Promoters seek pay for canceled Ethiopian shows

May 17, 1987
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BURBANK, Calif. -- Promoters of an Ethiopian theatrical troupe that mysteriously failed to appear for two weekend performances said Sunday they will demand that the Marxist government reimburse the costs of the shows.

Ilene Proctor, a spokeswoman for Laurie Scott and Associates tour promotions, said the company is seeking $78,000 in reimbursements plus 'adequate compensation' for the costs of promoting the two weekend shows that never went on.

The 50-member, government-sponsored Adei Abeba Folklore Ensemble, which has been on a world tour, was scheduled to perform at the Starlight Amphitheater Friday and Saturday night. The troupe failed to show up for either show.

Members of the local Ethiopian community, who were planning to protest the ensemble's appearances, said fear of defections by performers most likely prompted the Ethiopian government to cancel the shows.

Three performers and a stage manager defected in March in Washington amid charges they were being treated as 'traveling prisoners.' After the defections, Cuban security police were hired to 'keep a tight rein' on the remaining performers, said Tesfaye Lemme, the stage manager.

Proctor said no one has heard from the ensemble managers since their last concert last Monday in Montreal. She said repeated efforts to reach Ethiopian government representatives have been futile.

The concerts by the ensemble, featuring singer Tilahun Gessesse, known as the 'Ethiopian Pavarotti,' were part of the People-to-People cultural tour organized by the Ethiopian government and Ethiopian sponsors in the United States.

Proctor said it was meant to be an 'international gesture of gratitude for the humanitarian gestures of the American people' to victims of the devastating famine in the northern African country.

But Jeanette Mekasha, an Ethiopian-born resident of Walnut, Calif., and one of the organizers of a planned picket at the concerts, called the tour 'a Marxist government-organized propanganda campaign that gives a false impression of what is really going on in Ethiopia.'

Mekasha claimed the government is spending $2 million on the world tour, money she said could be better spent to ease the famine that still grips the drought-stricken country.

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