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Back Stage welcomes letters on performing arts issues. All letters should run no more than 250 words, include the writer's address and phone number, and are subject to editing.

An Artistic Director Responds

I write in response to a letter entitled "Nonunion Performer Understands" [March 5 issue, Page 6]. As the artistic director of the Naples Dinner Theatre, I wish to respond to Ms. Zoblotsky.

For reasons that I don't wish to share with your readers out of respect for Ms. Zoblotsky, she was told exactly why she was terminated. I am sorry that Ms. Zoblotsky harbors such resentment and I regret her decision to air her anger in a public forum.

Though non-Equity, we treat actors with respect and do not terminate without strong cause. In five years, we have terminated four performers. In every case because they could not fulfill the demands of the role. We terminate contracts when it is in the best interest of the theatre, other performers, and audience. We didn't want to replace our leading lady with a week until opening. The change caused us great stress, long extra hours of rehearsal for her replacement and the company. It happens all the time on Broadway—a leading performer is not working out, or they have artistic differences, and they are canned. This is theatre; it happens sometimes, but never lightly. We regret any difficulty we caused Ms. Zoblotsky and wish her well.

Non-Equity tours are hurting theatres like us. While they allow nonunion actors to experience touring, they remove talent from the pool on which we and other theatres draw upon to cast our shows. The only ones that really benefit from non-Equity touring are the tours' producers.

It's interesting that these companies bill themselves as Broadway National Tours. Their ticket prices are similar to Equity tours. Only the non-Equity actors suffer financially. And needless to say, Equity performers are losing jobs.

The way a theatre treats its performers is not a function of their union status, but instead, a reflection of their morality and professionalism. I can't tell you how often performers terminate their contracts with us because they find something else. The lack of respect goes both ways, and reflects the individuals involved, not their affiliation with any other person or organization.

The Naples Dinner Theatre enjoys a positive reputation. We pride ourselves on our conduct and professionalism. We only hope that everyone, Equity and non-Equity, companies and performers, treat one another with compassion and honesty so that we can find a shred of integrity in this often brutal business.

Michael Wainstein

Artistic Director

Naples Dinner Theatre

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