Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« The Winner of the Nobel Prize ... | Did You Have Sex Before Marria... »

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

WET Suit: A Tale of Two Cities

posted by on October 9 at 14:30 PM

A New York theater company is threatening to sue Washington Ensemble Theatre over its name.

Since 2006, attorneys representing Women’s Expressive Theater, Inc. have sent WET four cease and desist letters, demanding it abandon its acronym. In the most recent letter (sent Sept 6), the attorneys included a copy of the 16-page legal complaint Women’s Expressive Theater will file with the U.S. District court, should Washington Ensemble Theatre not want to change its initials.

There can be, they argue, only one WET—despite counterexamples in the theater world, including the coexistence of ACT in San Francisco and ACT in Seattle, both significant regional theaters, both on the West Coast.

Since its founding in 1999, Women’s Expressive Theatre has produced seven plays, 11 fundraisers, and an outreach program for young girls. In 2006, it had an income of $124,971. Its largest expense was the salaries of founding directors Victoria Pettibone and Sasha Eden, at over $40,000 each. Women’s Expressive Theater was awarded U.S. trademark registration number 3,125,889 for the name “WET” in August 2006.

Since its founding in 2004, Washington Ensemble Theatre has produced 12 plays, three fundraisers, and an outreach program for queer youth. In 2006, it had an income of $61,000. No ensemble members have ever drawn a salary from the company.

The letters say confusion between the two companies is “deeply upsetting to WET” and that the acronym for the Women’s Expressive Theatre “was deliberately chosen in response to stereotypes of women, in particular those involving sexuality.” The letters threaten litigation against Washington Ensemble Theatre and against individual members.

This is a bullying tactic,” said Gina Driscoll, an attorney and a member of the advisory board at Washington Ensemble Theatre. “If somebody files a federal complaint, you have to answer—and if somebody’s not in a position to fight it, they have to lie down and comply. They’ve put us between a rock and a hard place.”

“What is the state of nonprofit theater in America today,” asked Washington Ensemble Theatre member Marya Sea Kaminski, “when one theater across the country doesn’t believe we can co-exist in a national marketplace, and would rather tie up both their artists and ours in lawsuits and going to court instead of making art?

Women’s Expressive Theater did not respond to requests for comment.

No word whether Women’s Expressive Theater is threatening legal action against Women’s Entertainment Troupe (Los Angeles), the four different Women’s Ensemble Theatres (Chicago, Santa Cruz, Philadelphia, Poughkeepsie), Women’s Ensemble Theatre Troupe (Santa Barbara, slogan: “vagin-o-mite!”), WET City Productions (Chicago), Women’s Experimental Theatre (the Yukon), or the West End Theater (Gloucester, MA).

RSS icon Comments



Posted by Kate | October 9, 2007 2:46 PM

That transcends bogus and bullshit into a realm of sheer damned incomprehensibility!

Posted by Chris B | October 9, 2007 2:49 PM

“was deliberately chosen in response to stereotypes of women, in particular those involving sexuality.”

Not to quibble, but the fact that women get, ahem, wet, when aroused, isn't really a "stereotype". No more then the fact that men get erections when feeling similar.

I just hope no one has yet trademarked ERECT, the English Revival Experimental Circle Theater

Posted by Giffy | October 9, 2007 2:53 PM


Posted by dkseeger | October 9, 2007 2:54 PM


Posted by dkseeger | October 9, 2007 2:55 PM

Sounds to me like a certain group of women are trolling for vampires.

Posted by monkey | October 9, 2007 2:59 PM

It must be that time of month...

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | October 9, 2007 3:05 PM

after reading aobut this, i think i've decided i agree with WET on this issue.

Posted by infrequent | October 9, 2007 3:17 PM

What a bloody shame.

Ms. Kaminski's rhetorical question is very apt.

WET(NY) may well win their lawsuit; especially considering they've been awarded a trademark. I experienced a similar problem a few years back when I attempted to trademark "Imaginary Forces Work" - a coaching/tutoring service for Puget Sound actors - as a Washington State resident. The name was taken from the opening speech of HENRY V ("And let us, ciphers to this great accompt, On your imaginary forces work.") A large company - with a trademark 'Imaginary Forces' - took offense, issuing a 'cease and desist.' We settled out of court. In my case, they realized I was a one-trick pony, posing no real threat and allowed me to continue using the name in the Seattle area, if I dropped my attempt at a trademark.

