Beware! Intimate theatre has enough challenges these days, but some surprisingly perilous hurdles are still out there. A 501(C)(3) non-profit, The Group Repertory Theatre Company, whose home is the Lonny Chapman Theatre in the NoHo Arts District, was served with a lawsuit in November of 2013 for allegedly violating California's Unruh Act (anti-discrimination legislation). Plaintiffs held that the theatre had discriminated against them, claiming they had been denied a "Ladies’ Night Discount" based on their gender. The GRT disputed this claim.
Wait a minute, you say. Let me get this straight! It sounds like a small non-profit theatre that has been bringing funny, provocative, classic, bold, new, engaging plays and musicals to the greater Los Angeles theater community for 41 years offers a bunch of half-price discounts, calls one of them "Ladies' Night," and then a couple of guys purchase full price tickets so they can sue?! Is this a plot from a Neil Simon comedy? Or David Mamet?
The plaintiffs (and their attorney!) have filed dozens of such lawsuits to various establishments in Los Angeles and other counties. The attorney is perhaps best known for suing the Oakland A's in 2004 for not getting a Mothers' Day Hat at a fan appreciation game (for Pete's sake!).
But David stood up to the Goliath of threatened litigation. GRT had to find an attorney and answer summons and answer interrogatories and submit to depositions and depose the plaintiffs. The precious dollars that would have been spent enhancing our productions, doing maintenance, improving studio space, or reaching out further to our community now had to go to court and filing fees.
After months of preparation, wrangling, nail-biting, cost-cutting, and prayer and only 10 days before the trial was set to commence, the plaintiffs dismissed their suit with GRT, which agreed that it would not seek what it had spent in court fees. Had the GRT lost the trial, it would have gone bankrupt!
The Group Rep company thanking attorney Sean Macias
Instead, the Group Rep is celebrating its victory in defending the arts: Our season continues! The membership breathes a tremendous sigh of relief! We plan for the next show.
The Group Rep strongly believes in its mission to present quality theatre to its audiences and artistic training and opportunities to its members. We members continue to reach out to our community by creating and strengthening relationships with actors, directors, writers, technicians, students and with veterans, underprivileged children, and seniors. It's a darn shame that certain people would exploit such a place by bringing frivolous lawsuits that clog up legal avenues and corrupt the spirit of a law that essentially agrees with the spirit of intimate theatre like ours: to bring people closer together in understanding and equal treatment.
If this makes you mad - GOOD! You can help prevent future such wastes of time and energy. Tell your friends; warn other theaters, bars, restaurants, etc. (like we are doing). To help us recoup the thousands of dollars spent on court and other legal fees from this shameless attack on the arts, please go to theGROUPrep.com to the ABOUT US tab and standby for more information about our upcoming Legal Defense Fundraiser!
Now, about that AEA 99 Seat crisis...
For more information about The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre please visit www.thegrouprep.com
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