Friday, August 11, 2006

We Should Be Doing More

posted by brad at 9:50 AM

Actors' Equity Updates LA's
99-Seat Plan

As of August 15th, the "99-Seat Plan," which allows union actors to work in small Los Angeles theatres will change. We think for the better. Check it out here.

According to information on the AEA site, posted by Glynda Chism-Tamberlyn, Chair of the 99-Seat Plan Committee, the history of this contract/plan which is exclusive to the LA market goes like this:

"Twenty-some odd years ago, members in Los Angeles wanted the Union to waive its rules so they could do live theatre and invite industry people in order to be seen; then, after enduring abuse and unsafe working conditions, they demanded their Union protect them. Producers declared that instating rules and paying actors would be the "death of theatre in Los Angeles." The ensuing Waiver Wars are legend. Equity fashioned a set of rules, which became known as the 99-Seat Plan, and that eight-page set of rules remained untouched, virtually sacrosanct, until its first member-mandated revision took effect some five years ago."

The updates to the 99-Seat Plan are bringing increased stipends to union actors, tighter restrictions on rehearsal timelines and a limited number of performances. All good things. But still not enough.

As a member of a company that is working to grow out of this plan and into a better contract that will offer insurance and pension pay, I must say that I am very thankful that the 99-Seat Plan exists. It allowed our company to start up at nominal costs and work with very talented artists who are members of the union. However, I also feel that in many ways the Plan also allows us, as a theatre scene in a spotlight market, to be confusing to audiences and many times, mediocre. We're not in this for mediocrity, are we?

See Damaso's latest entry (below) about "what have we gotten ourselves into" as actors, using the commentary of Martha Lavey (Artistic Director of Chicago's famous Steppenwolf Theatre) about actors to ask some interesting questions about what makes one want to do it. Her comments resonated with us as proof that the challenge of making it as a working actor are daunting everywhere, and it only exaggerated the challenge most actors face here. What do we do about it?

As producers, and companies and institutions... we have to do more. We have to be better than the LA 99-Seat Plan requires us to be. It's great to know there are some already doing this (and I'm proud that we're one of them). If you want to earn your living as a the Artistic Director, or Executive Director of a theatre institution that is committed to providing quality theatre for the community, and not focused on putting on showcases, then you owe it to the talent you are bringing in to pay them more than $11 per show. They are helping to make you and your company who you are. It doesn't matter if you have 40 seats or 400 seats.

If you have found/find a way to earn enough money to pay yourself a salary as a theatre administrator, it is no doubt, in large part due to the product. The skills that the actors and designers and directors are bringing to your theatre. Do more for them. And not just the designers and directors. It doesn't matter if the actors don't ask for it (because the union says you only have to pay them 11 bucks), we owe it to them. We would have no theatre without them.

I hope that the next update to the LA 99-Seat Plan creates a new tier of contract that separates out those producers in LA who could and should be challenged to do more (we all know who we are). Yes, Including us. We should be doing more.

Thanks for reading. Be Furious.


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