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Low Sodium's Low Blow

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[Re: Culture Club, November 2]

Aaron Haber has stated to the press that Jessi Hill personally is responsible for Stage Left's "unreasonable" demands. If one visits Low Sodium's Web site, one finds Jessi Hill portrayed as a tyrant who is manipulating Stage Left company members into mindlessly spouting her script of artistic snobbery. Anyone who has met Ms. Hill will find a woman who is rarely at her desk: She is often downstairs in the theater single-handedly painting the set, cleaning the basement floor when the drains back up, or steam cleaning beer spills off the lobby carpet. It is hard to be a snob when your hands are covered in raw sewage. As for "artistic snobbery," if that consists of having pride in the reputation of the theater artistically and having pride in the appearance of the space, I suppose she's guilty, and the company wouldn't have it any other way. Stage Left has always been run as a democratic organization--Jessi Hill wouldn't be in her position right now without 100 percent support from the company. Her "artistic snobbery" and "unreasonable demands" are shared by 20-some odd other people in Stage Left's company and board of directors. Hopefully, that many people can't all be unreasonable.

I also want to make it clear that Low Sodium is not being "kicked out" of Stage Left Theatre. They are welcome to stay if they sign the revised license agreement. Yes, there is a rent increase, and an alcohol ban, and a provision that no flyering take place directly outside the theater (a practice that has always happened during performances of other plays--and anyone who has actually seen a show at Stage Left knows that sounds from the street carry into the theater loud and clear). Low Sodium is going to sue. For their sake, I hope that they don't put a lot of money into it, as I don't know any judge in any city that is going to force any theater to allow unsupervised alcohol consumption by their audience.

Aaron Haber states that Stage Left is trying to force Low Sodium out of business. If Aaron Haber's Low Sodium is going out of business, it is the doing of Aaron Haber: He has burned his bridges not only at spaces he has previously rented, but at every theater that his team of coupon hawkers has stood in front of shouting, "This show sucks! Come see Low Sodium instead!" This creates the possibility that his performances will have nowhere to perform after the existing contract lapses.

Perhaps he means that his shows will attract no audience without alcohol consumption. From what I have heard about their performances, he is not giving his cast and staff enough credit. Their audiences talk about their shows really "pushing the envelope"--that "these guys just don't know when to stop"--and they find it riveting and entertaining.

If Low Sodium and Stage Left Theatre part ways, I suggest that Aaron Haber can simply open his own theater where he can have all performances on his own terms. When he is paying for the insurance and repairs and licensing, he can make or break all the rules in the world. And contrary to what he may think

of us, several of us at Stage Left would wish him all the luck in the world.

Leigh Barrett

Company Manager

Stage Left Theatre Company

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