Sunday, November 6, 2016

Despite what Equity Says: Fair Ain't Fare #FairWageOnstage

This is possibly my last post. The theatre trolls have attacked the few others defending our theatre, sending them death threats and what not. If only they had that passion toward making the theatre better! Having undergone brain surgery in the past year, to which some of you wrote to say you hoped I died - I'm still here! I've suffered pain you hopefully will never have to know - and I'm still here.

AIN'T FARE

This whole #FairWageOnStage is a cute idea but a lot of it seems to be a smoke screen for Equity’s many decades of neglect. Before, I get flamed to death, YES, I absolutely think it would be amazing, and in my dream world, people off and off-off Broadway ALL got paid a fortune.  (PLUS all actors need to learn the difference between spelling ‘fair’ and ‘fare.’ #embarrassing) I also believe most people, in most jobs, nationwide, deserve a major raise, not only those working on stage and in the wings, but it’s not quite that black and white.  Though we tend to isolate, living in New York isn’t only difficult for actors.  I admire any self-proclaimed “grass-root effort” as the group’s domain is registered to Kellie Overbey. (Can’t Equity start anything themselves?!!) but despite the attention it has garnered, this agenda seems sadly misguided. Artists SHOULD be revered and rewarded, but unless you are going to change the whole culture and rewrite history, this isn’t going to happen. The decades our union has been asleep at the wheel haven't helped. (And a dozen will still scream, “But what about That One Show?” – It’s an anomaly. Congrats to all that are involved, but when you are produced by a non-profit and charge $800+ a ticket – you’re hurting the larger theatre by depleting the amount of money people have in their overall ‘theatrical budget’.  While they’ve done amazingly, I wonder how many other shows they have shuttered because of their price.)  

