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June 6, 2003

The Show Will Continue at Meadow Brook Theatre

On June 4, 2003, at a meeting filled with more than 200 concerned artists and community members, the Board of Trustees of Oakland University, which houses the 600-seat Meadow Brook Theatre, a major LORT theatre in Detroit, voted to approve a proposal submitted by the Meadow Brook Theatre Ensemble, a new non-profit corporation that will run the theatre for future productions.

The new theatre will continue on an Equity contract. Central Region Business Representative Susan deGracia has spoken to a member of the new Meadow Brook Theatre Ensemble and reports, "It is their desire to continue operating under the LORT Agreement as an Independent Producer. This will require Equity and Meadow Brook to look at the economic condition of the theatre, placing it on the LORT Agreement at a level that will be sustainable, while retaining as many contracts as possible at the best terms and conditions for both parties." Save the Meadow Brook

The Board's decision followed weeks of controversy about possibly turning the venue into a commercial road house operated by the Nederlander organization. Originally, a May deadline was set to vote on the Nederlander proposal. However, the date was delayed until June 4 after a public outcry and the formation of the Committee to Save the Meadow Brook Theatre. On May 5, the Committee staged a rally on the Oakland University campus and a coalition of actors, students and theatre patrons led a protest drawing attention to the situation and increasing public awareness.

In early May, Central Regional Director Kathryn V. Lamkey sent a strongly-worded protest to the Board saying, "The value of creating over 30 weeks of live theatre by a university-affiliated professional company cannot be replaced by touring productions. In addition, she wrote a letter to the editor of The Detroit Free Press, which was published on May 7, 2003. In it, she expressed her "great dismay" over the plan for the theatre to operate as a commercial road house, "thereby eliminating the employment of a great many Detroit-based actors, stage managers and theatre technicians... A live professional theatre within the university is valuable to students, the greater Detroit community, the employees of the theatre, other university employees (maintenance, security, etc.), the merchants who supply the materials used by the theatre, and the list could go on. The theatre is not a group of outsiders coming in to entertain, but rather it is art created by those who live in the Detroit area."

Actor Jeff Daniels, founder of the Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, Michigan, also issued a statement supporting the Committee To Save Meadow Brook Theatre's efforts. "For years, Meadow Brook Theatre has been a creative home for Michigan talent," he said. "I hope those in charge of closing the doors of this great theatre know that if they do, they will be closing those doors in the faces of not only today's Michigan theatre artists, but tomorrow's."

Happily, this will not be happening.

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