A labor dispute between the actors and management of The Proposition may force the Boston area's longest-running show to close down permanently.
Allen Albert, artistic director and president of the board of Proposition Workshops, Inc., said earlier this week that when the board meets this week to discuss the strike "one of the options that will be seriously considered is to close the show." The nine actors and four musicians of The Proposition, a five-year-old improvisational group, have been on strike in Inman Square since September 10 when negotiations between representatives for both sides broke down.
Albert said he has been forced to close the Inman Square theater temporarily because of what he called a "very abusive and very aggressive picket line."
The negotiations resumed briefly last Friday but ended after Albert and his lawyer walked out of the federal labor mediator's office because the cast refused to resume performances until he agreed to discuss substantive issues of the dispute.
Albert said that he would have bargained with the actors if they agreed to return to work.
At issue are the right of the actors to establish a grievance procedure, their right to take sparetime jobs, general working conditions and wages.
Each actor currently makes around $105 per week--about $87 take-home pay--for what the group calls "unlimited working hours." Albert says he can afford only a $20-per-week pay increase, because, he says, Proposition Workshops, Inc., is a non-profit corporation that is operating on a deficit-spending budget.
"Allen Albert is a big businessman, who has mismanaged and possibly embezzled funds," John Jutkowitz, one of the striking actors, charged. "Albert tells us that he's poured thousands of dollars into this theater--if he's poured lots of money in, then who's to say he's not taking lots of money out?"
Albert denied these allegations.
Jutkowitz said the actors demanded last week that Albert give them a complete financial statement of his assets. Albert compiled a statement that "was vague, not verified and only covered the period up to the end of 1973," Jutkowitz said.
Albert said that he did not have time to prepare a more comprehensive statement but, he continued, his office is now in the process of doing so.
"In a way this strike is the ultimate improvisation," Albert said earlier this week. "They're actors and they love the publicity."
The actors say that they have been working since the theater's creation in 1968 with no contract and that they will not continue to do so any longer.