Coo coo ca-choo, Arthur Andersen
Like everyone else at Arthur Andersen, Terry Flamm could see it coming. For two months leading up to his layoff April 5, he waited for the ax to fall. Still, after seven years at Andersen--three as a temp and four as a full-time staffer (editing Andersen's client services directory)--it was hard to get a grip. He and his fellow employees at the Chicago headquarters alternated between gallows humor and dread, making friends with the TV crews parked outside the door, quizzing each other obsessively--"What have you heard?" When the Department of Justice indicted the whole firm, Flamm says, "we knew that spelled trouble." Some were reduced to tears; Flamm was reduced to Simon and Garfunkel. With his livelihood disappearing faster than Enron's profits, a voice in his head was singing: "Dee dee dee dee, Arthur Andersen / Please just close your doors and off you go / Wo wo wo."
And why not? Life plays so much better as a musical. Flamm, who's been a member of the sketch comedy troupe Famous in the Future for more years than he was at Andersen, sat through the ominous staff meetings, listened to the gossip at the water cooler, and began to incubate Damn Andersen: The Musical, a parody FIF will present at Mary-Arrchie Theatre's annual Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins festival this summer. In Flamm's version of the Enron/Andersen meltdown, the infamous memo shredding is done to the tune of "New York, New York" ("Start shredding the proof, they're coming your way"); hapless employees are assured "There's Got to Be Employment After"; and then they're left with nothing but their memories ("Those were the days, my friend / At Arthur Andersen / Proud of our name, we always earned our pay").
Famous in the Future was created in 1989 by the writers of Ernie and Company, a cable television show that died after a single episode. At first the troupe performed more or less regularly at the Roxy, a club on Fullerton; then it nearly dropped from sight (though it's never missed an Abbie fest). "We were pretty much left homeless when the Roxy shut down," Flamm says, and the ensemble was in flux. Over the last five years things have jelled: Flamm and another founder, Frank Carr, have been joined by Karen Brown, Desiree Burcum, and Guy Schingoethe, all writer-performers; pianist Dave Drazin, who has played for them in the past, recorded the music for this show. Damn Andersen is more song and dance than FIF's typical character-based comedy sketches, but past routines have included, for example, a priest belting out a memorable lesson in morality to a familiar tune: "If you're out doing tricks for a heroin fix, that's immoral / If the action you get's from the family pet, that's immoral." The Abbie fest is coming up August 16-18, and Damn Andersen will also run September 14, 21, and 28 at the Cornservatory. Flamm, who got a four-week severance package, is still looking for a job.
Fear of the Future
It'll be a short run for the next Chicago Area Theatre contract. Actors' Equity Association is in the midst of negotiating a new version of the agreement it's had with Chicago-area theater operators since 1986, but one thing's already evident, says Equity regional director Kathryn V. Lamkey: "We're looking at a short-term agreement." According to Lamkey, no CAT contract has ever covered less than three years, and the contract that's expiring in August ran for four. But now--blame the economy--"We're looking at two years or even less than that." The contract determines pay and working conditions for Equity actors and stage managers at more than 50 theaters, and this time around theaters are afraid to commit too far out. "The smaller and midsize theaters are especially concerned," Lamkey says. "Grants and corporate donations are not as readily available."
This Just In . . .
Chicago may have lost last year's competition for the 2006 Gay Games (they'll take place in Montreal), but it just beat out West Hollywood for the fall 2003 Gay Games Federation meeting. Kevin Boyer, a member of the nonprofit advocacy group Chicago Games, Inc., says meeting here will give our town a leg up if it wants to bid for hosting the games in 2010 or 2014. It might help to move the meeting from the current date in November to October, when we can still pass as a place with decent weather, but Boyer says that depends on hotel pricing....Lawyers for the Creative Arts offers a workshop on not-for-profit incorporation and tax exemption on Tuesday, July 30, at 5:30 at 213 W. Institute Place, suite 401. Admission is $40 for two people; call 312-649-4111 to reserve a spot.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Robert Drea.