Ironically, Sasha Eden WET(NY) co-founder states, "People in our generation don't want to buy tickets to plays. They think the theater is too expensive or high-brow, so we have to work hard to get rid of every excuse for them not to come."

Clearly she and co-founder Victoria Pettibone - along with their attorneys - have latched onto one. And, not one but two, $40,000+ salaries takes a lot of work.

Posted by Laurence Ballard | October 9, 2007 3:50 PM

you forgot to ask if they were also filing suit against WET, the lube... sounds like those ladies could use a little of the lube, actually.

Posted by jameyb | October 9, 2007 4:23 PM

Were they issued a trademark for the actual name, or for the acronym? I don't believe that protection for a trade name extends to the initials of that name.

Otherwise Seattle's Best Coffee is going to be in big trouble with the Southern Baptist Convention.

In any case, these stupid women (the ones from NY) should fuck the hell off.

Posted by ls | October 9, 2007 4:47 PM

While this lawsuit sounds like bullshit sour grapes, I'm surprised that you would imply people shouldn't make a salary doing theater.

That's nice that our WET doesn't pay anyone; that's their operational choice. That doesn't mean that no one should get paid in the theater biz. The other WET decided that it would compensate its workers, and that requires a bigger operating budget and more fund raisers. Could they do more with less? Maybe; most operations have some waste. But 40K is not exactly a bangin' salary in New York (or Seattle, for that matter).

I'm tired of the attitude that just because you're doing something artistic or creative or service-oriented you love you shouldn't get paid for it.

Posted by exelizabeth | October 9, 2007 5:18 PM

Wow, I was just going to say that here at UCSB we have WETT, when I got to the end of that article. Are they seriously suing a bunch of college kids who put on a nonprofit production of the Vagina Monologues every year? I'm torn... because on a personal level I sort of hate some of those girls, but those ones have graduated anyway and I think its a good club over all. They also dress up in vagina costumes and run around campus which is... sort of weird, but whatever.

Posted by UCSB | October 9, 2007 5:27 PM


Absolutely. But understand reality. after 35 years as an employed professional *union* actor (top 20% workweeks in AEA) I was making less than 25K. In Seattle. In union houses around the country.

These two gals have been at it for a helluva lot shorter time. And if these same two women - and their attorneys - have their way, WET(WA) workers will have to wait even longer for any remuneration, other than grease-paint and the roar of the crowd.

Posted by Laurence Ballard | October 9, 2007 5:35 PM

@12: Way to COMPLETELY miss the point. WET (Seattle) is too young and too small to pay anybody a living wage. Nobody ever suggested that makes them somehow more pure. It isn't an "operational choice" they made. I'm not Brendan, but I'm pretty sure he brought up the salaries to support the viewpoint that a rich(er) theatre is using its stature to bully a much smaller one.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure what's actually going on here is that a couple of women (who are being heavily overpaid to regurgitate stale bullshit theatre to a largely uninterested New York audience, by the way,) have their panties in a wad because a group of young upstarts in Seattle are garnering more national attention than they are. If I were associated with WET New York and somebody mistook me for WET Seattle, I think I'd keep my damn mouth shut.

Posted by matthew e | October 9, 2007 5:37 PM

No, no—don't get me wrong, exelizabeth. I wish more theatermakers could pull in a regular salary.

Here's the situation: There's one company in New York, the majority of its budget goes to paying its founding directors, and it has produced seven measly plays in eight years. (I wonder what their donors think about that... )

Then you have a company in Seattle, zero percent of its budget goes to salaries (in other words, it all goes into the work), and they've cranked out four plays a year.

The richies, who do comparatively little theater, turn around and SUE the poories, who are doing a lot of theater and can't afford the legal fees to even answer in the required legal manner—even if they're right, they can't afford (or can barely afford) to say they're right.

Isn't that a little troubling?

Posted by Brendan Kiley | October 9, 2007 5:47 PM

Here's what I think should happen. Intiman should mysteriously "vanish" in the middle of the night, only to reappear as WET, Washington's Extra Theatre. ("Sorry debt collectors, Intiman left no forwarding address.") Then WET-neé-Intiman can lawyer up and litigate the New York WET into the ground. It's win-win-win. Intiman is free of its multimillion-dollar debt, Real WET is free of its legal problem, and there's $125,000 that can go back into the New York theatre ecosystem for projects that suck less. Oh, and nobody would confuse WET-neé-Intiman with Real WET because, well come on. You'd have to be a complete idiot.

So where's my Genius Award?

