

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Next week, the students at Mandaluyong Science High School are going to be performing their first musical production. I’m sure right now the sets are being finished, lighting cues are being entered and tickets are being sold. I’m sure the parents of the students at the Mandaluyong City school are getting excited to watch them perform.

There’s only one problem. The musical is Hamilton and they don’t have the licensing rights to perform the show. Because the amateur rights don’t exist.

According to the school’s drama club Facebook page, their production of the Lin-Manuel Miranda hit is set to perform next week.

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The school is selling tickets to the event and even offering VIP seating for 100 phs ($1.91).

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I wish I could say I’m surprised that this is happening. But like sands through the hour glass, so will a Southeast Asian school perform unlicensed musical theatre productions.

Mandaluyong Science High School is far from the first. In the past couple years we’ve seen this occur schools there trying to do productions of Coco and “Bombshell” based on the TV series Smash. Another school in the Philippines tried to be creative and changed the name of RENT to Seasons of Love to try to escape copyright violation.

This also comes off the heels of a school in Indonesia performing Hamilton as well. One break in the Southeast Asian trend was a school in Rio de Janeiro who performed an unlicensed production of The Book of Mormon complete with blackface. Yikes.

As I said earlier, I’m not surprised that foreign schools have produced popular musical theatre titles without obtaining permission in the past. But I am surprised that it keeps happening and the level of brazenness these schools have to flaunt it.

I do place some blame on the students, but not all of it. I didn’t know anything about copyright law as a high school student, so I can’t expect that these students are going to be knowledgeable of it either. However, I do blame the adults in the room. Whether it’s a teacher, director or adviser, someone at these schools need to know how to purchase rights and permission. By failing to do so, they’re teaching terrible lessons and putting their institutions at risk.

And before anyone brings up the stupid point of “Lin-Manuel already has enough money” blah blah blah, money has nothing to do with it. It’s the fact that foreign schools have no problem with stealing artistic property while almost all schools and organizations in the U.S. wouldn’t dare try. You would have to be Teresa Walker/Theaterpalooza level dumb to knowingly do that.

And the common defense of “Fair Use for Educational Purposes” doesn’t apply here because this a full-fledged theatrical production, performed outside the classroom, with admission being charged. But charging for tickets wouldn’t matter anyway. If an "audience" is invited or permitted—once again, whether admission is charged is not a factor—there no longer is "face-to-face teaching." Instead a "entertainment" is in progress. The spectators are not being instructed by the teacher. They are not enrolled in that particular course. Therefore getting permission is mandated.

But as I said before, foreign schools are keen on producing these shows without obtaining the rights. This is dumb and lazy, because most licensing houses have Asian departments to work with these schools. Why these teachers and schools choose to go the different path is beyond me.

So my advice to any foreign school that is even thinking about producing an unlicensed musical, please don’t. Go through the proper channels to obtain permission and this way you can save your students the heartbreak of not being able to perform a show because a cease and desist letter was sent a day before performances begin.

And to the Drama Club at Mandaluyong Science High School, I would pick a different show.

UPDATE: Within hours of this piece being publoshed, I’ve been told by sources that the show is cancelled.

Will MTI Ever Get the Money They're Owed from Theaterpalooza?

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News broke yesterday that Music Theatre International(MTI) had been awarded $450,000 in damages in addition to attorney’s fees in its copyright infringement case against Theaterpalooza Community Theater Productions, Inc.

This was no surprise given the fact that Theaterpalooza and its founder, Teri Walker, had been blatantly producing MTI properties without permission and paying licensing fees for years. In fact, the VA and MD community theatre company had produced 16 unauthorized productions.

MTI said it plans to donate some of the damages to Jumpstart Theatre, a program created in part by MTI that brings theater programs to underserved communities.

While I’m thrilled for MTI, I’m concerned that they will never see a dime from Walker. Reason being, she has yet to pay for previous judgments against her and her business entities.

According to documents submitted exclusively to OnStage Blog, there have been over a dozen court filings and judgments against Walker and her various theatre groups. The judgments range from unpaid rent to unpaid employees totaling over $235,000. According to the documents, only one of the judgments has been paid while the rest have been sent to debt collectors. If she hasn’t paid back the money she already owes, then I doubt she’s going to pay back the half a million owed to MTI.

Teresa Walker….or Grosze now

Teresa Walker….or Grosze now

Also, Theaterpalooza has been evicted from their performance space in Ashburn, VA. According to the landlord, Kirby Whyte, Walker and her group owe over $30,000 in back rent, common charges and gas and electric payments. However, it appears that Walker and her crew have skipped town because they left the space in shambles and even abandoned two of their school buses.

