Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Today in counterintuitive demands:

Are you sick and tired of stage actors performing obscure plays you've never heard of in tiny, uncomfortable theatres and making a living wage? Well so are they.
Pictured: A typical actor.
"What do we want? Nothing!
When do we want it? We've already got it!"
For the last thirty years, Actors Equity Association (the union for theatre actors and stage managers), had been allowing smaller theatres in L.A. to pay actors less than minimum wage or in some cases nothing at all. But instead of taking to the streets and demanding that the Union do something about it like normal exploited workers, actors have voted by a nearly 2-to-1 margin to recommend that Equity not do something about it. Yeah, you heard me. The people that Equity represents are fighting their own Union to not get paid more.

Equity will be deciding what to do today, but almost half their membership would like to go on working for shit pay thank you very much. So like, what gives? Do actors not need food or places to live?
"Why, that's the magic of live theatre! We live in your imaginations and subsist
on your applause. Also, those little sugar packets from Starbucks."
"In lieu of payment, I've prepared a
brief scene from Speed the Plow."
Well, it turns out that many actors feel something called job satisfaction. I'm unfamiliar with the sensation myself, but apparently the love of their profession is enough to keep them going even when the pay is hilarious. Obviously actors still need to make a living, I mean, Whole Foods doesn't accept artistic fulfillment in exchange for groceries, but smaller theatres can provide a place for them to keep working between better paying jobs. They also give artists a place to showcase new or experimental work, and to get exposure that might lead to more work down the road. 

"Like community theatre? 
Since when are we Pennsylvania?"
-The L.A. Theatre Scene
For a lot of these smaller venues with tiny budgets, paying minimum wage might force them to shut down and that's why this move is meeting with resistance. The actors who are fighting this aren't in favor of exploitation, they just don't want to see the fringey stuff go away because they can't afford professional actors. Which raises another point: there are non-equity actors in L.A. In some ways the danger here isn't so much that theaters will have to close but that they'll have to cast non-union or amateur actors.

Which, ok, it might be something of a mixed bag when it comes to skill level, but this is L.A we're talking about. It's not like small budget theatres are going to have to resort to roaming the streets at night with nets and bolos to fill out their casts. That city is famous for being lousy with wannabe actors.
"Well Doctor Zira, I think we may have found our Willie Loman."
-General Thade from casting
Above: Everything wrong with our
civilization wrapped in a three-piece suit.
So yeah, it does seem a little counterintuitive that they're picketing against better pay, and ok, in the process of keeping themselves hireable by smaller theatres they are kind of muscling out amateurs looking to break into the acting, but this is theatre and I suppose it's kind of cool that there are people out there who want to do it even if it means they won't get rich (or paid at all). Could you imagine if investment bankers and stock brokers were out there chanting and waving signs to get paid less?

I know people think acting isn't a real job and in some ways they have a point, but holy shit, can anyone name one instance in which actors caused a global financial collapse?
The closest they ever came was a riot, but it was the
19th century and everybody was really bored back then.

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