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A Few [REDACTED] Thoughts on Jeremy Piven

Strikewatch_blog   Before we begin, a public-service announcement: The New York-based talent agency Gilla Roos has closed its New York office temporarily and is undergoing corporate restructuring. SAG is demanding that all members terminate their relationships with the agency and is urging them to cancel all check authorizations immediately. The details can be found at the Back Stage blog Espresso.

Now let's talk about Jeremy Piven, the actor who bailed on was forced to drop out of Speed-the-Plow due to feckless narcissism mercury poisoning. Apparently, there was a hearing at Actors' Equity Association yesterday, which we were unable to cover because we had no intention of wasting valuable time on a media circus when we knew the proceeding would be a pointless exercise of league moralizing and union posturing and no one would comment anyway of budgetary constraints.

However, we did receive this joint statement from the Broadway League and Equity.

(UPDATE: The producers announced they will take the matter to arbitration.) 

Though no one wants to see anything but an artistic and commercial success on Broadway, especially during a steep recession such as this, there's something a little delicious in the idea that producers were hoist by their own petard in L'affaire de Piven. That petard is this: If a tide of marquee names (regardless of their facility for the stage) floods the Main Stem, the little boats piloted by hardworking, relatively anonymous stage actors will rise, even though such performers are increasingly denied the opportunity to vie for, let alone act in, the most prominent roles.

No one understands this better than Jordan Lage, a 25-year veteran of New York theatre who understudied the male roles in Speed and took over for Piven before Norbert Leo Butz was installed in late December. (William H. Macy replaced Butz from Jan. 13 through last Sunday's closing performance.) As Lage told Back Stage at the time, "You cannot open a straight play on Broadway without some kind of a name attached, plain and simple. I'm not going to rail against the system, because I don’t think that would be very productive. It kind of is the way it is." Of course, his understanding doesn't keep him from observing wryly, "You gotta go out to L.A. and become a TV or movie star to have a career in the theatre."

To be fair, Piven seemed to acquit himself well in the role, the show recouped its investment without him, and Lage got his week in the sun. In a perverse way, everybody gained a little something--and Piven probably lost more than anyone.

Nevertheless: we will choose to find wholly incredible remain highly skeptical about Piven's excuse for exiting. (The New York Times has allowed him to state his case.) The suspicion here is that the reports surrounding Piven's departure are essentially true: He bailed because he was bored with the role and he was a late-night party boy. If that is indeed the case, Piven has denigrated the sacrifices and devotion of his fellow performers who are lesser known but much more devoted to the theatre. And Equity, the union that represents stage actors, may just be his accomplice, unwitting or otherwise.

--Andrew Salomon

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