Since the theater deals in temperament, backstage spats are pretty much routine. One spat, however, made itself heard over the general din in 1982 and significantly altered the fortunes of the National Theatre, which is where it all took place.
At loggerheads were: Maurice B. Tobin, president of the board of the New National Theatre Corp. (NNTC), the nonprofit organization that runs the venerable theater, and the powerful New York-based Shubert Organization, which had been contracted by NNTC to provide the bookings for a five-year period. While the National was enjoying big box office with such shows as "Morning's at Seven" and "The Pirates of Penzance," relations between Tobin and the Shuberts were deteriorating rapidly. Nor was the situation helped by nearby construction, which put a strain on the National's aging foundation. In May, the theater went dark and prospects for the future looked grim.
The situation began to mend the following month, only after the members of NNTC's board, in a heated meeting, replaced Tobin with Harry Teter Jr. While the National remains closed for renovations, the Shubert Organization has advanced NNTC an interest-free $1-million loan to cover eventual redecorating costs. In exchange, the Shuberts now have a 20-year contract to book the theater. There were some grumblings about them adding yet another playhouse to their empire, but as the most powerful men on Broadway these days, they seemed to be in the best position to provide the National with quality fare at a time when fewer and fewer shows take to the road. By November, NNTC was mulling over paint colors and fabric swatches, in preparation for a gala reopening in the fall of 1983. A crisis had been weathered.
On a somewhat less momentous plane, actor George Grizzard saw himself bounced from the Kennedy Center's production of "Tartuffe" 10 days before it opened, even though Grizzard was the reason the Center chose to revive the Molie re comedy in the first place. Director Brian Bedford took over the lead role and the production fizzled. Grizzard vowed never to act again at the Center, and Ralph Allen, whose influence as theatrical consultant to chairman Roger Stevens seems to be on the wane, called the episode "the most unpleasant of the Center's season," but added it would be foolhardy to expect a climate "free of trouble."