My Experience With Exit 82 Theatre Company
I have known Keely Davenport and Billy Cardone from Exit 82 since we were kids. I was excited for and fully supported their effort to bring theatre to our hometown of Toms River. Over the years I have heard many negative comments about their handling of the company. People that volunteered or worked for the company were treated poorly and refused to come back. Multiple venues that lent their space to them asked them not to return. Still, I was more than happy to work with them when a friend of mine who runs the improv troupe,Â Improv Jam,asked me to make a connection with them on August, 1st. I thought it would be wonderful to bring some stand-up to the town as well.
We met up on the 8/10/18 and came up with a plan, deciding the first stand-up show would be on 9/29/18. I was also asked to teach some comedy classes which we decided would start 9/30/18. Exit 82 was responsible for promotion and I was responsible for booking the stand-ups. As for the classes, I was asked to come up with lesson plans and an itinerary. I eagerly complied.
Then nothing. I sent texts, emails, and made phone calls. No response.
Eventually I was told (with a little less than two weeks until the event) that they would be cancelling.
I then informed the comedians that blocked out that weekend for a paid show that there would no longer be one. For a working comic to lose a paid gig this close to the date of the show can be an extreme hit to the wallet. Understanding that these things happen in the entertainment business, and trusting that my friends wouldnâ€™t do this on a whim, I let it go without a negative word, even agreeing to try again at a later time.
I then remembered there was still a matter of the classes I had agreed to teach and the work I put in getting things ready. I tried texting Billy. No response.
A month had gone by and in November Mike from Improv Jam and I had decided to do a joint show with Exit 82 on Dec 1st. I booked Vinnie Nardiello and Jason Pollock with Improv Jam going on in between their acts and I would close out the show. Hereâ€™s the twist. I screwed up. Blame it on the fact that my stepdad was critically ill and passed away during this time and I was distracted, but it was still my fault. I double booked. I talked it over with Mike Vinnie and Jason, and let Billy know. I also arranged to get to both gigs. Of course everything that could go wrong did. My first gig was delayed, and Mike had to rush his wife to the hospital. In his place he sent over two of his improvisers to do the show.
Being in this business for as long as I have, I didnâ€™t panic and also instructed Billy to start the show at 8:30 instead of 8 as a buffer. I found out later Billy not only ignored my request, but harassed the comics to begin early. Vinnie had been keeping me updated and expressed frustration with the way Billy was behaving. The audience was enjoying the show! Both the comics and improvisers did an excellent job that night.
However, instead of letting the comics stretch their sets a little more, start at the time I suggested, or just end the show there and promise the audience free tickets to my next show, Billy decided to call an intermission and wait for me. After listening to Billy hysterically screaming over the phone on the way there I arrived and did my set to an understandably exhausted audience. After the show I told Billy and Keely we needed to talk. They refused. I mingled with people I knew who came to see me, and before I left made another attempt to try to have a sit down to go over the nights events. They refused again.
A week later I received this from someone I have never met -
My response is as follows:
Hey man! How are you? I’ve known both Jason and Keely since they were kids. Had no idea Jason had a brother so it’s great to hear from you.
I’m going to set a couple things straight. I would never and have never gotten hostile with Keely. I barely spoke to her when I got to the club and dealt mostly with Billy over the phone.
The only thing I said to Keely was that we needed to talk (what professional adults do) about what happened. She declined. I did my time as I said I would. Unfortunately both Keely and Billy seem ill equipped to handle these kinds of situations. I understand they lost a board member recently and have been evicted from several different venues prior to obtaining the small theatre space in downtown Toms River.
I wish them only the best and that they handle themselves maturely and responsibly moving forward with their endeavors.
If either Jason or Keely would like to contact me to discuss what happened I’d be more than happy to speak with them.
Up until this point I had every intention of letting things go. I figured eventually over time when things calmed down we would talk about everything and at the very least remain friends. I can see now, from the response I got from her brother in-law, that Exit 82 is unwilling to conduct themselves in an honest and professional manner. Iâ€™m putting this out there because I feel this is something everyone who patrons their business, or might be thinking of doing business with them should know.