March 3, 2014

One uncertain summer

I am writing this in early March, and already I am approaching the summer of 2014 with some trepidation.

Even as we will soon be able to resume work on Just One Story… and thus get through the backlog of future episodes, we are also keeping close tabs on the labour situation involving the Long Island Rail Road and its parent, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA. The LIRR’s rank and file employees have been without a current contract for some time now, and there have been some pushes to get the matter resolved — but without success. The MTA has ruled out any talk of actually giving LIRR employees even a small raise in their salaries, and have instead insisted that said employees forfeit certain benefits and submit to cost–cutting measures that are more likely to increase tensions on the job.

In late February, what was supposed to be a two–day gathering to air out the most sticking of issues ended abruptly after a mere four hours — without both sides meeting face to face.

The upshot of all this is that without a new contract deal in place, the LIRR’s rank and file will be free to strike in July.

That will be damaging enough to the many weekday commuters of the LIRR, who choose to ride the rails to and from their cubicles or office desks. But it will be equally damaging to Rosegarden, because we use the LIRR to get into New York City and record our signature show.

In a nutshell: No LIRR, no passage to and from Manhattan — and thus, no Just One Story… episodes. That simple. And that sad.

For now, five things need to be decided:

• whether there will be a 2014 story season at the Statue of Hans Christian Andersen in Central Park (and money to pay for it),

• who will be the artistic director this year (Laura Simms, or…?),

• who will be telling,

• whether or not we will be invited back to record some of the story hours, and most importantly…

• whether or not the LIRR’s rank and file will strike — and if they do, how long will it last.

You can help decide the first item by heading for the Hans Christian Andersen Storytelling Center website and making a donation via PayPal or any of the other methods available. If you enjoy coming to Central Park every summer for stories, then please do your part. It is bad enough that the original storytelling tradition is impoverished when compared to cinema, theatre, opera, broadcast media and the like. That needs to change, and it needs to change now.

Rest assured, we at Rosegarden will be able to keep ourselves busy during the summer if we need to. It would, however, be preferable if we don’t have to sacrifice something that gives so much pleasure summer after summer.

P.S. to the LIRR employees and MTA managers who may be reading this: Please get your act together and get a contract done and signed. We’d prefer to think the world of you in the end.

[UPDATE 2014.05.09: The 2014 Central Park schedule still has not been announced. From what I understand, Laura Simms is staying on as artistic director. If there is a LIRR strike, it would happen on Sunday 20 July. One neighbor of mine suggested that it wouldn’t last more than a weekend, but we’ll see.]

[UPDATE 2014.07.18: No recordings this year, because the camera has been un–invited. Pooh.

One piece of good news: A new tentative agreement between the MTA and LIRR union representatives was reached yesterday, thus canceling the strike. One out of two ain't bad.]