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.
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.