I have nothing to gain here besides more hateful emails from ignorant strangers – so I am doing this out of love for the theatre as a whole – not for my own agenda, not for my career, not for money, etc. The Theatre is so much bigger than me, or you, but it needs caretakers. (I’m the self-proclaimed toilet scrubber.) Back in the day, The Group Theatre- repeatedly took pay cuts to keep their shows running – we are talking about legends like Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner, Elia Kazan, Lee Strasberg, Lee J. Cobb, John Garfield, Bobby Lewis and so many others. They’d skip meals, they lived together, they’d do whatever it took to make the theatre work.  (And yes, things are much more expensive now, but they managed to keep the American theatre afloat during the Great Depression.) I’m woefully from that idealistic school of work and thought.  Decades later, Uta Hagen would gracefully sweep the stage nightly, even when she was a star as that’s just what you did.  Yes, that was all before I was born. Most of the greats were before my time. I guess I was born too late. I lamely ask what I can do for the theatre instead of vice-versa.  I think back to the 1990’s infomercials for courses in ‘VCR repair training’ and my opinions are not far off from the state of the theatre. During their heyday, NO ONE thought VCRs would soon be obsolete. Like the theatre industry, which is becoming more useless per generation, no one will get paid to act once their is no business. Please, please try to produce, and you will appreciate the hats others wear in the theatre. (If I ran a theatre education program, producing would be essential. It’s a million times harder than you think.  No wonder Broadway shows have 76 producers above the title, and no wonder the phrase too many cooks in the kitchen constantly comes to mind.) The half-dozen people I know whom have accepted that challenge have ALL said, “We had no idea how hard it was...”  I’m no trust-fund baby and I have no savings account to sleep on, yet I hold no grudge against those that do. I worked my way through NYU and will be paying for it a long time yet. (Stupid mistake on my part, I will admit!) Until I became ill last year, I worked from 1-5 jobs since I was 17.  I took on extra work to help subsidize the little stipend that ReGroup could pay its actors. No crying for me; I did it all willingly.
The Fair Wage's lame “letter to the management” itself seems to be from a powerless position by stating the theatre is controlled by the producers (“your institution”). It smells of a teenager telling their parents, “You just don’t understand.”  Again, I urge you, in fact, I beg all the actors to produce your own work, even if just for one night. The amount of paperwork alone is stupefying, the COST, the limitations set by contracts with the writer or estate and the union, the COST, hiring others, the COST, the royalties, the COST etc, etc make it almost impossible.  Just as it is becoming harder and harder to live in NY, as an artist or as any other profession, (We do not live in a bubble, as much as we often like to think we do.) it is becoming even harder to produce with care.  There seems to be some faux picture of this Boss Fat producer who is making billions off of the sweat of actors’ back, and if that is true, (It’s not!) then call them out. I’ve asked Equity repeatedly for this info regarding who is making a profit off-off Broadway, and I’ve been told it’s not known. (Producers have to give them extensive documentation for every show, so it should take 20 seconds to run a report – if it were in their favor.) Though my degree from NYU is in acting, having produced off and off-off as a non-profit, I find that producing companies, especially the non-profits, would LOVE to pay their actors better.  Though the “Fair Wage” website recommends it, by earmarking funds “For payment to actors and SMs” doesn’t mean they will be paid more. That merely helps fill the non-profits previously set budget for creative talent. It’s entirely useless as a tactic.  As far as the sight claiming the actors are “not part-time workers,” while I understand the plight – technically, less than 40 hrs work on-site a week is ‘part-time’ to 99.9% of the country. AND as far as polling a whopping “190 members” for their opinions, even when the union somehow inflates their membership by 10,000 per the Dept of Labor, 190 out of 40,000 is a negligible amount. I’d expect all 190 would want more pay, but it’s embarrassing that you use such negligible numbers.
YES! Again, you do deserve a raise. All artists do. They always did, but they always did. The term ‘starving artist’ isn’t a new one, and though it isn’t ‘fair’, we ALL knew this going in to it.  The rules didn’t change after we got our degrees. We weren’t forced to go to school to get paid slightly above poverty wages; we chose this noble path. We weren’t forced to take meaningless, minimum wage job burger-flipping jobs. Yes, I still remembering being an 18 college student and thinking it wasn’t fair that every 3 hrs of classroom work only counted as 1 hr. (I knew then our work was not the norm and this business was far from “fair.”) We have to consider what it means to ‘paid’. Nope – recognition from a role off-Broadway won’t pay your rent – but it makes you an important part of society. Do not lose sight of that. (No, that won’t fill your stomach, but read on.) Many of the artists or actors who did taped interviews for the fair wage project mentioned how the off or off-off  work was the most rewarding work of their career and they wouldn’t trade it for anything, etc, etc.  That doesn’t pay for a MetroCard but that has true value – which for me, will mean more on my deathbed than the money I made.  But, I understand, that doesn’t help in the here and now.  We need our union to help turn the clock back.  Look back 20-30 years, and most of the big actors you know, stage and screen, got their start off-Broadway. The “exposure” that is so mocked in the Fair Wage memes is how the majority of those actors got started.  Casting directors, agents, etc actually went to the theatre almost every night. (This is my area of expertise – even legendary actors like Maureen Stapleton, Eli Wallach and Jessica Tandy would come back to do “showcases” with new talent – and earn dirt wages as part of the Equity Library Theatre. It was their way of passing the torch and getting others discovered.  NOW, our unions have allowed ‘workshops’ to take over. They ‘teach’ 3 minute workshops at Actors Connection, The Network, etc, etc, etc by allowing you to audition for them.  Not only are those NOT paying gigs, they charge $40 per a 3 minute ‘class.’ I’ve been in contact with AEA and SAG/AFTRA about this issue – and they’ve all claimed to be helpless.  Now I’ve been after the Attorney General of NY to stop these scams.  With prodding by myself, in addition to their own efforts, LA has been very successful in getting major attention (several articles in Variety, etc), and it seems very likely these faux classes will soon be forbidden in CA as the ‘pay to play’ efforts that they are. If we can get that unity in NY, the equity of being in a low paying show can once again be a major benefit as a stepping stone to higher paid work. 

