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1:06 AM Sun, Sept. 23rd

'Reefer Madness' finally gets go-ahead from city

PRESCOTT - When then-Elks Opera House manager Dawn Castaneda told Clyde Neville in mid-September she would not accept the advertising poster for his upcoming play, "Reefer Madness," which depicted a large marijuana leaf, he considered it much ado about nothing.

"I told Jacob (d'Armand) he would have to redesign the poster," said Neville, who is producing the play and is managing director of the Lonesome Valley Playhouse, which sometimes holds productions at other venues. "It was no big deal."

D'Armand is co-artistic director of the Prescott Independent Theater (PIT) and director of PIT's upcoming plays at the Elks, "Rocky Horror Show" and "Reefer Madness." He designed the advertising posters for both plays.

"Dawn said she wanted to do the show, but we just needed to change the poster," Neville said.

Redesigning the poster was the beginning of a rollercoaster ride for Neville while he tried to get contracts for his plays.

In the midst of d'Armand redesigning the poster, Castaneda suddenly resigned the week of Sept. 20.

Subsequently, Neville received some conflicting information.

"Dawn told me that Prescott government wouldn't allow the poster because of the marijuana leaf," Neville said.

Not true, said Mic Fenech, administrative services director for the city.

"We don't care - as long as they're renting the theater, they can put up whatever they want," he said.

Neville already had verbal agreements with Castaneda, but had not signed the contracts. After her resignation, he made new appointments to sign the contracts, but for weeks city officials repeatedly cancelled them.

Then, he noticed that all of the performances scheduled on the Elks' website were deleted from the calendar.

"I don't know what that means because no one from the city is talking," he said toward the end of September.

While Neville and his casts and crews wondered if the shows would go on, Fenech assumed management of the theater and scheduled a contract meeting with Neville.

"Fenech was a very user-friendly guy, and he understood our situation and worked with us," Neville said. "My shows are in place."

The city charged Neville $1,000 per day to rent the theater, which is what Castaneda promised him, but is less than the $1,500 written in the city's charter. However, they said it would cost him $150 an hour with a four-hour minimum to rehearse at the theater.

"We'll have to do rehearsals off-site, which isn't the best way to get ready for a play, but we didn't have any money built in for rehearsals because that's not the agreement we had with Dawn," Neville said Tuesday.

Neville's "Rocky Horror Show," which plays Oct. 22 and 23, is back on the Elks website, but it is the only performance listed.

"The theater is operational and we're good to go," said Laurie Hadley, deputy city manager. "We have no intentions of canceling anything."

Hadley said she would bring up the missing calendar items with Colette Greenlee, the Elks business manager. She added that anyone who had a performance scheduled and has questions should call Greenlee at 777-1359.

"But it's safe to say the shows will go on," Hadley said.

The city recently accepted d'Armand's third poster design, which combined his first and second designs. The marijuana leaf is back in, although it is slightly camouflaged.

"We're on schedule for 'Reefer Madness,'" Neville said. "They accepted the flyers and posters, so not to worry about the show going on."

"Reefer Madness" opens Nov. 27.