They're Putting the QUIT in Equity!
Truly, maybe they want us all to quit - and it's sad, but actually understandable. We must admit, whether West, East or Peoria, as small theatres, we make no money for AEA. (Just as we don't make money for ourselves.) If they get rid of the little theatres, there's less competition for the BIG BOYS, MONEY MAKING, FAT CATS (The ones they are supposedly protecting us from!) in the ever diminishing search for an audience.
IF 2% of small union productions even break even, I'll run naked through Times Square. They don't understand and they largely are not listening. The vote for an unspecified change is essentially handing someone a blank, endorsed check.
It's ridiculous and insulting. The lame arguments about us exploiting ourselves or the (false) accusations that it will make us ineligible for unemployment are infuriating. Shouldn't the union be more focused on helping us to work than helping us sit at home and collect unemployment??? Actors WANT to work. We NEED to work. You cannot ever monetize art.
So far, as for the Presidential elections, we're leaning toward Kate Shindle - once we hear a little more, we will campaign on both coast for whomever we collectively decide. At the very least, Kate has engaged in conversation and taken a slight stand over the 99 seat "Blank Check" vote. Larry Cahn hasn't replied at all - Nick Wyman's statement is blatantly stale and not worth his time to update, as he writes, "The following is basically what I wrote five years ago. It still holds true." A lot has changed in 5 years - but not with the small theatres. The LA code is 25 yrs old, the NY Showcase code is 7 years older. They don't even take into account the invention of the internet or inflation! Adjust for inflation, and actors CAN be paid better.
Am I anti-union? HELL NO! But I am for a constructive union - one that not only looks after the actors but the art form as well. If there is no theatre, there's no need for theatre actors. The union has done many, many great things in its history - but they need to honor their own mission statement to take care of theatre 'artists'. We all want money, of course, but even more so, we NEED work - meaningful experiences. If not, we're totally insane for sticking with this profession. We can pay to stay in class forever, or actually get out there and make a fucking difference.
AEA and Broadway are not, as they like to state, equal to QUALITY. While you can see lots of crap in small theatres under the 99 seat/ showcase code - it may or may not be all union - ALL the horrible stuff we've seen on Broadway IS ALL union. That defeats that argument.
This is a major turning point in our theatre - Equity could topple if they don't play their cards right. In the age of social media - which also isn't included in the ancient codes - if someone is an asshole producer, they will be outed publicly. And if these mystery, greedy Mr. Producer X's exist - target them, not the people who skip lunch, WILLINGLY, to contribute to their craft. No, it shouldn't be, but maybe Equity would be better off trying to change the culture instead of killing off the little fish.
As for the many comments that all this speaking out against the union is dividing it, and keeping us from being 'UNITED', as some candidates have put it, it's as manipulative as these imaginary evil producers or Boss Fatt saying, "take it and like it." We can disagree with the union, and still be for it - many of the people in power are so far removed from what it is like for the struggling actor, they can't represent a majority of their members. The East and West coasts are kept in the dark from what each other is experiencing - so there goes the 'united' argument. Hell, we New Yorkers' would love to have the 99 seat code! We're forming a bi-coastal union, in spite of our Union. These issues should be on the front page of the Equity website - NOT fluff like "“Magical” Bahiyah Hibah is honored with Equity’s Gypsy Robe" and "Celebrating ... Tyne Daly." That's swell, but far from pressing matters.
Almost no one votes in these elections, it's determined by a small handful of votes. WE CAN, AS A UNITED LITTLE THEATRE, CHANGE THE COURSE OF THE THEATRE! WE MUST!!
We, on both coasts, have offered to help change these codes for years now. We've volunteered our time and brainstormed for free (We'll send AEA a bill for the thousands of hrs at minimum wage.) We've gotten no where. We are sick of waiting for Godot, Lefty and Little Sheeba to arrive - we DEMAND change now. Candidates - now is the time to step up.
Otherwise, I see a coast to coast card burning party. Work WITH us, not against us.
The Theatre is bigger than Broadway, AEA, you or me.
ps. I've emailed over 70 professional, small companies and individuals this week asking them to get behind us. Few jumped on board, no one said 'no.' The main response is good luck, they agree but they're too AFRAID of being blacklisted. Honestly, I am too, but I'm doing what I feel is right. We should NOT ever be afraid of our union.