Who the hell am I? Allie Damn Mulholland, founder and Artistic Director of the 501c3 ReGroup Theatre.  What will the future bring? Who knows? Maybe actors will settle with being better paid laborers. Still, like with politicians, union leaders are known to lie.  (At my AEA orientation, when asked the ‘cons’ of being in Equity, I mentioned wanting to do work of my own, only to have the leaders literally provoke the entire room into laughing at me and wrote on the chalkboard (WITH quotes) “Artistic Ventures.” I’ve met with Equity, they’ve given me their word as Fair Wage team claims they have to them. Their word has been proven to be worthless to me.  I’m the shyest guy around, but one thing I can do is stand on the last 2 President’s desk in their multi-million dollar office overlooking Times Square and beat them in knowledge of our American theatre history. I’m not talking trivia; I’m talking the process of passing the baton. Maybe I’ll finally quit Equity for their constant ‘miscommunicating’ (which some would call lying), maybe I’ll run for President or start a rival theatre artists union.  For more than a year, I’ve been advocating for the LA 99 SEAT Plan to help them keep the best plan for themselves, as determined by the people who do the work. Even though their local AEA members voted down a change to the plan by a 2/3 margin, AEA overturned their member’s vote due to the amount of actors who didn’t vote. By that philosophy, if 190 actors are against the current code, the other 40,000 are for it?   (Note to Mrs. Clinton – under this warped logic, anyone registered who didn’t vote meant to vote for you! Yes, this was originally aimed as The Donald as it sounds like crap he'd use, but AEA used it against its members.)  First off, it’s sad and sick that our union would ignore their members but again, they also claim to have 10,000 more members than the Dept of Labor is aware of. (Are the counting dead members?) They are not “50,000 strong” just as they argued with me their slogan wasn’t “Ask if it’s Broadway.” After I complained, they swore it was ‘Ask if was Equity’ and I was making things up until I sent them the link to their own website headed, “ASK IF IT’S BROADWAY!” (As if Broadway means quality in the first place. hahahaha)  A week later, it was changed, though I have copies of the original page.
Hoping they would help defend our theatre as their predecessors did, I’ve reached out to many of our established young-ish playwrights and directors, who all luckily have been fortunate to have been trust fund babies. That’s truly great for them, but it seemingly has taught them not to wager into anything controversial.  I have countless emails saying this – and even though some of our older playwrights were also from extremely entitled backgrounds, Edward Albee to name the most obvious, were radicals when needed. Now is the time they are needed.  It’s a shame that most everyone cares about their own careers and their IMDB position more than the theatre. The Group Theatre wanted to take over Equity, so this is not a new problem.

