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Renegade Comedy Theatre founder fired

Brian Matuszak, founder and executive director for Renegade Comedy Theatre, has been dismissed from his position by Renegade's board. The action came in an emergency board meeting Wednesday night, Matuszak said. Renegade's board has been negotiat...

Brian Matuszak, founder and executive director for Renegade Comedy Theatre, has been dismissed from his position by Renegade's board.

The action came in an emergency board meeting Wednesday night, Matuszak said.

Renegade's board has been negotiating a lease at Teatro Zuccone, and Matuszak had objected to some proposed terms.

The venue at 222 E. Superior St. is owned by the A. H. Zeppa Family Foundation and managed for them by Zeitgeist Arts. Negotiations had hung up on who would handle Renegade's box office, Zeitgeist or Renegade. Matuszak, who was not part of the negotiations, wanted to retain management of his group's box office.

Matuszak's wife, Sue Matuszak, sent an e-mail last Friday to members of the Renegade troupe and staff. It outlined her husband's disagreement with the board about terms of lease.

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In interviews Tuesday, Brian Matuszak said he and his wife thought terms of the lease were final when the e-mail was sent but learned later that negotiations were still under way. He said his only remaining concern was management of the box office, which he wanted to retain to avoid a wall between his troupe and his patrons.

Matuszak said the box office issue arose in November, when lease negotiations began.

"I've mentioned that I'm uncomfortable with it all along, and finally I said no, and they couldn't deal with that," he said.

The Renegade board has not issued a statement and president Lynn Dandy could not be reached for comment.

Kat Eldred, president of Zeitgeist Arts, issued a prepared statement in support of the board's decision to fire Matuszak, and noted that Zeitgeist welcomes Renegade as Teatro's resident theater company.

"Mr. Matuszak has often been a very difficult and demanding client, but it was his decision to make public what had [until] then been a private negotiation that broke the camel's back," Eldred wrote in her statement, an apparent reference to an article in the Wednesday News Tribune.

When questioned about the reason for the firing, Eldred said it was the e-mail that Sue Matuszak sent to members of the Renegade troupe and staff, which then was forwarded to the News Tribune.

"The e-mail made it public," Eldred said, "and they didn't have the right to make it public. When the board requested that he not send any e-mails about this, then his wife does. And the e-mail was misinformed. He's not part of the negotiations."

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"I feel real bad for the [Renegade] board," Matuszak said. "It seems like they were pressured to make this decision. They had to decide whether to stay there [at Teatro Zuccone] or fire me. And that's just awful."

Matuszak stated, "I am still grateful to the Zeppa Foundation. Three years ago they saved Renegade, but that didn't give them the right to take over certain aspects of the group."

Matuszak said he'd received many e-mails of support from friends in the theater community and plans to start another theater group.

"I started one theater company 16 years ago and now I know all the mistakes, I can start another one," he said. "I'll let everyone know as soon as I can -- it's exciting."

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