The sad saga goes like this: Recently, a 25-year-old talented performer, Brooks Asher (a master’s of fine arts performance graduate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas), took on a major role in “The Rocky Horror Show” at the Onyx Theatre. Asher, director Joe Hynes, artistic director JD Jensen and producer Mike Morse all agree that there was no promise made about pay. The playhouse has only 96 seats, and the actors, as is customary in community theater, could, at best, be given some kind of stipend.
During the second week of a three-weekend run in October, Asher says he asked the staff members to name a specific figure they were going to pay him and the other actors. He claims his questions were met with contempt. “Monetary compensation (was) not an issue,” Asher says. “I could not in good conscience continue affording my art and talent to a theater company void of any dignity.” Jensen claims Asher began fuming when he found out the band was making $50 a night.
On the Monday prior to the final weekend, Jensen came up with a specific figure. It wasn’t acceptable to Asher. He quit the production. Asher says he was assured someone else would be able to go on in his place, but the staff members claim their first reaction was that they might have to close the show. Performer Sean Andrew Vicentina Badidles was asked if he could understudy the role and be prepared to perform Thursday, after only two days of rehearsals. As late as Wednesday morning, Hynes (an acclaimed local actor, as well as director) sent an e-mail to Asher that read:
“I understand that Mike and JD have both sent you e-mails expressing their apologies. I hope those gestures could lend themselves to you reconsidering performing in ‘Rocky’ this weekend. You are a vital part of the show, and it would be a shame to see this great run not finished as originally intended. I sincerely hope you reconsider, not for me or the producers, but for the 12 other actors that desperately want you to return to the production.”
Hynes received no response. Badidles rescued the show.
The backstage bickering is none of my business. And Asher joins the many other performers in this town who wonder why only musicians are worth reimbursing. (“Find me a musician who will work for free, and I’ll hire him,” Morse says.) But when an actor jeopardizes a three-weekend production, it is the community’s business. No matter how unpleasant a performer may feel a production is, it’s almost always unforgivable for him to walk.
To borrow a phrase from film director John Frankenheimer who was talking about the reputedly difficult Val Kilmer, “If I were directing ‘The Brooks Asher Story,’ I still wouldn’t hire Brooks Asher.”
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at email@example.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.