When I helped start the NY Actors Standing in Solidarity with the LA Actors, I did it believing that NY was next to be targeted – not to bring actors more money, but to limit productions and make Equity more money. (Google how much the NY office of AEA is in debt, how they’ve made mind numbing decision to keep it there, and you will too be surprised.) A few actors may make more money if this ‘fair wage’ passes, but it will also cut the number of shows produced. Though this is supposedly a grassroots effort now taken on by AEA, I’ve said for years Equity was out to kill the Showcase code and likely off-Bway as we know it. After all, they’ve let it rot for over 30 years.  I interviewed all 3 AEA Presidential candidates in the last 2 year, and had long face to face meetings with 2 of the 3, and my main concern was modernizing the Showcase code – the code that preceded all our current major non-profits and keeps our newer nonprofits from paying a decent wage. As an upstart non-profit theatre, with ReGroup, try applying for a grant to pay actors – when you often need to make $50,000 or $500,000 a year to even qualify for the grant. It’s impossible under our union's current codes. With $18 per ticket limits, plus free tickets to union members, press and industry, theatres can't do that anymore, and I don't believe it's a coincidence.  Equity set the Showcase top ticket price at $15 in 1982– so reportedly not to interfere with commercial Broadway/Off-Broadway tickets. For the dozens who care about American theatre history, this was a huge turning point. Yes, in the 80’s, AIDS took an unmeasurable hit on the American theatre – but off-off/off-Broadway, has seemingly remained stuck in an amber state of stagnation because of Equity not wanting competition with Broadway. Again, while people can youtube #fairwageonstage, if decades too late. And if you listen to most of the posts, the people speak of how they would not trade their off-Broadway credits for anything. These people are now sitcom and Broadway stars and actual millionaires. Yes. 95% of the US population deserves more pay for what they do – including the theatre world. Sadly, that’s life. Few have a chance of riding their early career to fortune. The theatre is part of that world it imitates, as much as it often doesn’t want to admit it. Theatre is a slowly dying art form. It has been for centuries, but currently, as seen by the videos of the Fair Wage crew, you can go from meaningful, low paying stage work to wealth. That doesn't happen to most of the characters we play.
Again, according to Equity, their most used code is the Showcase, by a huge, HUGE margin. Yet, almost all of their income comes from Broadway. Therefore, it’s clear where their allegiance lies.  While off-Broadway actors continue to slobber over how little they make on union shows, those are minimum prices – not maximum. Again, while I believe they should be paid as much as possible, larger salaries are often NOT possible. When ReGroup first started and could pay nearly nothing, we’d get an average of 2,000 submissions per role.  The good producers are doing the best they can. (ReGroup alone has provided housing, groceries, loaned emergency money, held birthday parties, etc, etc for our staff whenever humanly possible. WE WANT TO DO AS MUCH AS WE CAN!) MANY PRODUCERS DO SO. They are not the enemy and they are not God, and the theatre is not “their institution.”
YES! You want to argue. I’ve said all I have to say. You want a fair wage – well, fuck Van Gogh for only selling 1 painting in his life. Fuck all the actors who inspired you to walk the boards. That’s old timey stuff for people in their 30’s like me.  After all, Dwayne, “the Rock”, Johnson is the United States’ highest paid actor. Be like him! That’s something to aim for! And, after you completely digest that sickening fact, which you hopefully cannot, I ask all actors to review their ‘worth’. I, personally, made good money on the soaps right before they closed shop a decade ago, but I’d trade it for the unpaid 80 hr weeks, casting, re-casting, directing, acting, understudying,set designing, stage managing, sewing costumes, typing the script for publication, giving interviews, mopping the stage floor, etc. 
I’ve stood with my union. Despite sickness and crippling pain, I’ve never withdrawn my will advocating for the theatre– even when I had nothing to benefit from it. I want to leave our theatre a better place. While AEA may be about protecting the actors, I am about protecting the theatre.  Yes, the theatre has  always been ‘dying,’ – in this age, where kids are growing up with gadgets like even the youngest amongst us can’t relate to, it’s only going to become more difficult to get asses in seats.  

So I’m sure many of you are pissed, and honestly, I’m fine with that. Focus it at the right target – not at me or the others for uncovering it.  Focus it on those who have kept things status quo for decades.  Having volunteered regularly since I was 8 years old at nursing homes–  having published 12 of the Group plays, for the first time in 80 years when no one else could get the rights, having had my ideas stolen repeatedly from rich theatres – and having never made a cent off of any of it – I’m not romanticizing being poor. It sucks.  I needed brain surgery last fall and have been mostly unable to work this year. Did this give me a new found sense of self or of the theatre? Not a freaking chance.  It only reaffirmed the work was always the most rewarding thing. When you can’t do it, you really see that.
Our theatre will survive – with or without you or little old me.  Let’s combine our knowledge and skills to make it the best it can be.

So, what’s it all about, Allie? While I believe the non-Broadway contracts should have been updated long ago and not neglected as they have been, changing them isn’t black or white.  They were left to rot for a reason. It’s not all an actor issue, and raising actor’s pay isn’t possible by the snap of the fingers.  The producers, unless they are one-dimensional douchebags, aren’t holding out on you. They are largely doing the best they can.  Without Equity allowing for producers of off and off-off Broadway to make major changes to compensate for nearly 40 years of stagnation, which I doubt they ever will, nothing will change noticeably. 

Sadly, I believe we need a new union. Others have been around to help me fight this battle, but have been driven off by the negativity. In the end, you are only hanging yourself.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Teetering on the Proscenium’s Edge





In our last show, we built a proscenium in a black box. Our ‘just out of school’ SM insisted we build a rail around the front of the stage, as ‘if an actor fell off, it would ruin her future career’. (Stupid comment number 4216 in my book.) She threatened to quit if we didn’t build a railing across the proscenium. We didn’t, and she didn’t quit – unfortunately.

