Allegations have been made that Mad Cow Theatre Company (Facebook | Website) in Downtown Orlando, has not being paying all of its actors. The following letter was written by the former Resident Director of Mad Cow Theatre, Aradhana Tiwari:

“An Open Letter To Mad Cow Theatre Company
I’m an artist. It’s not a hobby. It’s my livelihood. When I’m not paid, there are consequences. Like you, I have a water bill, a cellphone bill—I even eat food. When we have an agreement for compensation an expectation is set. An expectation that I will get paid. I have spent the last three years fighting for my compensation privately and as I’ve exhausted all other avenues available to me, I’ve now decided to go public with this fight: Respectfully, please pay me and my fellow artists for services rendered.
In the past when you have given me a check, you have not done me a favor. It is not a gift. You are paying me for my work. You are honoring an agreement. I do not own property, or stocks and it is unlikely that I will ever have a 401K…all I possess is my creative and intellectual property. It’s valuable to me. When I share that with you under an agreement for payment, it’s important that you honor that. In fact, it’s the law.
What is also the law is that you must pay me on time. When you fall behind in paying me for months upon months (over a year to date) while signing checks for new employees and new projects not only are you engaging in illegal practices but also you’re insulting me.
When I inquire about my paycheck and the past due paychecks of my fellow artists and colleagues, you have chosen to shame and guilt me. Evade conversation regarding resolution. Or just flat out ignore me. This is also deeply insulting and highly unethical.
I’m not the first artist to have this grievance with you. And I’m certain that I won’t be the last. Many artists have already spoken up before me. Many artists are afraid to speak. I understand how this culture of fear is perpetuated. Actors want to act. Directors want to direct. Designers want to design. For a long time I allowed fear to keep me bound in this unhealthy cycle because I was terrified that if I didn’t, I might not be able to do what I love. But then I realized the liberating truth that you have no power over what I do: I’m an artist. I make things. I will continue to make things and I will be paid for it.
I’m not writing this letter because I’m angry or bitter…this is not personal. It’s business. Art is my business. And if even one potential donor, or grant panelist, or patron reads this artist’s plea, then this letter will have been well accomplished.
I will always be grateful for the opportunities and lessons that you have graced my artist journey with. I root for you to succeed in paying artists. We deserve to be paid for the work that we do…and collecting that payment should not be an entire job unto itself. Sometimes, when we can, we choose to give our work away in kind. That is our gift to share with the world if and when we are lead to do so. It is not a decision that you or anyone else get’s to make. So respectfully, please settle the bills.”
Sincerely and With All My Artist Heart,
~Aradhana Tiwari
Former Resident Director of Mad Cow Theatre

 

Mad Cow’s Board of Directors released the following statement on September 28, 2016:

 

“The board of directors of Mad Cow Theatre has learned that the theatre owes back wages to a small number of artists primarily from the 2015-2016 season.
During that season, Mad Cow Theatre paid more than $410,000 in wages to more than 225 artists over the course of 10 full productions, the Science Play Festival, the Orlando Cabaret Festival and special events.
But we on the board of directors are sorry that payments to a few artists have fallen behind. We are taking immediate steps to correct that situation. While we have resolved the issue of payment with the person who brought this to our attention, we also are reaching out to the other affected artists directly and individually. We promise that we will pay those back wages in the near future on a schedule that we are in the process of creating.
Mad Cow is a professional theatre, and we believe strongly that our actors and other artists should be paid. In the course of following that belief, and in growing our theatre from a tiny part-time enterprise in 1997 to a year-round company now celebrating its 20th season, we have stumbled.
We will strengthen our internal organization, as well as the organization of our board of directors, to make sure this kind of omission never happens again. We will communicate better with all concerned.
We recognize that Mad Cow is part of its community – both the Central Florida community and the community of theatre people we love – and that we owe our best to the members of that community. We hope that the pain we all feel in the present difficulty will create a path toward moving forward together in the months and years to come.
All questions about this issue should be directed to board member Dr. Alvin Wang, dean of the Burnett Honors College at the University of Central Florida, at [email protected]
Mad Cow is a regular recipient of large grant funding from United Arts. Last year the theater received $84,000 in funding from the agency. Click HERE to see United Arts Annual Reports. Mad Cow rents their space from the City’s CRA. We included them in our City Lease Roundup back in March, HERE.

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