The Fairy Princess has been staying out of the 99 Seat Theater Contract Debates. The reason being that she no longer works those contracts because it is not financially viable to work for a $100 honorarium for several weeks of rehearsal, every night, and pay a babysitter. Or eat. Or buy clothes.
Plus, they usually ask the Actor to donate the $100 back so they can make their budget!
For the record, TFP always said no on that.
Thus, TFP spends more time on the East Coast where, to be quite honest, she has been much busier and has had the opportunity to work on some very cool developing musicals. Musical workshops where she was paid more for working on it for a WEEK, than she would be paid to ‘run’ a play in LA for six weeks. Or two months if it gets extended for good reviews and response. Repeat, more in 29 hours than in 2 months of rehearsal.
Now, to those who say TFP knows nothing about running a theater company in LA, they should stop right now – she knows way more about running a theater company than the average actor. She was on the Board for a theater company in New York, she has worked with AEA as a deputy, and her husband was a Co-Artistic Director of an API Theater company in LA for 10 years. Which ran under the 99 Seat Plan.
TFP actually does know about the financial burdens on smaller theater companies in LA and guess what?
THEY ARE EXACTLY THE SAME AS FINANCIAL BURDENS OF ANY SMALL THEATER COMPANY ANYWHERE IN THE UNITED STATES.
There is no magical difference between Los Angeles theater and theater anywhere else, except in LA, Actors have managed to convince themselves that their talent and time has no value. Because that is what they have been told by Artistic Directors and Producers. They have been told, over and over, that should Actors get paid, LA Theater would end in a horrible explosion and the death of theater would be on THEIR shoulders.
Actors have been convinced that they do not need to be paid for doing theater in LA, because they get more than enough money when they do Television and Theater roles…right, because those roles just fall magically from the sky like gumdrops in a Depression era movie starring a curly moppet who tap dances and has a lisp.
LA Theater is not dying. TFP repeats, it is not dying. There’s life in the Old Girl yet….
LA Theater has always had consumption on a certain level, and that is because, as is universally acknowledged, Actors in LA journey there to focus on television and film, and theater is something they do to
1. Get discovered
2. “Work on craft’
3. Have something to do
Loving one’s job does not make it of less value. Loving one’s job is a huge bonus. If one auditions, and is hired, it is a job – a job that is part of a vocation, but a job nonetheless, and in this country, when a Union Member does a job – ANY Union Member in ANY Union, when they perform a task that falls under the title of ‘job’, according to the rules and statues of that Union – they get paid.
After all, when someone asks you “What are you working on?” this –
is not a fun answer to give.
But it does not mean that you, as a Union Member, should work for free. We got 99 Seat Plan Problems, don’t you be one…
Actors Equity finally took a look at this situation and came up with a plan to get the Actors more than $100 total for weeks and weeks of rehearsal and performance.
They want Actors to receive…wait for it – NINE DOLLARS AN HOUR!
May TFP take this moment to remind everyone that there are people who work in the Fast Food Industry who are marching in cities across the country, for a $15 an hour wage.
So, one can do an Ibsen play and make LESS than flipping a burger, that is, oh what is the word TFP is searching for?
Of course, LA Artistic Directors and Theater Companies responded to AEA’s plan to pay Actors Minimum wage….
Their stance is that LA Theater companies working under the 99 Seat Plan cannot afford to pay the Actors. The ones that people are ostensibly paying money to see, oh NO…THEY cannot be paid, that would break our theaters!
(Plus they have to pay for the theater rental, rights to the material, staff, designers, and stage management)
(Some companies are all volunteer, one imagines, but TFP has never been to any 99 Seat show where the SM and Designers did not receive some sort of salary for their contributions)
And the crazy thing is – ONCE AGAIN, the ACTORS BOUGHT INTO IT!
With what money, one has not a clue, but yet again, the Actors of LA have convinced themselves that the work they do is valueless. That the Union, their Union, which represents ALL Actors, ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY, a Union that has been criticized so harshly for allowing this contract to be in place in the first place, a Union that they were SO excited to join…they have decided this Union is launching a war against theater that can only be comparable to those shown with British accents on cable.
So then Union Actors decided to protest their own Union for lobbying for them to get paid.
The Union is not trying to kill theater. The Union is trying to protect the rights of all Actors that it represents.
Since 1972, Actors in Los Angeles have been devaluing their own worth – because that is when Equity Waiver theater started happening. At that time, any Union member could waive their rights at a Union member, and perform for free – completely.