Posted by matthew e | October 9, 2007 6:11 PM

I'd wait till WET/NY actually got around to doing something more than clanging their swords against their shields (or whatever the less stereotypically masculine variant of that would be) before I bunched my panties over it (or... you know). Registering a trademark in 2006 is almost meaningless given WET Seattle had already established the trademark in a regional market different from WET NY's. When WET Seattle produces their first show in New York they might want to use the full name, though...

Posted by Eric F | October 9, 2007 7:15 PM

Sometimes I'm just plain embarrassed by the abject obtuseness of some members of my chose profession.

If the issue were one that could just be ignored, I'd be the first to say, "by all means, ignore it." But WET's (OUR's not THEIR's) board lawyer seems to be saying that non-response to the legal complaint isn't really a matter of choice; either WET spends ridiculous amounts of money to mount a legal defense, or else they have no other recourse but to drop their use of the acronym.

It's stupd, it's wrong, and in a better world those two sniveling, litigious bitches (and that is NOT a word I use lightly) would be the second or third ones up against the wall, come the revolution.

Posted by COMTE | October 9, 2007 7:24 PM

Allow me to hand you the ammunition, Chris.

Posted by Laurence Ballard | October 9, 2007 8:00 PM

Beautiful Jewish Manhattan women like Sasha Eden and Victoria Pettibone deserve respect for founding Women's Expressive Theatre. $40,000 is not much to live on in Manhattan, so provincial Seattle Theatre types need to realize $40,000 is really like a stipend.

Manhattan produces better theatre, so I wouldn't fight with any Manhattan theatre groups because you should submit to your betters. Is Washington Ensemble Theatre even Jewish? If you are then you should know better than question Manhattan, if not then...quit while you're ahead.

Posted by Issur | October 9, 2007 9:12 PM


"Pettibone" is yidish? Who knew?

And seriously, if $40K is all these two are pulling down in Manhattan, they'd be better off waiting tables - I hear the tips are hella better.

And BTW, I've seen a bit of theatre on the Island, and I can say without reservation that not all of it is better than what you'd find in Seattle. It's just more expensive, is all, which makes people assume it must be better.

But, thanks anyway for the attempt at satire.

Posted by COMTE | October 9, 2007 9:34 PM

Sasha Eden is a beautiful Jewish woman who produces radical pro-feminist plays to great acclaim. She also happens to be a talented, accomplished actress with nation wide connections. The only reason Seattle's pathetic theatre group is whining is because they are either jealous, anti-semitic or both. FYI Theatre in Manhattan happens to be the best in the world. I know, I was born there and have many family members in show biz.

Posted by Issur | October 9, 2007 9:53 PM


It doesn't matter if Ms. Eden is an ugly, goy, hag - along with her shabbat goy partner, Pettibone - producing reactionary tracts for the Schlafly Arena Players Society. With this lawsuit, they're still navel-gazing mercenaries.

I realize you're hungry. Go back under the bridge now; there's bound to be another billy goat coming down the path...

Posted by Laurence Ballard | October 10, 2007 4:53 AM

I'm hoping Issur is joking when he/she is injecting anti-Semitism into this debate. This has never been about whether or not WET New York happens to be run by two Jewish women. It's about them stupidly suing another tiny theatre and looking like idiots. Maybe it's too early in the morning and I'm missing the joke. Is Issur really Sasha or Victoria?

Posted by Nick | October 10, 2007 6:53 AM

Sounds to me like WET NY is just jealous because they've only managed to produce 7 play in 8 years! Then along comes little WET and produces 12 in 3. Take that!

Posted by eloise | October 10, 2007 7:36 AM

Anybody know a good pro-bono group that would be willing to give WET a hand?

Posted by Greg | October 10, 2007 8:13 AM

7 plays in 8 years!?!?! what the fuck?!?!? and these dames get $80k a year?!? A play takes, what, 3 to 4 months to put on; $40k for one play a year, is pretty sweet...that's Marisa Tomei money, baby...

Posted by michael strangeways | October 10, 2007 9:24 AM

Regardless of whether either WET has right to use of the acronym, these comments are incredibly sexist. If two men were leading this battle, no one would be making comments about their moodiness or their motivations. To add digs to people who have Jewish sounding last names is even beyond that. Of course New Yorkers always think they are superior, but having produced there, WET is really not a big name. This stunt is probably the most attention they've gotten and is smart business. Who could imagine anything intelligent coming from two Jewish Women struggling in Manhattan??

Posted by leigh | October 10, 2007 10:31 AM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).