For the past 6 years, I’ve made myself an advocate, near martyr for the theatre as a whole. No one wants to give a shit about the theatre, just their career. (Maybe as I've given up on having a 'career,' I'm free to be the janitor.) What I’ve done, I’ve done willingly and never asked for a single thank you – though I gotten 2 or 3.  I did it freely, at huge risk to my mental and physical health.  Last week, in the ICU, it didn’t look like I would make it, and I was OK with that. It made me take note of the things I have and haven’t accomplished.  Among those were changes to the 34 year old Equity Showcase code or the pay-to-play audition scams that pervade our industry. Yet, I cannot do these things alone, and actors, who feel themselves minions and not artists, are mostly too afraid to step forward and defend themselves for fear of repercussion.  As a theatre, we’re worse off than we were 100 years ago. But I cannot fight for people unwilling to stand up for themselves. We’ve been trained to be talented, agreeable drones. There’s no art there.  (See the previous column.)

ReGroup is in its 6th year. We’ve never made a single cent. At this point, it’s understandable, but every time we announce a show, it gets poached from us by one of 2 theatre companies. HOW RIDICULOUS?! I can understand this shit happening in Hollywood, where there’s MONEY being made, but poaching 80 year old forgotten scripts that don’t make money, is just ridiculous.
And Equity doesn’t care. I criticized Madame President, whom I campaigned heavily for, for being a jock sniff for Hamilton in a multi-page Variety essay. When there are so many pressing issues ready to tear Equity apart, she writes a fluff piece promoting Hamilton.  Just what the 50,0000 members need!

And as far as Equity protecting its members, a union member who saw our last production for free – with his union card - interrupted the show, then posted all kinds of nasty shit about us and me – including he hopes I need more brain surgery, I’m so fat, etc – online, while blocking us from responding – Equity can’t do anything about that?  (Even though there are whole websites where he’s done the same to other theatres, yet has NO credits himself.) I wrote Equity about the problem, to which they replied, I need to put my complaint in writing. ?????????????????????

So, maybe, when I’m feeling better, I’ll take the one foot off the proscenium. Maybe not. I can’t fight battles for drones too weak to stand up for themselves, even when that means fighting their own union.

We get the theatre we deserve.
Until we breed a braver class; I think I am done.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Most Important Word for an Actor Is...........



(Names or gender may have been changed to protect the guilty.)

In this business – in New York City, just when you think you’ve heard and seen it all, someone stoops even lower.  

That brings me to the main lesson taught in most schools now – the most important thing about acting – it’s a single word… Can you guess?

Where it once was ‘objective’ or ‘spine’ or something active, it is now ‘TYPE’. The character doesn’t matter, the play doesn’t matter, all that matters is knowing your ‘type’ and sticking to it. What 'type' are you most likely to play? The first time I heard it was in a ‘Business of Acting’ class at NYU my freshman year. We were told we’d never make it in the business if we didn’t know whether we were a ‘Pacey’ or a ‘Dawson’. (Hell, I’d been studying with ‘Joey’ for years before, and I'm certain she didn't know she was a ‘Joey.’ She just knew she had a rich daddy.) Sure, it’s good to know what you’re best for, but dear God, it’s called acting. (And even at NYU, the money factory that it is, the 1 hr business class was a supplement to 28 hrs a week of actual training.)

During a recent production, 2/3 of the way through the run, I had an actress tell me she wasn’t going to play the character as written or as I’d directed – as it wasn’t “behooving” her career. She was a bombshell, and would never get cast as a dork, so she was going to disregard the play and everything else, as casting people need to see her playing her ‘type’.  Luckily, Lady Brilliance got no laughs that night, which were crucial to her, as she was not playing the role. She changed back – unless she knew there was a Casting Director in the audience – then damn the play and the other actors.


‘Type’ is what they teach today, especially in these $50 for 4 minute workshops that are all the rage and that I am fighting tooth and nail. ‘Know your type. Play your type. Be yourself. ONLY.’  How boring! And yes, this actor, errr... actress is a regular at these things.
It’s called acting!
A production is about honoring the playwright.  Sorry to shatter some notions, but it’s not about your career. You’re not acting in a vacuum. If you want to do a one person show all about you, than do it yourself. Don’t fuck with someone else’s show.  If you’re part of an ensemble, do not change your character to fit your ‘type.’  If playing against your ‘type’ is detrimental to your career, then you need to find another career. 
Again, a lot of this goes back to teaching – aka these commercial 4 minute ‘classes’ that don’t give a damn about talent or craft as many of them wouldn’t recognize talent if it bit them in the ass. They want you to ‘play’ yourself; it simplifies things for them – but real talent and real casting directors can see you become something other than you are.  (To me, that’s the exciting, fun part of being an actor.)