In court records, it looks like Walker shut down their email address as communications were returned as “Mail Returned as Undeliverable”. Also, the phone number on their website has been shut down as well. That’s not a good sign when you’re trying to collect a half a million from these people.

In an effort to try to rebuild her crumbling reputation and past business indiscretions, Walker has changed the name of her group at least three times since the story broke this summer. They went from Theaterpalooza to I Creative Artts Centers to Nova Creative Arts Centers and now their Twitter account is listed as Art Lab 4 Kids.

But it’s clear that Walker is trying to pay for her past mistakes by making new ones. According to the group’s website, they were planning on performing productions of “Harry Potter,” “Anastasia”, “The Greatest Showman” and “ The Snow Queen” which design matched identical to “Frozen”. None of these have licensed material yet for amateur groups. Given their legal problems and eviction, I’m not sure if these productions ever opened. But if they did, that means more issues are on the horizon for Teri Walker and her crew.

Needless to say, I’m happy for MTI but I’m doubtful that they will ever see a dime from Walker given her past issues.

UPDATE: Apparently shortly after this news all broke, Teri Walker has changed the name of her business again. They are now going by Teri Grosze Arts Eduction(Seriously, you can’t make this up). Pics of the new name were sent to us. Since she has changed her name, I would advise anyone looking to be involved with this group about Ms. Walker’s…I mean Ms. Grosze’s past.

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Community Theatre Group Facing More Legal Problems Other than Lawsuit from MTI

Community Theatre Group Facing More Legal Problems Other than Lawsuit from MTI

This past summer, news broke that Music Theatre International Inc.(MTI) filed a lawsuit against Theaterpalooza Community Theater Productions, Inc and its owner, Teresa Walker.

The issue centered on Theatrepalooza’s 16 unauthorized productions of MTI titles over the past three years. Even despite warnings and cease and desist communication, Walker and her group continued to perform the material without paying for the rights.

While Theatrepalooza is fighting one legal issue, more could be on the horizon.

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More Accusations Brought Forward Against Broadway Break Thru

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It looks like Broadway Break Thru isn’t out of the woods yet. Despite claims of having a spotless record, more accusations have been made against the company for not paying its bills. And it looks like legal action is going to be filed against them and their founder, David Petro.

Following the report that Broadway Break Thru has not been paying its guest faculty members for its 2018 summer event, Mr. Petro, released the following statement:

This past week, it’s been shared in the public space that Broadway Break Thru (BBT) has not made full payments to our 2018 College Break Thru (CBT) instructors. I take pride in maintaining the utmost integrity in our organization’s business practices. All of BBT’s instructors have been notified when all stipends will be paid in full plus interest. In the spirit of transparency, I feel responsible to share the details and context on how we got here, and how we are ensuring it does not happen again.

Approximately two weeks after the CBT 2018 intensive, I had an emergency back surgery. An oversight was made in that payments did not go out due to a physical signature being required. Concurrently, my director of operations left due to his mom’s sudden death. The bottom line is that BBT’s CEO and the Director of Operations were unavailable and consequentially, regular business practices were interrupted. A member from my team kept the instructors updated, and as soon as I was able, I reached out to each and every instructor personally. 

A focus of this week’s public messaging is our 2019 CBT programming and approach for marketing this initiative. Our 2019 website was launched during the 2018 CBT summer intensive to promote our upcoming year. We have addressed every concern that’s been raised to us directly. We take responsibility for this matter, but will not allow false narratives.

As a performing artist, educator, and business owner, it is incredibly hard to acknowledge this situation after more than 9 years of a spotless record. As many performers understand, our bodies are our livelihood. To date, I have had 23 medical procedures and 3 surgeries.  Unfortunately, after a period of painful and debilitating forced medical leave, I came back to a business that was withered and a team of professionals and friends hurt by their missing payment.

Yet, as a result of these setbacks, I am excited to report that BBT has been revived as an even more mature and robust organization. We recently partnered with Accelerated Growth, a firm that works with entrepreneurial organizations to manage through these very types of business scenarios growing small businesses often face. We have put new people, systems, structures and policies in place to ensure this never happens again. There is a business management team built around contracts, payment structure, and internal policies to provide peace of mind to our instructors.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out with love, support and gratitude. We are touched to have you in our lives and excited to continue helping students reach their full potential with BBT.

In the statement, Mr. Petro claims that before this issue with guest faculty in 2018, he’s had a spotless record going back the past nine years. However, according to one university, that claim isn’t as accurate as Mr. Petro might believe.

I received the following statement from Jay Berkow, the Director of Musical Theatre Performance at Western Michigan University.

“Broadway Breakthru (BBT) is a company that provides musical theatre experiences for children of all ages from elementary to college students.  In the past few years they have attempted to develop relationships with respected college music theatre programs to provide a one-week summer pre-college camp experience. 

