Hollywood is known for the movies. This weekend celebrates reaching the heights with a gold statue or the lows with a Razzy. The awards for Independent movies also present on the weekend leading up to the Oscars. The elite of the elite will be celebrated in one way or another. This is what the world will see and what the viewing audience expects. Even the protesting of the lack of diversity in 2015 nominees will be seen.
What will not be seen are the thousands of actors, some names the viewing public would know, some unfamiliar even within the actor community in which they thrive, who day by day work in the theatre. Mostly very small theatres that populate a widely diverse city, and who create some of the courageous, edgy, common, traditional, never before seen, seen too many times, theatre that gives actors the opportunity to be creative and to hone their craft for the sake of their craft. And these unseen actors are right now in a battle with their own union, and each other, to keep that theatrical playground accessible.
I am one of these actors. I am an Equity actor who has worked for many years within the 99 Seat theatre contract and have had the opportunity to do some of the most exciting theatre I’ve ever done, with actors and directors I tremendously admire. When I first arrived in LA, I joined a dues paying theatre company, an award winning company, in which I met actors and directors with whom I am still friends with today and who are who are on the forefront creating exciting theatre year after year. I was given a firm foundation and a community in a town that allowed few theatrical opportunities for work. From that time until now, 99 seat theatre has thrived.
There is a proposal to end this theatre, simply stated, because it is theatre that does not pay its actors more than gas money. Actors who participate in this theatre are being called, “hobbyists”. Actors’ reaction to the proposal potentially shutting down over a hundred theatres is being called “hysterical”. And it appears it is the AEA union council who is leading the charge to end the theatrical opportunities in which theatre actors, movie actors, television actors cling to in order to be vital when the opportunity arrives to do the work that the public, many watching the Oscars, will see. It is the place to work because you are an artist and you must work.
Gone are the legendary days of actors sitting around the pool and waiting for the phone to ring. Now are the days of creating vital powerful work that have an opportunity to move on to larger venues, sometime even to the screens that will be lauded with awards this weekend. Is there room for improvement in the 99 seat theatre plan? Yes. Modification, rather than destruction. Which calls for both sides to listen to each other, for the good of the union, and the good of the work.