So yes, while there is a point of knowing the business side of acting, when that becomes the primary focus, you are fucked. You may get cast once but never again. And as big as NY seems, it’s a small world after all.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

We Don't Give A Shit About the Theatre - (as Long as our checks clear)



Yes, there's lots of things wrong with our theatre and no one seems to care. Well... many DO care, but they are terrified of being blacklisted. We've encountered this repeatedly.

Up first, our beef with Equity's 34 yr old outdated code. The price was set at a max price of $15 in 1982, and eventually raised to $18. A movie ticket now costs more than a Showcase in Manhattan. (IF raised just for the most standard inflation, the price would now be at least $37.) While EVERY theatre company I've spoken to, including theatre advocacy groups who raise $ to do just this sort of thing, agree-  they are afraid to make any moves against AEA in fears they'll be blacklisted.  If you are afraid of your union, there are BIGGER problems at stake. After 5 years of pleading our case, Equity has allowed us to charge the requested max of $35. We'll see how that turns out as we open in 2 weeks.

The other 'YUGE' problem we have with the current theatre is that in order to audition, you have to lay down $$$$ to get seen. Even when I briefly had a manager, she pushed me to 'pay to audition' for a casting director, who was younger than me, and told me how to do Odets'. 'Do it casually'. Sure, I could do it, "If only music shot bullets (shrug, ho hum)" - I came to learn how stupid many CD's are. Especially those that charge to meet with you.  In my early 20's, I spent a fortune on classes at Actors Connection, The Network, One on One (which was once a reputable casting house) and others.  Since then, I have actors in ReGroup who are at that similar age (and some twice the age - just trying to keep up) telling me they spent $75 for a 5 min audition (and often MUCH more) and it makes me angry! I am overly protective of my actors. Showcases pay little, if anything, but they were a way to be seen and they don't CHARGE you anything.  How can you compare paying to do a 2 minute monologue to being seen in an acclaimed full play? You Can't! (Though, certain agents offer to come to your shows if EVERYONE in the cast pays them. HELL NO!) 

While the leaders of these so called '3 minute classes' used to be Junior Agents at best, they now include Lincoln Center and other seemingly reputable places. It's become the new normal. NO OTHER INDUSTRY WOULD ALLOW SUCH A 'PAY TO PLAY' SCHEME EXISTS. The leaders would be in jail! So why don't our unions do anything about it? I've asked them both, and they say "Their hands are tied." Are they getting kickbacks? I really don't think so, but who knows. They claim as these paid auditions are called 'classes' or 'seminars', they can't stop them. The Attorney General can. It's false advertising. It's illegal.  If the unions can't stop it, then it's up to us to do it. Again, I've gotten so many encouraging replies from actors who are afraid to be blacklisted if they say anything.

I can understand that, but as adults, we all need to take a stand - if not to protect ourselves, to protect the younger versions of us that arrive everyday. As an actor, you have to put a lot of power in other people's hands.  It's time to take it back from the crooks.  ANY ONE who is doing these constant workshops clearly has little power to cast you. (I once traced a CD whom I'd never heard of outside of her 'classes' only to find out she taught at least 8 a week. When does she do her REAL job? She doesn't.) 

By ridding the world of these fake classes, not only will be getting rid of those in the business who are ONLY here to make a buck, we will drive real Casting Directors and Agents to plays to find new talent - as it used to be. The Showcase in NY and the 99 Seat Plan in LA will get its power back. But only if we demand it! It's damn sorry our unions can't/won't do this, but here we go.  Sign our petition against these pay to audition sites: https://www.change.org/p/prevent-pay-to-play-auditions-in-the-arts-community

I've reached out to almost every young playwright, asking for their support, and they've ALL been too are too afraid of being unlikable. It's sad. No wonder their plays premiere at an off-off-bway house and never get another production. Teachers - please, please teach your students that the theatre is not about them.

