Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

LA’s 99-Seat Theaters in Trouble

In Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW radio Anthony Byrnes discuses the backstage drama of LA Theater’s small theater groups. Based on a deal with Actors Equity, actors who perform in these venues at a reduced rate of only $7 to $14 per performance. The rationale mentioned for this waiver deal is that these theaters are places to get noticed by producers for television and movies. While I do not know much about the theater world, I wonder if such logic is entirely sound?   

An interesting point the article brings up is LA’s lack of not-for-profit theaters. I guess without the support of donors and other subsidies that are so important to a not-for-profit, these small, for-profit theater groups have to do what they’ve gotta do to stay afloat, including paying actors paltry amounts (granted, actors have been paid nothing for a very long time…). While I am not too familiar with the LA theater scene, I am sure that a not-for-profit theater group, which focuses on following its mission rather than making a profit, would be a welcome addition.  

 

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2 comments on “LA’s 99-Seat Theaters in Trouble

  1. Diana Freeberg
    September 3, 2014

    I have a very limited knowledge of the unions but I do know that there are several. SAG (the Screen Actors Guild) merged with AFTRA (the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) not too long ago. These two unions are of course (for the time being) separate from Actors Equity (for stage actors). I had a conversation with the Atlanta Actors Equity rep a few months ago and she said there were rumors of a merger of all three unions. This article seems to be fueling that rumor. If you have actors on stage representing one union, hoping to gain entrance into another, it would lead you to believe the connection between the unions is growing.

    That could mean an interesting outcome for the actors, unions, and the theatres caught in the middle.

  2. amyjoforeman
    September 3, 2014

    I completely understand that there are actors in LA willing to work for bread crumbs in hopes of being noticed, but I think it’s time the LA Waiver gets lost. I can’t help but think that the waiver is inhibiting LA theatres – it allows them to do sub par work on the cheap, possibly oversaturating the LA theatre scene with crap. Theatres across the rest of the country have ponied up and are paying the Equity minimums, so LA can too.

    I understand that losing the waiver will devastate a lot of these 99 seat theatres who are dependent on cheap Equity actors, but there will be theatres that can rise up out of the ashes of their fallen comrades, live by the Collectively Bartered Agreement (LIKE THE REST OF US), and thrive better than before.

    “Hey Los Angeles! Actors are people too!” – AmyJo Foreman

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