Follies rift continues
March 16, 2012
For several months, the members of the Park City Follies board of directors – Annette Velarde, Dwayne Vance, Julie Hooker and Annette’s husband, Ricardo – have tried to contact the Egyptian Theatre’s board of directors to mend a rift.
The rift stems from a disagreement involving the creative team of the "One True Follies" that will be presented at the Egyptian Theatre in April claims the Egyptian Theatre owns the "The Park City Follies," an annual spoof of all things Park City, and that it is a fundraiser for the theatre.
Annette Velarde, a lead writer of the creative team since 2005, believes "The Park City Follies" belongs to Park City, and that all the town’s nonprofits should benefit.
After months of emails and calls, Velarde said her requests have been met with silence, except for a legal petition, filed on Jan. 16, for Velarde to cancel the U.S. trademark registration of "The Park City Follies" name.
The petition gives Velarde and her board until March 27 before the next phase of legal proceedings will begin.
Velarde and her board members sent a reply to the Egyptian’s board of directors on March 8, pleading with them to suspend further action and join in negotiations to settle the issue out of court.
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In the letter, obtained by The Park Record, Velarde asks they "come together at the negotiation table, settle this amicably, and get on doing some good for the community."
Egyptian Theatre board vice president Michael Labertew, who is also head of the theatre’s "One True Follies" subcommittee, said, contrary to Velarde’s claims, the Egyptian Theatre board has kept an open line of communication with Velarde.
"During summer 2011, the Egyptian Theatre management and the board, on two occasions to my knowledge, received requests to schedule a follies program called ‘The Park City Follies,’ to be produced by their group, in spring 2012," Labertew said. "I volunteered and was appointed in September to act as a liaison between the two sides."
Over the next three months he and Velarde had meetings, phone calls, traded emails and proposals and received input from other interested parties, in an attempt to come up with a mutually agreeable solution, but none were successful.
When the Egyptian Theatre board of directors received Velarde’s latest letter, it was "advised to allow the attorneys to communicate directly between themselves," Labertew said.
"We have asked our attorney to make an offer of settlement to be finalized by that date," he explained. "I cannot speak about those terms at this time, but am hopeful that this matter can be resolved quickly and amicably."
Last fall, Velarde was ejected from the creative group that included Tom Clyde, Terry Moffitt and Rick Klein because the group accused her of "hijacking" and trademarking the "Follies" name.
The ousting was a result of a long-developing issue stemming from an issue in 2008 over editorial control and content of the production.
It was agreed the Egyptian would not have control over the show, said Dwayne Vance, who is a board member of Velarde’s Follies group.
Labertew said, however, that the Egyptian Theatre has always been the producer of "The Park City Follies."
"There was a year where a person in management of the Egyptian Theatre was attempting to insert himself as a writer in the Follies creative team, and we were asked the following year for autonomy in the writing, which we granted," he said.
To further separate the show from the Egyptian, Velarde and her husband, Ricardo, applied for a trademark on "The Park City Follies" name, something she says the Egyptian board of directors and the creative team knew about.
After applying, Velarde found out it was more expensive and difficult than she had anticipated, so she let the application lapse, and "The Park City Follies" was presented as it had been in the past for the next two years, until Velarde refiled for a trademark in May, 2011.
Labertew, who joined the Egyptian board of directors in fall, 2009, never knew about the original application and never heard the board discuss the issue until that May.
"I know the present board, based on our current position, would have been vocal," he said. "I know Annette was on the board at the time, which may or may not have factored into what transpired."
In June, 2011, the creative group – including Paul Tan, Velarde and Rick Klein – met in Vance’s office to discuss incorporating the creative group as a nonprofit corporation and applying for 501 (c) 3 status, which would make it a tax-exempt entity.
"The whole point was to formalize the independent stature and allow them to fund raise on their own separate from the Egyptian and to give them the flexibility to do projects with other nonprofits," Vance said.
Labertew said the Egyptian Theatre supports the concept of working with other nonprofits.
"Not only do we like the idea, we suggested that a portion of the 2012 Follies proceeds be distributed to six non-profits chosen by the Follies audience, as suggested by Annette, and that the Egyptian host or produce a new show in the fall, where all of the proceeds would be distributed in such a manner," he said. "Unfortunately, those proposals were not accepted."
In September, 2011, The Park Record published an article about the shake-up in the "Park City Follies" creative camp.
That was when Labertew was put in charge of negotiating with Velarde. "He called me to have a lunch and we talked about several ideas I had to see if we can work it out," she said. "He asked me to put it in an email and I sent it to him, and no one has responded to us."
Velarde’s email, obtained by The Park Record, suggested three options that would end the dispute, she said.
The first was to compromise, where one "Follies" show would run in May and 100 percent of the ticket sales would benefit all nonprofit organizations, including the Egyptian Theatre.
The second calls for the Egyptian to produce an entirely new production under a different name.
The third was to have both teams present their own "Follies"-like production at different times of the year.
Labertew said he would like having two "Follie-esque" shows in Park City.
"We can’t poke enough fun at ourselves in this community, and there is certainly no lack of material, this article and topic included," he said. "On the other hand, the Egyptian has built – over the last 12 years – a brand, and we don’t think it is fair to have that brand confused or compromised. If the word "follies" disappears from their show and their organization, this discussion is done and settled, and I’ll buy the first ticket to both shows."
Velarde still wants to settle the issue without litigation.
"Do they think if they stonewall us and outspend us in the court that it will be a victory?" she asked. "How responsible is it for a nonprofit organization to spend RAP Tax money, Park City Foundation money, donor money on lawyers’ fees that are so unnecessary? That is not the way we do business in this town. It’s not the spirit of the Egyptian or the Follies. Our hallmark in Park City is we all may be different, but we all get along."
Labertew said he hopes the matter is settled within the next two weeks and said there is a chance both organizations will be satisfied.
"I would say chances are at least 1 billion times better than the world coming to an end in 2012," he said.