It was amended and changed in 1987 and called the 99 Seat plan. This provided ‘basic’ rights for the Union Actor participating – rehearsal hours, mandated breaks, and that the Producer should purchase Insurance to protect everyone. It was amended in 2000, and that plan, the 99 Seat Plan, is what we have today.
TFP quotes from the current 99 Seat Plan, as set forth by AEA:
B) The Plan is based on the premise that Plan Theatres utilize the work and talent of Equity Members without wage or compensation.
The rest of the agreement is about safety, how to treat costumes, how many times you may be called back (3) without financial compensation, the ‘break’ schedule, the rehearsal schedule and what the duties of the Producer and Stage Manager are. However that line, B which is in the FORWARD section on Page 1 is really all that you need to know.
The Plan is based on the fact that they will not pay you. Everyone can get paid, except the Actors.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to work for free – as long as you do not call yourself a Professional. If you want to work for free, if you want to work for love only, then you are an Amateur.
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING AN AMATEUR.
The word comes from Amo which is Latin for l love. Amateurs do things because they love it, they just do not love it enough to invest their life in it. Amateurs do not pay Union dues. Amateurs are not concerned about rehearsal breaks, or how costumes are kept, nor do they worry about Producers devaluing their work to keep them broke and grateful for ‘the opportunity’. They are too much in love with what they are doing, and that is called….community theater.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Community Theater, and there is nothing wrong with being a Non Union Actor – but TFP has never met a Non Union Actor that does not aspire to join the Union, because being a Union member stands for something. LA Actors who are venting against the 99 Seat Plan and being awarded minimum wage, are not standing for anything – they are bending over.
TFP is not saying that Producers and AD’s do not love Actors, of course they love Actors – just not enough to pay them.
You see, they want Actors to believe that “Opportunity’ is enough. That if those theaters provide the opportunity for people to ‘be seen’, then of course, the talent should come free.
The Fairy Princess believes that if tickets are sold, and money is made, then Actors should be paid. If TFP goes to see a show and buys a ticket, she would like to know that the Actors in the show are reaping some benefit from her dollars.
TFP believes that if monetary value is placed on AEA Actors and their time within the 99 Seat Agreement, then their time AND their talent will be valued higher, by both the Actors themselves and the Production Team.
TFP does not feel sorry for any of the theaters moaning about closing – not even the ones run by friends – and here is why:
They have had a ‘free ride’ from the Actors since 1972. It is now 2015. That is 43 years of contributions by Actors.
It should be a goal of any theater company that wants to grow and expand, to want to pay their talent, and if there are any who are 10, 20, 30 years old who have NOT figured out how to pay the Actors, there is a problem there that is bigger than giving Actors $9 an hour.
This plan does not go into effect for ONE YEAR beginning in June.
Quite a lot can happen in a year…a baby can be born, a person can graduate from college, a tree can grow…and…financial plans can be redrawn and steps can be taken to make sure that a theater company can meet it’s goals and pay their Actors.
Will it be easy? No.
But theater people are tough, and LA Theater Producers are some of the toughest.
There might have to be more fundraisers.
There might have to be those hideous Kick-Indie-Go-Go things which are insidiously replacing the old fashioned ‘get a day job you hate and save your money to do your project’….
They might have to write more Grant proposals, or add people to the Board who can bring in the
It will just take more work, that is really all it is…it is more work, TFP knows that LA Theaters can do it
Yes, many Actors may feel…
But you should really be feeling more like…
Remember, AEA Actors…if you feel that you absolutely cannot take minimum wage from a theater company, if you are ‘in the money‘, you can always donate it back…
Theater in Los Angeles will not die because AEA Actors will have to be paid, it hasn’t in ANY other City….
TFP stands with AEA on this decision.
Once tempers cool and reason returns, she hopes that the AEA Actors in LA, who fought against themselves and their own best interests, will realize that this decision is not the end of the world.
There are options – you can leave the Union, you can donate the money back to the theater company of your own volition, you can help the theater company you love raise the money it needs to pay you – what you cannot continue to do is give away your talent for free – because other cities who have Producers who currently pay AEA Actors to perform are ACHING to stop paying their Actors.
What if Chicago stops paying their AEA Actors? What if Atlanta and Houston follow? What if NY Producers – who are whittling away as fast as they can at Tour salaries and benefits – what if New York, which has The Broadway – what if THEY decided to stop paying Actors?
Setting precedents that Union endorsed non-payment of AEA Talent is acceptable is dangerous. Sometimes things do not trickle down, they fall up.