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A Letter to the LA Performing Arts Community

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LA STAGE Logo Blog header bannerTo the Los Angeles Performing Arts Community,

In light of the recent proposal from Actors Equity Association regarding changes to the 99-Seat Plan, we hope to provide some additional context to the conversation and offer our ongoing support to the community.

LA STAGE Alliance believes in the transformative power of theater, and all of the performing arts. We work to strengthen the cultural infrastructure of Greater Los Angeles so that more people are able to experience the magic and alchemy happening on stages throughout our incredible region. We aim to build awareness, appreciation and support for the performing arts community with programs and services for audiences, artists and administrators.

For those who don’t know our history, LA STAGE has its origins in two separate organizations: The Los Angeles Theatre Alliance, a service organization founded in 1975, and The League of Producers and Theatres of Greater Los Angeles, a trade association founded in 1983. Starting in 1988, the two companies functioned as a single organization, sharing staff and office space. In 1993, the League formally dissolved and donated its assets to the Alliance (renamed Theatre LA, then LA STAGE Alliance in 2003).

As we have evolved as an organization, we’ve offered programs and services to the community based on the current environment and available resources. We are proud of our ability to maintain partnerships with a broad and diverse group of entities that have included:

LA Tourism
Los Angeles Times
Patron Technology
Target Resource Group
Community Redevelopment Agency/Los Angeles
Arts for LA
Los Angeles County Arts Commission
City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
Fractured Atlas
Dance Resource Center
The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation
The Sherwood Award

In 2009, we held a series of roundtable conversations to identify the current needs, issues and challenges within the community. As a direct result of those conversations we convened a Producers Task Force meeting in September 2011 with representatives from intimate, midsize and larger theaters. At the request of those producers, the Review Committee and Actors Equity Association, we began a broad community- wide conversation within the 99-Seat theater community.

It was clear to us that these groups needed to have further conversation. It was also clear that, if any changes were to be made to the 99-Seat Plan — which were rumored at the time — LA would need the return of a Producers League. LA STAGE, as an Alliance, was not in a position to be in negotiation with a union, but could serve as an outside neutral convener and partner to all entities.

(Full disclosure, we have received financial support from Actors Equity Association for many years as a sponsor of the Ovation Awards ceremony, but we, as an organization, have not been involved with any of the recent meetings or conversations about the changes to the 99-Seat Plan.)

Starting in April of 2012, we facilitated and provided logistics for no fewer than 42 community meetings leading to the formation of the Theatrical Producers League of Los Angeles (TPLLA), its transition committee, and the election of their first slate of officers. We believed that LA not only needed, but deserved, a trade association to support our robust, diverse producorial landscape. When the recent proposal was released from AEA, we reached out to our colleagues at TPLLA and offered our assistance.

We urge all parties of the Los Angeles theatrical community to be engaged in the conversations that could change our cultural fabric and landscape of creative abundance.

Members of Actors Equity are encouraged to be informed and participate in the process around the new proposed plan.
Producers, actors and community members are encouraged to participate in the Town Hall meeting convened by TPLLA on February 21.

Our cultural landscape is a complex one.

The 2014 State of the Nonprofit Sector in Los Angeles report from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Center for Civil Society stated that there are 3017 Arts, Culture and Humanities Non-Profits in Los Angeles County, and that the majority of those operate with budgets of $75,000 or less. At that budget level, it’s clear that volunteerism is a huge component and often an underreported aspect of our community’s reality.

This data point inspired our current research project, in partnership with TPLLA, to better understand the existing business models within the 99-Seat theater community. The project is being supported by the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation, and we expect to share results at LA STAGE Day on May 16 at Cal State LA.

We will also share the first National Arts Census Report, comparing the over four million unique households who participate in Arts & Culture at over 250 arts organizations in our region with the audiences from communities around the country.

We cannot predict what will happen next in our community, but we can promise that we will continue to support LA’s wealth of artists, audiences and administrators to the best of our ability. We are in it for the long haul. We thank the community for continuing to inspire us with their incredible passion, commitment and integrity.