-For those somehow confused, I, Allie Mulholland, am 'Lefty' - writer of these post. We once had guest writers, but as of now, those remaining are all attributed to me. It's time someone gave thought to the theatre as a whole and not just for their career.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

UNION DUES AND DON'TS








As strongly as I support the 99 seat plan and those bravely fighting to defend it, I've been contemplating making a donation myself out of solidarity, but I just cannot do it. I think our LA peers are getting a raw deal all around, and for them to have to raise $75k to have discussions with their union, which they keep afloat through dues - it just seems so terribly wrong - especially when the union already held a vote on the matter and then threw out the decision of their members. Equity should be covering the cost of these discussions, especially when they can pay their Exec Director a quarter of a million dollars a year. They seem to have more money than they let on.  (Though, ironically, the President is a voluntary position – yet… actors can’t volunteer for shows?)
Last summer, when people were at their justified angriest, they filed a suit against the appointed Exec Director, only to drop it in hopes of non-hostile discussion.  (As you may or may not know, NY has been fighting against the 34 year old Showcase code for ages now. Every one, including generations before me, went in like choir boys asking for a holy favor, using the utmost respect, and we got years of “sure, we’ll look into it.” (A movie ticket costs more now than the set Showcase ticket!) Change never happened, and only when we/I were at the end of our rope and fed up with the hypocrisy, and were to fight back with facts, a social media backing and without the constraint of pleasantries, did we make any progress.  Hopefully, the progress ReGroup has made in this year will be the start of major change on this coast.

While it’s clearly smart not to operate solely out of anger, those feelings were repeatedly provoked by Ms. McColl's refusal to listen, and as far as I’ve seen, nothing has changed. You too have tried the high road so many times, maybe it’s time to tell your union what YOU need. I’m not advocating disrespectful conduct, but for us, it came to the point Equity would lose a lot of members, and we’d do it in a high profile matter.  EVERY single member needs to write their own personal letter to the powers that currently be.

The money (and stress!) to fight for the LA 99 Seat should not be coming off the artists' back. AS MUCH AS I SUPPORT THE CAUSE, AND AS MUCH RESPECT FOR MANY OF THE PEOPLE FIGHTING FOR IT, AS THE OUTSIDER, I THINK THE CURRENT PLAN IS A BUM DEAL FOR THE TALENT.  At the least, there needs to be a 501(c)(4) advocacy group formed so that artists donations can be tax deductible.

Surely, we all want to believe Equity will play fair, but especially in the 99 Seat fiasco, they’ve proven repeatedly that they cannot be trusted.  After 5 years of persistently ignoring our requests, they finally listened to ReGroup and gave us what little we needed. I was one of those proud Equity members when I got the email, but I don’t believe it ever would have happened if we hired lawyers and sat with our hands in our laps. Rally the numbers you have. Without your dues, they can’t afford to pay Ms McColl her yearly ¼ million dollars. Then, maybe she will listen.

I’m 110% certain to get more hate mail for this, but I don't have time to read it, so save your time.  Thoughtful comments will be read when I get time.  Whatever you, as the 99 seat community decide, we will have your back. Please take an outsider’s POV for what it is worth and consider saving your money for your art.

#1Theatre

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Keeping the Theatre in the Past


Below is my current letter to the Powers that Be at Actors Equity asking them to let artists be artists. We should not have to beg and grovel for basic rights, but we have...  Several other groups have worked on this same project longer than we have, and though they've gotten no progress, they hold out on the hopes that it's still "Under review." The union that was to protects us now represses its poorest and largest number of people.

NO Public Theatre, NO Manhattan Theatre Club, NO Roundabout, NO Playwrights Horizon, etc, etc, etc, can ever grow in this current environment- and I'm scared that may be intentional.  This isn't about ReGroup, we'll go on somehow. It's about the theatre as a whole - the organism that supports us all. Who is tending IT? If we don't keep it as strong as can be, everyone will be jobless. 
This ALL is much larger than ALL of us.

THE SHOWCASE CODE IS 34 YEARS OUT OF DATE!!
(It's older than most of our members!)


