Negotiations on the last contract between Seattle Symphony Orchestra management and players left both sides feeling bruised and bleeding. With that contract due to expire


Driving a soft bargain at SSO

Negotiations on the last contract between Seattle Symphony Orchestra management and players left both sides feeling bruised and bleeding. With that contract due to expire only days before the Symphony's new Benaroya Hall is scheduled to open, nobody wants another brutal public struggle. To avoid one, members of the orchestra's negotiation committee and Symphony and Opera management flew back to Boston last December for a two-day Harvard workshop in "interest-based negotiation": an innovative bargaining technique designed to identify broad goals and areas of agreement between labor and management before the parties get bogged down in the gory details.

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Credit the Opera's administrative director, Kathy Magiera, with persuading all parties to give the program a try. The players' reps at least say that the time spent studying case histories and role playing with workers and bosses from the airline and auto industries as well as teachers and firefighters gave them new insight into the process.

Defining long-term "interest-based" goals like, for instance, attracting first-class talent to make a commitment to Seattle and its orchestra is all very well. Fact is, though, the biggest question for players and management alike is: Where's the money coming from to jack SSO player compensation back up to competitive levels after more than a decade of stagnating salaries here and skyrocketing salaries elsewhere? With meetings between the Seattle parties scheduled biweekly for the next couple of months, we should soon know if high-minded principle can survive encounter with the ol' nitty-gritty.

All night long with Dada's Mama

If you wanted to start a literary argument 50 years ago, you couldn't do better than to bring up the name of Gertrude Stein. Picasso's pal, Hemingway's inspiration, Alice B. Toklas'... autobiographer, she was also a pop culture celebrity, quoted in Time, commissioned by The Saturday Evening Post, parodied in The New Yorker. After her death in 1946, Stein's reputation plummeted. In the '60s more people were reading Alice's Cookbook than all of Gertrude's books put together.

But the Stein flame never entirely guttered, and thanks to feminist and lesbian studies, her books have recently come back with a roar. Last month the Library of America published two handsome volumes of Stein; next month, purely by coincidence, local Steinheads are celebrating the Mama of Dada with an all-night celebratory Steinathon at the Richard Hugo House on Capitol Hill.

Co-organizers of the event, Niko Vasilakos and Rebecca Brown, have cast their net wide to appeal to all and sundry, not just hard-core Steinites. The festivities begin at 11am April 4 with a matinee reading of Gertie's charming children's book The World Is Round, then continue through the afternoon and night with readings and performances from Stein's poems, plays, prose, and erotica by the likes of Matthew Stadler (whose forthcoming novel is about Gertrude's nephew, Allan Stein), Emily Warn and Mary Travers, Bret Fetzer, Kristen Kosmas and Kip Fagin, Mary Ewald and John Kazanjian, the Other Sounds and Neuropa, and the inevitable many, many more, including music by the Gardenias and, just maybe, for the truly faithful, Sunday brunch catered by Alice.

Theater art

Two of the sharpest pieces of public art currently on view are theater brochures. Not surprisingly, both are for companies that pay a lot of attention to the visual side in their productions, too: House of Dames and Printer's Devil. Dames' sootily sumptuous 16-pager, designed by Tom Milewski (of Molly House and the Seattle Rep), is primarily a fund-raising tool for NikkiAppino's newly formalized production company, but its illustrations, drawn from past shows like Djinn and Sub Rosa, make your mouth water for more of the same. Printer's Devil kept things completely in-house for its dressy-funky 1998 season announcement: design is by PD AD Kip Fagin with artwork by co-AD Paul Willis.

We're only asking...

If the Seattle Symphony Chorale is singing better than ever after its membership upheavals as conductor Gerard Schwarz says, why is chorale director Abraham Kaplan holding auditions again March 11? Used to be the chorale only auditioned once or twice a year; there have been five auditions in the last 12 months alone, and the group still isn't back up to its pre-Kaplan strength of 120.

Quicker like a bunny

Comedian, actor, essayist, filmmaker—is there anything Steve Martin won't try his hand at? Not so far: and with Picasso at the Lapin Agile, he's managed to score on stage as well, as you'll be able to see for yourself when it comes to the Moore Theater on April 22. Originally produced by Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater (home base to the likes of John Malkovich and Gary Sinese), Picasso is a rueful comedy exploring the vanishing boundary between fame and celebrity, genius and smarts via an imaginary 1901 Parisian run-in at the Catalonian artist's hangout and a pub-crawling tourist named Albert Einstein.

The Steppenwolf production won Best Play and Best Author awards in New York in '95, and with co-stars Paul Provenza and Mark Nelson had successful runs on tour in San Francisco and LA. Seattle, with its manifold and entrenched resident theater complement, may prove a harder sell.

The Moore management knew it was taking a chance scheduling a straight play—albeit a straight play by a world-famous comedian—as part of the "Just Off Broadway" series package with acts like Penn & Teller, STOMP, and Tap Dogs, but thought it had until mid-May to drum up business for it. Now, unfortunately, the tour's Toronto dates have evaporated, so Picasso will be rolling into town a month early. Tickets are already on sale for the five-day run: Theater buffs, take heed.

Related Links:

The Seattle Symphony homepage

Homepage to the Musicians' Union

The Program on Negotiation at Harvard

The Library of America

Gertrude Stein information

The Picasso tour homepage

Reviews of last year's Picasso tour

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