The 99-seat debacle has turned LA theater artists into some of the most ferocious, vicious fighters I’ve ever seen. It’s exciting, liberating and comforting. It’s good to know that we’re not going down without a fight. But it’s also very exhausting. It’s starting to feel like we’re the Chihuahuas in a litter full of St. Bernard’s. Let’s face it, theater would die if the law passes and if we had to pay actors minimum wage. We do theater, we like art, which in another language translates to: we’re poor. I can’t say much more about what’s going on with Equity because although it is my business, it is also none of my business. I don’t own a 99-seat theater, I’m my own corporation. My business is myself.
There’s a lot wrong with theater, there’s a lot of horrible theater and I find myself watching a lot of them. It’s gotten to a point that whenever I’m lucky enough to get a comp ticket, I find myself complaining more than appreciating. I mean no disrespect, who doesn’t love a free ticket but sometimes a free ticket ain’t even worth it! It takes a lot to put up a show, and I find that money is everyone’s biggest obstacle. How do we fix this? Bigger theaters get funding from generous donors and corporate sponsors. The little guys and even more so—the independent guys (us, you, me) don’t get any. At least not right away.
And if I’m being honest, and you’re an actor who’s on Equity’s side, you’re an idiot. I mean it. No take-backsies. I mean think about it, none of the little theaters can afford to hire you. There’ll be CTG and the Pantages and several other theaters, but your competition is a LOT steeper. Chances are, you suck and have nothing compared to your rivalries. But don’t feel bad too cause a lot of people suck. My point is you’re going to be competing with people who have got connections, and for the big guys like CTG you’ll be competing with highly acclaimed, celebrities. So really if you feel obligated to be paid minimum wage, have fun staying miserable at your day job for the rest of your life (in LA).
Now let’s be real, I’m 23 and know little, maybe even nothing. I can hardly follow all the arguments on the Facebook groups and all the notifications are starting to get annoying. So let’s be rational and see what we all have in common. First thing’s first is that not everyone is a good actor—in a perfect world this would not be a problem. Second we need enough money to hire someone for each position in a production (lighting, scenic, sound, stage manager, etc)—again in a perfect world this would not be a problem. We would have plays written for the underdogs, the minority, have a diverse cast, and not cast a show based on looks. We would have real people on stage, because that would be great and much more relatable. I’m so sick of seeing ‘basic,’ yes, ‘basic,’ theater. It’s so unoriginal and boring. A lot of the exciting theater I see, the kind that blows my mind and alters my views on life…that magic happens in the 99-seat theaters. Again there’s still a lot of bad, but 99-seat theaters take the risks and sometimes the higher the risk the higher the reward. 99-seat theaters is where I get started, where I can get support, and where I can continue to produce art for the rest of my life. There are SO many more problems to solve in the theatrical world, but killing 99-seat theaters definitely isn’t one. Think of the future, white people in charge, think of what limitations you’re allowing and all the art that’s going to be wasted.
I write, you read, we friends.