To The Equity Powers That Be:

The Showcase price, set in 1982, if ONLY adjusted for typical inflation (not even 'crazy, overpriced NY/ loss of tons of theatres' inflation) should now be $37. Fact.  

It’s $18.  - Less even than a NYC movie ticket. Fact.


Of the 1,049 NY producing companies listed on AEA’s site, the Showcase is the most listed code. Fact.

So why doesn’t it receive any attention? If it is to be of real purpose, it must keep up with the times. I’ve said this for too many years, and I’ve offered so many olive branches to help – it’s time to demand change. You're likely sick of hearing from me, so if no one is willing to make a change, I need to know to turn in my Equity card now and only cast non-union. (A dozen eggs cost 87 cents in 1982.) I DO NOT WANT TO DO THAT!

(Now instead of doing a Showcase, you pay $40 for a 2 minute 'audition' with a casting director at an acting 'school.' While all AEA and SAG-AFTRA bemoan this change and say they wish they could change it, the neutering of the Showcase has surely lead to this type of 'legal' pay to audition situation.

Our company (The ReGroup) members, the ½ whom are AEA, WILLINGLY volunteer their time to our cause as they gain a lot of benefits from it and we believe we are doing something priceless. History, in such a short time, has been on our side. Our artists may not get paid much, but our members get written about in numerous books, and with our March show, they have the chance to be listed as the first NY Cast of a lost Inge play – a truly PRICELESS accolade - but unless Equity can make some concessions to bring the code from the 1980’s, there’s no way we can work with these dedicated, volunteer company members. We will be forced to go non-union.


I met with former President Wyman who was shocked by the above statement about the code frozen in 1982 (postage stamps were 20 cents)  – and said he’d look into changing it. During the election cycle last summer, I was fortunate enough to interview all 3 great Presidential candidates and speak to them extensively about the matter. They all showed concern for such a neglected code (one that doesn't even take in the invention of the internet - because it wasn't invented in 1982!) President Shindle was very receptive to my pleas to at least make it current, if not reinventing entirely.

ReGroup has had a traumatically, successful 5 years. With the current limitations, there’s no way a company can rise up as the Public Theatre, MTC, Roundabout, or Playwrights when we  are forced to start at a budget of zero or less every time.  Just because we are a non-profit – like a school, nursing home, or library, we can’t keep asking to burn people’s money. We are here to serve our community, and the current code does not allow us to do that.  (Bread was 60 cents a loaf when the code was set.) As a non-profit, we deserve the right to grow stronger and better – and Equity is preventing us from this.  No one is ever going to get rich by producing a Showcase- I’d doubt anyone has ever broken even. As AEA has these financial details, if I am incorrect, please share the statistics that prove me wrong.


I am proud to be a member of Equity – and if I didn’t care so damned much – we would have just gone non-union from the start. Our mentors, the Group Theatre, had a similarly contentious relationship with Equity, but were always able to work out agreements to keep the work at the forefront.  The plays we do are so pro-union, it would be embarrassing for everyone if we had to do them non-union – but right now, we have no choice.  The code is just slightly younger than me, and we can’t wait any longer for it to change to the times. We can't stick 75 cents in the turnstile and expect to ride the subway - as actors did in 1982.


ALL WE WANT IS A BETTER THEATRE. WE TAKE GOLDEN CARE OF OUR MEMBERS AND WE ARE ALL COMMITTED TO THE ART OF CARRYING THEATRE HISTORY FORWARD – NOT AS A DUSTY RELIC BUT AS A PULSING PIECE OF LIFE.


WE ARE WILLING TO BE GUINEA PIGS, OR WHATEVER IT TAKES.  NO ONE IS LOOKING TO MAKE MONEY HERE, WE JUST WANT TO MAKE GROUNDBREAKING THEATRE AND HAVE THE CHANCE TO CONTINUE.

Allie Mulholland
Accidental Rebel With A Cause
Founder: TheReGroup

Actors are too scared to petition fearing union retribution. (Some trust in their supporters!) What can you do? Email as a patron demanding this 1/3 of a century code be updated!
President Kate Shindle - president@actorsequity.org
Head of Showcase Dept, Toni Stanton - tstanton@actorsequity.org

Councilman, Larry Cahn -larrycahn@gmail.com