 

Sincerely,

terence_signature

Terence McFarland
Chief Executive Officer
LA STAGE Alliance


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Brian Kite
Chair, Board of Governors
LA STAGE Alliance

3 Responses to "A Letter to the LA Performing Arts Community"

  1. Michael C Kricfalusi Posted on February 12, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you Terrence for all the support you have given TPLLA as we went through our formation period into being a voice now the community. The Town Hall meeting on Feb. 21 is so important that we encourage everyone with a stake in this to attend. We will be showing the true face of what theatre will look like if we’re forced to work under ATA’s new codes/contracts. We also want Equity members to show up, get educated, ask questions and hopefully be able to walk away from this meeting, prepared to ask questions at the AEA Feb. 23 meeting. Educated members is the best way of making sure they know what they’re voting for when the AEA advisory referendum is held.

  2. Christopher Carroll Posted on February 13, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    I have been an Equity member since 1968.
    Years ago we went through the “Equity Waiver Wars” regarding most of the same issues. On one side actors were demanding the right to be Equity members with the attendant rules and, at the same time, to showcase their talent with no restrictions.
    Equity wanted to restrict actors acting (for free at the time) .
    Otherwise,what was the point of a union at all ?
    Prior to this, the union had been generously waiving their rules for the sake of the actors’need to be seen and exercise their talent.
    At the time my only objection was to “producers” who had moved into the Equity Waiver gap to take advantage of the situation. Although its always more fun to appear in a beautifully mounted production, I presume that was not the intent of the Equity Council. It was supposed to be about Acting, not impressive production values.
    Presumably, a bare stage, a couple of lights and a few pieces of furniture would have done the trick.
    At the big Equity membership meeting back then, several producers got into the meeting by using their Equity cards but used the occasion to promote and protect what had now become their income, their livelihood ! They were directing their actors to position themselves around the auditorium so as to seem more spontaneous and diverse in their vocal responses AND
    at the same time these “producers”were declaring that if they were forced
    to pay actors even $5.00 per performance, they would have to go out of business. I was quite sure that was untrue and here we are thirty years later with more 99 seat shows than ever paying up to $14.00 per performance.

    Anyway, at that time I supported the union side and felt there should be restrictions.
    Today, I HAVE CHANGED MY MIND.
    Nobody’s making a fortune from producing “The Duchess of Malfi” in a storefront on Santa Monica.
    Although we have a fine Equity office here and there are between 15 and 20 producing organizations in the area
    (Please don’t include Center Theatre Group or The Geffen, who both obviously believe that casting must begin in New York City first before filling in with locals,
    In spite of the presence of Actors Equity here, apparently there just not enough stage actors who are talented enough for those organizations even though many of us have worked in both cities and all over the country and in all media.
    Actors and Equity need to wake up to the fact that presumably those who are
    primarily interested in a career in professional theatre move to NYC, with, of course, the possibility of work in TV and movies
    And, generally speaking, those who want TV and film, move here, with theatre jobs a possibility on the side.

    Equity! You are calling attention to this to avoid focus falling on actors’ real isdues. Leave this Red Herring issue alone, and take a look at the fact that both Equity and SAG-AFTRA have recently sold out the actors with shameful contracts that have reduced venerable profession to a hobby.
    Just today I read a breakdown from an Equity theatre in Indiana which is casting here and offering $300. a week.in 2015.
    How professional is that ? The actors would either have to be well off
    or have a second job.
    It seems clear to me that the emphases of the two unions has shifted from the welfare of the actor to the
    financial welfare of the business entities called Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA.

    There is some GREAT work these days in 99 seat theatre but the choice to do it is not the money , it’s obviously
    the actors pleasure. That’s a hobby.
    Let 99 seat (Equity Waiver) be the actors’ hobby that it always was
    and procure living wages for us in commercial theatre.

  3. Mina Fried Posted on February 14, 2015 at 6:19 am

    As a consumer of local small theatre and strong supporter of our theatrical community, I am very concerned about this Equity proposal. My daughter, an Equity member, tells me that this could destroy small theatres in LA. I wish she and other actors could get paid well for their work. But I know that they need to perform and work even when they are underpaid. Otherwise, their talents languish and theatre becomes an option only for the affluent who can afford to attend the large venues.

    I hope EQUITY MEMBERS will pay attention and defeat this proposal so small theatres in our community can flourish and provide all Angelenos the opportunity to enjoy theater.

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