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Grove Misappropriated AIDS Funds, Actresses Say : Finances: 'Mismanagement,' not fraud, is to blame if the charity did not receive its share of proceeds, a troupe ex-board member says.

July 03, 1993|JAN HERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Amid new indications that GroveShakespeare's liabilities are even greater than previously revealed, actors associated with the company have charged that it misappropriated an AIDS charity's share of box office receipts from a benefit performance and spent the money on theater operations despite repeated assurances to the contrary.

The amount involved was only $384, half the proceeds from a performance of "A Child's Christmas in Wales" at the Gem Theatre in December, 1992. But two members of the cast--Marnie Crossen and Jenifer Parker--allege that regardless of the amount, the Grove's failure to hand over the money to the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS was "unethical" and "fraudulent."

"I am livid," Crossen said late Thursday. "What they did was completely unethical. They collected money from people who specifically came to that performance because they (thought) it was going to help people with AIDS.

"It's not as if we hadn't kept after (the Grove management) about this," she added. "We kept confronting them until we were told it had been paid. We even threatened to go to the press in February. After that I was assured it had been paid."

In a letter to The Times, Parker asserts that in meetings and phone calls over a period of six months, the Grove's former artistic director, Stuart McDowell, and former board president, David Krebs, had given her "their personal guarantees to look into the matter and their promises that the money would be forthcoming."

McDowell said Thursday that he recalls meeting with Parker in February and "was under the impression the money had been paid."

"It was the board that held the purse strings," he noted.

Moments later, however, he called back to say: "At the time we met with the cast of 'Child's Christmas,' I didn't reveal two things. Regretfully, I knew the AIDS money hadn't been paid and that there was a question of the company's survival.

"Something else I didn't say," he added, "was that I was not receiving payroll at the time. I bankrolled the company out of my own pocket to the tune of $8,000. Nor have I gotten paid for two months--three paychecks--totalling about $5,000.

"But if the AIDS money still hasn't been paid, I think it should be."

On Thursday Krebs also recalled speaking with Parker and telling her months before that he had "turned the matter over to the business manager."

"If the money is owed," he added, "it absolutely should be paid. I think it was just mismanagement of those funds at the time. There was no intent of fraudulent activities."

Crossen was not mollified, however. "I'm appalled," she said. "The whole cast was horrified when this first came to light. And I am now horrified more than ever."

"In truth, the relatively small amount of money . . . would never have kept GroveShakespeare from financial ruin," Parker wrote in her letter. "It could, however, have bought a considerable number of necessities of life for someone with AIDS."

Tom Moon, GroveShakespeare's current acting board president, said Thursday that the entire problem was "news to me. But, happily, it's a minor amount, which can be handled."

Nevetheless, the company's liabilities appear to be greater than previously acknowledged. On June 19, Moon said the Grove's debts came to $259,062. But the revelation that McDowell is owed $13,000 (and not the $2,790 mentioned in the Grove's list of creditors) and other unspecified loans by board members indicate that total indebtedness may actually be closer to $300,000.

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