CLO's union blues

Fresh from successful campaigns at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theater and the Tacoma Symphony, Local 76 of the American Federation of Musicians has its eye on the musicians who play for Seattle's Civic Light Opera. The CLO board wants no such thing, and the last week of October sent the union a pretty stiff letter saying "it would not voluntarily recognize a musicians' union." Which is a little awkward, since CLO's next production, the 1991 Broadway musical Rags, is all about how cool and noble turn-of-the-century union organizers were.

Union organizers say four-fifths of the players who've worked the CLO pit one or more times over the last three years have asked for union representation. CLO board president Judy Quinton is sympathetic but says that's not the point. "CLO was set up 21 years ago as a place for talented amateurs in all areas of theater. If we sign a union contract with the musicians, what happens to some gifted trombone player from Roosevelt High who comes out to audition? In three meetings with the players who want to unionize, I haven't seen one sign that they wouldn't always expect to come first."

Bailing at the Bathhouse

A few months ago, Green Lake's Bathhouse Theater thought it had engineered a respite from trying to stay one jump ahead of current production expenses and paying interest on $300,000 accumulated debt. Idea was, during the theater's customary fall downtime One Reel's dinner-theater/circus/vaudeville Teatro ZinZanni would take over the company's building to serve as foyer for its tent-auditorium, not only paying rent but spiffing the rundown facility up at the same time.

Then the state ruled that, tent or no tent, ZinZanni needed a shoreline construction permit, which would take six months to get, so the whole shebang had to move, at short notice and great inconvenience and expense, to the Mercer Street site where it opened two weeks ago. Things looked dire for a while, but some emergency fund raising kept the Bathhouse afloat, and loyal subscribers are ponying up for the 1999 season at a pace ahead of last year's renewal rate.

The season itself, aesthetically conservative but theatrically ambitious, has been reconfigured to put the one-woman Emily Dickinson bio-drama Belle of Amherst up front in January, reserving big-cast items like Wilder's Our Town, Barry's Philadelphia Story, and Cole Porter's Shakespeare musical Kiss Me, Kate for later in the year, when—cross your fingers—the financial picture looks rosier.

Twice as grand

A sister screen for the U District's pocket cinema Grand Illusion is opening on Capitol Hill. The 49-seat "Little Theater" (named, like the GI, after a Jean Renoir film, according to programmer Michael Seiwerath) is set to open in December for Thursday-Sunday screenings at 19th near Republican. It's right next door to new offices for parent company Wiggly World, which plans to use off days for filmmaking classes and rental rehearsal space.

The price of partying

Seems there's no way to have fun these days without unintended medical side effects. Doctors at Johns Hopkins have shown that PET scans of users of fave rave drug ecstacy show cerebral damage. The same week the American Academy of Dermatology reported an epidemic rise in reports of severe allergic reactions in people with body jewelry made of metals like nickel, chrome, and cobalt.

You can always replace those barbells that make your nipples itch with gold or stainless steel. But there's worse: Thanks to the growing use of disposable gloves to avoid contaminating or contamination by our fellow creatures, the same outfit says that a lot of folks are developing allergies to natural rubber latex, too. Which wouldn't matter much except hands are not the only thing we're wont to sheath in said substance. And just when you'd gotten into the habit, too. . .

Beyond Tinytown

The bad news is that Weekly sister rag the Village Voice has lost one of its most distinguished writers. The good news is that now people all over America will be able to enjoy the work of Peter Schjeldahl, who's been tap-ped by new New Yorker editor David Remnick to take over that magazine's coverage of visual art. . . . As expected, Placido Domingo will be taking over as general manager of Los Angeles Opera when David Hemmings steps down in the summer of 2000. . .

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