By Catherine Wagley
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Selkin is correct. The contract holds ANW responsible for off-campus storage of its props, costumes and equipment -- at its own expense -- when ”not required for current productions.“ However, the contract also mandates that the ”needs and requirements“ of ANW, as the ”company in residence,“ receive ”special consideration by the university.“ If there were no other renters slated to use the facility, removing ANW’s property could hardly be said to constitute ”special consideration“; if there were other renters, ANW was contractually entitled to know who they were and when they would be using the Luckman. McPherson says that, despite repeated requests, the information was not forthcoming from Harper‘s office. The coup de grace came when, in the first annual renegotiation of terms (allowed for in the contract), Harper quintupled ANW’s rent from $50,000 per annum to $250,000, effectively rendering the troupe homeless.
Summing up the university‘s position, Selkin says, ”They notified us that they were bringing breach of contract against us. We felt that it was they who had breached the contract by [saying that they weren’t coming back next year in response to the rent hike]. We don‘t agree with what they’re saying. That‘s all we can say.“
All of which raises gnawing questions about the use and administration of the Luckman, a facility funded entirely by public money. Herik Venegas served on the Luckman Advisory Council for two and a half years before the council’s services were suspended after a fifth successive meeting had been postponed by Harper.
”What‘s the point of having an advisory council that never meets and never advises?“ Venegas asks.
”We find it upsetting that this has gone on, since [the Luckman] is the only facility of its kind in the area,“ he adds. ”Groups come in and get alienated by what goes on there. For the entire 1998-1999 calendar year, the Luckman booked 12 nights of programming, with a budget of $1.2 million. Of those 12 performances, half were 50 percent full. Some had 50 people. Cliff Harper is the one who micromanages the place, but he has no accountability.“
Both Venegas and Redmond point out that Harper and president Rosser are childhood friends from East St. Louis. ”It’s not a rumor,“ Venegas insists. ”They‘ve gone public about it. At every turn, the president protects Cliff.“
Meanwhile, as the parties assess their damages in preparation for arbitration, A Noise Within must retain the loyalty of subscribers weary of its pingpong relocations. The new season has yet to be chosen. ”When you’re dodging bullets,“ explains Manke, ”who has time to think about plays?“