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What the heck is going on at the Flea??

What the heck is going on at the Flea??

macbeth Profile Photo
macbeth
#1What the heck is going on at the Flea??
Posted: 12/4/20 at 7:13am

https://twitter.com/FleaTheater

does anyone know the backstory here? 

Wee Thomas2 Profile Photo
Wee Thomas2
#2What the heck is going on at the Flea??
Posted: 12/4/20 at 8:30am

It's the Internet, Jake. Twitter accounts get hijacked all the time

HogansHero Profile Photo
HogansHero
#3What the heck is going on at the Flea??
Posted: 12/4/20 at 8:41am

it is a fake account, not a hijacked one. Compare the name.The Flea shut down all of its social media because they had been consumed with negative posts about the actions being taken. The Bats and other slave labor have been a scandal at the Flea for years, and the canning of everyone by the current administration because of union efforts is the basic back story.

Kad Profile Photo
Kad
#4What the heck is going on at the Flea??
Posted: 12/4/20 at 8:52am

The Flea finally faced a public reckoning this summer over its exploitive practices (as Hogan calls it, slave labor) and abusive behavior regarding its unpaid artist residencies that make up the backbone of the company. The unpaid artists attempted to organize. The Flea committed to no longer relying on unpaid labor. Then they went silent for months. Then, yesterday, without any warning, they dissolved all of the programs and dismissed those involved.

To say people are displeased is an understatement.


"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."

JBroadway Profile Photo
JBroadway
#5What the heck is going on at the Flea??
Posted: 12/4/20 at 10:16am

@Kad

To clarify, when you say "dissolved the programs," you mean the programs that would finally start paying artists? 

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MadonnaMusical
#6What the heck is going on at the Flea??
Posted: 12/4/20 at 10:33am

Yes. Rather than pay the artists they fired them all and said they would pay artists going forward but the artists demanding payment no longer work there.

Kad Profile Photo
Kad
#7What the heck is going on at the Flea??
Posted: 12/4/20 at 10:44am

JBroadway said: "@Kad

To clarify, when you say "dissolved the programs," you mean the programs that would finally start paying artists?
"

Sorry, I didn’t phrase it well. I meant the programs that had existed- the Bats, the resident directors, the Serials program, etc- were all ended, and those involved told that they could re-apply for any potential future paying programs. But no future programs, or really any sort of plans, have been announced. 

The Flea’s producing director, Carol Ostrow, also seems to have quietly left. As far as anyone can tell, only a reduced board of directors and the AD, Niegel Smith, remain. 
 

(for those out of the loop, this NYTimes article from mid June outlines the initial reckoning over the Flea’s unpaid labor and the leadership’s commitment to improve: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2020/06/19/theater/the-flea-volunteer-payment.amp.html


"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."
Updated On: 12/4/20 at 10:44 AM

JBroadway Profile Photo
JBroadway
#8What the heck is going on at the Flea??
Posted: 12/4/20 at 11:00am

Hmm, well, if they dissolved all of their unpaid programming, that seems consistent with their promise to start paying artists, right? In a way it makes sense that they wouldn't announce new programming yet, when (A) they're still probably scrambling to completely re-conceive the company from the ground up and (B) there's no theatre right now anyway. 

This seems slightly contradictory to the narrative in @MadonnaMusical's post above. Did they clean house because these employees were asking for pay, or did they clean house because these employees were too deeply entrenched in the old exploitative system, and they needed to reconfigure the entire company's structure? 

I have no interest in defending this company. But I'm trying to get a sense of what these actions mean, and how shady they actually are. 

Kad Profile Photo
Kad
#9What the heck is going on at the Flea??
Posted: 12/4/20 at 11:26am

It is true that actually paying these artists would require a lot of restructuring- this was not a small group, it was dozens and dozens of folks. It cannot be overstated: the Flea's entire model depended on unpaid labor. The Bats acting company members (unpaid for their talent, which was utilized in nearly every production put on) were also required to put in unpaid work hours in front of house, administrative, or other functions that, in nearly every other professional theater company of this size and notoriety, would be paid, as well.

But we don't really know what they're planning to do. All they have done publicly thus far is get rid of the programs and dismiss all of those involved in them. The statements they've issued have been extremely vague about future plans. Unceremoniously kicking everyone to the curb via email with no grander vision to go along with it- after promising the inclusion of the artists in these discussions- was just another unforced error that feels of a part with their exploitative practices.

There is very little good will left toward the Flea, which absolutely colors the response to their actions here. But they have done very little to earn good will back.


"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."

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