The sad story of not being paid by Ophelia Theatre
To get work you need experience. To get experience you need work. The catch 22 of the art (and many other) worlds.
We started behind the bikeshed over seven years ago as a place for ourselves and the other performers, writers, designers to network to get experience. Work creates work.
We also wanted to make work that was accessible so we had to have low ticket prices. At that time our tickets were £4. They are now £6 - a show and a beer for a tenner.
Also, with a low ticket price it gives new artists (performers, writers, designers etc) the space to try new things - if it doesn't work, it's ok, the audience haven't paid too much. (Our shows run as small scenes and sketches, so we know no one will like all of it, but there is something for everyone.)
This model has continued. We aim to provide a place for new artists to try out their craft within a supportive space. We also have a lot of very experienced people who come back and work with us when they have breaks in their schedules. This is brilliant because we all get to learn of each other and continue to develop our networks.
Our aims are to create networks - the theatre and art world is a tough place, and without support networks and creative/ work networks, you can't survive.
We aim for big casts, a large writers pool per show (approx 12 actors and 12 writers) to develop these networks. We aim to do three shows a year. Because of the low ticket prices, we are obviously non-profit, but we are very aware that time is precious. We keep rehearsals limited, organised, and are respectful of everybody's time.
Our ticket prices go to theatre hire, flyers, set, travel for actors, and comps and a drink for writers.
We also really want to support local, neighbourhood theatre/performance spaces. We bring in a lovely crowd that love to have a drink post show! So we feel it's a great win for small theatres. In this tough artistic world we should all work together to support each other!
With Ophelia Theatre we paid them £150 for four shows, with the plan to split door sales 35:65. We signed a contract to this effect. They now owe us £399. This is not a lot, but it just covers our costs. Each show is budgeted on the last tickets sales. Therefore now, for first time since Feb 2007, we are unable to put on a new show, due to Ophelia's non-payment.
The show was in October 2014. We have been chasing since. We have given them plenty of time and opportunity to respond, to discuss if this was going to be a problem. Finally, in the New Year we took to social media to get a response. This was effective and Giovanna Hussain, who I believe is the owner, agreed to pay us by Tuesday 20 Jan 2015. This money has not materialised, and she is now no longer responding to our emails.
We just want to be paid so we can put on another show. The support we have had, from audience, actors, writers, designers, since this debacle shows that the work we are doing is good work, and people do want us to continue.
Please help us spread the word, and hopefully garner the Ophelia Theatre into honouring their contract with us.
UPDATE: on Wednesday 28 Feb, we told Ophelia that we would make a claim with the small claims court. A few hours later we were paid. almost four months late and 8 days after they agreed to (final) pay us. Giovanna, the owner, emailed us on Thursday 29 Feb to tell us it had been paid.
We feel sad that it took threatening courts for them to pay, and even just reply to our emails. We understand that new business are hard, and if there had been a problem we would have been more than happy to work something out - be paid back in installments. But the lack of communication meant that we had no idea what was going on.
We would like to say, that whenever we were at Ophelia all the staff at Ophelia and Lift Bar were wonderful to us, really helpful and kind.