In August 2016 Broadway Breakthru partnered with Western Michigan University to provide such an experience on campus.  Students paid a hefty sum and received training with the faculty from WMU theatre and dance, as well as guest artists and interns.  The agreement with BBT ensured that the fees paid by the students directly to BBT would cover the experience including the faculty fees, housing in the WMU dorms and a meal plan.  BBT has never paid for the contracted housing and meal plan provided by WMU and has left the university with a bill of over $6,000. When WMU attempted to contact BBT director David Petro on numerous occasions, he did not return calls or emails and was unavailable due to a vacation in Italy.  As of now, WMU has no recourse but to take legal action against BBT to attempt to recover the owed funds.

Parents should take note that Broadway Breakthru is not a reputable organization and there are many other options for music theatre training and college prep available to their talented children.”

Given the fact that these events took place in 2016, it conflicts with Mr. Petro’s comment of having a spotless record for the past nine years.

We’ve reached out to Mr. Petro for comment on this inconsistency, we will update this article with any new information.

This is an ongoing story, if you have any information, please email us at onstageblog@gmail.com

Performing Arts Education and Coaching Company Accused of Not Paying its Guest Faculty and Staff

Performing Arts Education and Coaching Company Accused of Not Paying its Guest Faculty and Staff

A performing arts education and audition coaching company is under fire today over claims that it has not paid its guest faculty members for summer workshops and masterclasses even though they had agreements over email regarding compensation.

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Are Students in the Redlands(CA) Unified School District Safe?

Are Students in the Redlands(CA) Unified School District Safe?

Last week, news broke in Redlands, CA that a high school drama teacher was arrested on suspicion of having sex with two underage students and possession of child pornography. Joel Everett Chandler Koonce was taken into custody on November 9th. While these accusations are terrible, what’s even more terrifying is that this is the third teacher accused of sexual abuse over the past five years and the number of victims coming forward is climbing.

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Casting Controversy with 'Little Shop' Leads to Anti-Whitewashing Policies at University

Casting Controversy with 'Little Shop' Leads to Anti-Whitewashing Policies at University

Last month, furor erupted within the theatre department at Bowling Green State University in OH over the casting of its production of “Little Shop of Horrors”. The controversy arose when the director of the production cast three white actresses in the roles of Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon, known as the “urchins”.

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Why is Disney Being Cheap with its Original "Aladdin" Writers with its Live-Action Remake?

Why is Disney Being Cheap with its Original "Aladdin" Writers with its Live-Action Remake?

This past month, Disney unveiled the first teaser trailer for “Aladdin”, its latest remake of their animated classics set to release in Spring 2019. In addition to some glimpses of Iago flying above some epic CGI-generated landscapes, we also got to see a quick look at the Cave of Wonders and hear some pretty familiar dialogue,

“Only one may enter here,” the Cave says. “One whose worth lies far within. A diamond in the rough.”

I’m 100% sure we’re going to hear some of the more iconic lines of the original animated films in this remake. However, apparently Disney is being more than a bit stingy when it comes to paying the original writers of the animated film.

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"The Laramie Project" is Personal for CT Director

"The Laramie Project" is Personal for CT Director

This year, The Laramie Project is sure to be one of the most produced plays across the country. In fact, usually is regardless of what year it is. But for one director in CT, the play is all the more personal. Because while much of the world knows Matthew through this play and his story, Shannon-Courtney Denihan got to know him while they were friends in college.

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The Top 10 Most Anticipated Broadway Shows for 2018-19

The Top 10 Most Anticipated Broadway Shows for 2018-19

While one could certainly argue that the 2018-19 Broadway season is off to a mixed start, there are certainly shows on the horizon that have our interest piqued.

Some of these shows sound more promising than others and some seem to be Tony contenders before they even open. Here are my picks for the 10 Most Anticipated Shows of 2018-19.

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A Trump Skit, A Town Outraged, A Community Theatre in Turmoil

A Trump Skit, A Town Outraged, A Community Theatre in Turmoil

When one thinks of Breckenridge, CO the first thing that usually comes to mind is their popular ski resort. Then perhaps their famous Oktoberfest. But probably no one thought it would be home to a brewing controversy involving its local community theatre. A controversy that has led to threats of boycotts and the resignation of two theatre officials.

All due to a satirical sketch poking fun at Donald Trump. 

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"Theaterpalooza" Changes Its Name to "I Creative Arts Centers"

"Theaterpalooza" Changes Its Name to "I Creative Arts Centers"

Theaterpalooza, as we know it, is gone. Now, there is I Creative Arts Centers. 

Possibly as an attempt to put some negative press behind them, the owners of the controversial Theaterpalooza have changed their company's name. In addition to the name change, they have also created a brand new website as well.

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