The former director of Music and Drama Company's spring performances of "Grease" plans to sue the longtime theatre group, saying they cancelled the show two weeks before opening night and refuse to pay him what he is owed.
Jason Hair-Wynn, hired to direct Music and Drama Company's (MADCo) spring production of "Grease," wants to file a small claims lawsuit and said the group treated him unfairly by cancelling the show so close to production and not following up on a contractual obligation to pay him.
That's not how it happened, according to MADCo board member Rosemary Dann, who said Hair-Wynn walked out on the show and "Grease" couldn't go on.
"We have never cancelled a show in 25 years," Dann said. "This was a very painful decision. We feel very badly; a lot of people put in a lot of hard work."
Hair-Wynn's resume lists acting credits, choreography work, and directorial experience.
"I do it for financial reasons," Hair-Wynn admitted, "and also because I have a passion for it."
When he first heard about MADCo's production of "Grease" Hair-Wynn said he was excited about taking on the project. The popular show was one of his favorites and he looked forward to taking the directorial lead.
Things started to go wrong with clashing personalities and details between he and MADCo's board of directors, Hair-Wynn said. He alleged people accused him of not doing his job, although he said he not only performed as director/choreographer, but spent many late nights building sets and doing musical direction, more than his contract stated.
Add in the fact he felt the young cast was not given the proper respect from MADCo's board and it all became a painful mix of tension and unproductive behavior.
"I care about my shows and my kids," Hair-Wynn said.
But Dann said Hair-Wynn walked out on "Grease" and they had no choice but to cancel. She said she isn't quite sure where he is coming from and was not aware of anything he was told he couldn't do.
"You do your best," Dann said, "but our best efforts did not meet his expectations."
MADCo board member Pam Bowen said the show's musical director and costumer both left the show because of Hair-Wynn's demands and uncooperative behavior. She said "Grease" could have been a big success for MADCo and now the group has lost money due to its cancellation.
"At the beginning we thought he was energetic," Bowen said. "He had experience in choreography, but not in directing. Why not give him a chance?"
Dann said the board has received numerous unpleasant e-mails from members in the young cast who are upset and angry about the turn of events.
And Hair-Wynn still has the $600 MADCo paid him up front as part of his director salary, Dann said, adding the contract stated if the director leaves the show, he is entitled to nothing.
"And we didn't fire him," Dann noted.
On MADCo's Web site, the situation with Hair-Wynn is spelled out and includes the theatre group's views of what went wrong and why "Grease" failed. The site reported Hair-Wynn quit the show only 16 days prior to its opening and the group had no time to find a replacement.
Hair-Wynn said MADCo's board of directors cancelled "Grease" and left a cast of very talented young actors without a show and feeling deprived of a wonderful theatre experience.
Although Hair-Wynn said he didn't want to take things this far, he wants MADCo to understand he is a professional and cared about putting up "Grease."
"They [MADCo] are good people, but I don't think they get it," he said. "They are defaming my name and I don't appreciate it."
He added he never wanted to cancel the show.
"This show was my baby with these kids," he said. "I put everything I could into this show."
Hair-Wynn said he has documentation and copies of contracts, e-mails, and affidavits from cast members to back up his claims. He said MADCo is putting a negative spin on his good name through its Web site and accusations.
"I am a good person, I am a professional person," Hair-Wynn said. "They failed to realize this. They really lost out on a good show."
Dann said normally the show "always goes on despite personality clashes" and acknowledged Hair-Wynn's talent, adding he had very good ideas and was very enthusiastic. But in the end, MADCo had no choice but to pull the plug on "Grease."
"We specifically told him it was up to him," Dann said. "We were prepared to go forward if he would agree to stay and he walked out."