Say What?

Even before I took my current position, I was familiar with the unique situations one might run into while working for a theatre in a university setting. There are the competitive bids you must solicit for everything, the triplicate forms, the purchase order process and four week wait for people to be paid.

Then there is the fact the state doesn’t like to pay for services in advance of receiving them. If you are using Equity actors you often must post a bond and as I noted yesterday, when you present performances, you often have to pay deposits in advance. Many times you end up explaining that this is the usual way of doing business over and over to people.

Today there was a bit of a new twist. A person from the business office comes over and says I have to sign a statement on the purchase order saying that I will personally reimburse the university if it pays the deposit and the artist doesn’t perform. Now given that the deposit is usually at least $5,000 or more, that isn’t something I really want to be responsible for.

I have never had a performer fail to perform. However, I am sitting on an island in the middle of the Pacific. Just regular problems with airplanes can pose a problem much less other acts of God, war, strike and all the other variables found in a force majeure clause. Most force majeure clauses stipulate that an artist will return the deposit less any expenses. Given that purchasing airline tickets to Hawaii will probably eat up the deposit amount by itself, the chance of me retrieving the deposit in such a situation is probably slim to none.

I lodge a complaint to my division chair who is as incredulous as I. He says to check with my counterparts at other campuses to see if they face the same problem. I heard back from one of them before I left for the day and his answer left me even more flabbergasted. He does sign the reimbursement pledge when he pays deposits–however he often crosses that part of a contract out so he only pays when he really has to. Now this is the same guy who crosses out the catering portion of hospitality riders so I am wondering how the heck he manages to get anyone to perform for him at all.

I guess all my talk yesterday about the basic requirements one will have to meet for most presenting situation has quite a few more exceptions to the rule than I thought. I need to talk to some more people though. I really don’t want to sign the thing, but I also don’t want to eliminate a whole pool of potential performers too because the university won’t pay a deposit.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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