Thursday, May 21, 2009

Franklin among laid off WMA staffers - Entertainment News, Entertainment Industry & the Economy, Media - Variety:

Peter Franklin, the longtime head of WMA's theater department, was among the 100-plus WMA staffers to get a pink slip earlier this week.

A fixture at the agency, Franklin worked with a list of firmly established legit creatives including Edward Albee, Arthur Laurents and Terrence McNally.

News of Franklin's departure amid the consolidation of WMA and Endeavor operations sounds like confirmation of long-swirling rumors that the WMA theater department would be shut down in the merger with Endeavor. However, a rep for WME said there are no plans to scuttle the division.

I call bullshit—it's TOTALLY a sign that WMA doesn't give a tin shit about the theater division, regardless of who is in the stable, and even if there is the possibility of film/TV adaptation. They are cleaning house and planning for the future post-Endeavor, and in William Morris' eyes that future doesn't include theater.

Franklin is as big as they come in the world of legit theater agents. That they'd be willing to kick him to the curb so brazenly indicates a belief that the fearful playwrights and directors will stick with WMA...and also some degree of not caring whether they do or not. Theater income is a rounding error in the William Morris shark tank.

This is the kind of theater news that most will gloss over or not appreciate, but it's actually a really big indicator, and more of the kind of seismic tremors occurring as theater retracts and appears less relevant as a cultural medium to corporate moneymakers.

(Full disclosure: I've worked with William Morris—or was that unclear?  ;)