Tara's Thoughts

Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

The Winter Solstice is sometimes called a Tipping Point. The climb from lengthening nights and shortening days flips into a gradual progression of shorter and shorter nights offering longer and longer days as we go forward.  I see it as a Transition into the journey that becomes the New Year.

Transitions are inevitable. We grow and change. People come into our lives and also leave us. We change our living spaces. We take on new responsibilities and close the door on others. Transitions happen. Often without our permission. Sometimes bringing wonderful surprises. Sometimes bringing pain.

Transitions can be joyous and exciting. But also, uncertain and frightening. Some will cause us to grow in ways we could not have anticipated. Others will feel as if you are swimming across a river and, having finally reached the center, leave us lost in that place where you can no longer see the bank of the river you left behind and have yet to find the new riverbank you are swimming toward.

It’s OK to tread water for a while.

The Winter Solstice gives us the space to rest in that uncertainty knowing that the way forward, whatever that is, will always continue. It’s OK to tread water for a while.

This moment in time – the Winter Solstice that has been approaching, that, starting tomorrow, will just as smoothly, move away from us – can be your invitation to acknowledge where you are and to make space to welcome what is waiting for you down the path.  Your destination will reveal itself in time.

Celebrate the uncertainty and know that this, too, is part of that journey.

The ongoing climate crisis has already impacted our lives in serious ways. Extreme weather events. Earthquakes and tornados in places that have never had them before. Wildfires greater and more frequent than ever that have devasted entire towns. Rising seas levels that threaten coastal communities. And so much more.

Many people all over the world are working to reduce the effects of climate change and save our biosphere. But unless we human beings change the way we perceive our world, and find ways to respect rather than exploit the earth and its many non-human inhabitants we will always be in danger of destroying the very environment that keeps us alive.

This  change in our belief system starts with understanding and accepting the concepts behind the Rights of Nature movement.  It starts with realizing that everything on this planet, the oceans, the forests, the animals, the land itself, has a right to its own existence. Which means the right to be unencumbered by human notions of “ownership” and “property”.  The right to thrive.

On Thursday, November 9, 2021 at 7:00 pm PST the San Fernando Valley chapter of the Climate Reality Project will be hosting a panel of creative artists and activist at the forefront of the Rights of Nature Movement.  Our guests will be two of the producers of the documentary film “The Rights of Nature: A Global Movement” and two of the principal activists who appear in the film. 

You can view the film on YouTube for free whenever you like and then join us on November 9th for our discussion to learn more about the history of the Rights of Nature movement and find out what is being done to make sure your children grow up in a world where there is air to breathe and a chance that your grandchildren will know, first hand, what a tree looks like.

Below, Judy Glass, Chair of the Environmental Justice and Rights of Nature Committee and a Climate Reality Project Leadership Team Member, offers an introduction to the subject of Rights of Nature as a lead in to what we anticipate will be an eye-opening conversation.

To introduce our discussion of Rights of Nature, I’d like to begin with the  highlights of the evolution of the rights of humans—which we know is part of the rights  of nature, though too often not thought of that way.

The evolution of human rights has both a political and an economic dimension, both relevant to thinking about Rights of Nature. To provide context for our program tonight, I want to acknowledge the work of Christopher Stone, recently deceased, who more than 50 years ago authored a pioneering work on Rights of Nature called “Do Trees Have Standing?   Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects”. 

In his introduction, Stone quotes from a 19th C court decision refusing women the right to practice law in Wisconsin.  The court comments that the nature of woman—purity, delicacy, subordination of hard reason to sympathetic feeling—disqualify her for the battle field of forensic strife.  Stone editorializes that the movement to confer new rights  is “bound to sound odd or frightening or laughable…because until the rightless thing receives its rights, we cannot see it as anything but a thing for the use of “us” –those who are holding rights at the time….”

Here are some significant dates in the history of increasing political rights for human beings:

1215:

English Barons forced the king to renounce certain of his rights, particularly habeas corpus

1688-89:

Parliament shares governing rights with the King.  English Bill  of Rights-includes end to cruel punishments

1776:

US born into age of Enlightenment;  Declaration of Independence—all men are equal; have inalienable rights from God;  life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

1789:

France – Decl. of the Rights of Man

1791:

US Constitution:  Freedom of speech, religion, assembly; right not to incriminate oneself

19th Century in America:

No property qualification for voting;  Women can enter professions, can divorce; inherit property; Get custody of children

1860s:

Blacks freed from slavery; black men get the vote.  But reconstruction denies to blacks the freedoms promised by the 13,14,15 Amendments

1920:

Women get the vote after 75 years of agitation;  Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s finally delivers, at least on paper, on many promises of the Constitution

21st Century:

Significant Constitutional protection of economic and social rights for LGBTQIA+   individuals & communities

I separated the human struggle for economic rights because here the analogy with the rights of nature movement is so compelling.   The building blocks—the resources– of any economy are land, labor and capital.  From the point of view of the economy, labor is a cost, a commodity.  But labor is human life, and the struggle for economic rights for workers  and consumers is ongoing. The struggle to reduce hours of work or to gain legal rights to organize unions took all of the 19th C and half of the 20th. Reducing child labor, requiring minimum years of schooling, minimum wages, paid vacations,  pensions, social security—none of that happened before the mid 20th century; recognizing health care as a right still is not established in the US, nor are economic protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals and communities  guaranteed in their implementation.   

These are rights of nature, rights of human nature.  All hard fought, over many years.

Similarly to labor,  land was seen as a cost, as commodities, as resources to be used to create wealth. In the late 20th century, though, another quantum leap occurred when  new laws like the Endangered Species Act, and the Environmental Protection Act morphed into a discussion with a Rights of Nature emphasis.  Enter Christopher Stone, and nations like Ecuador and New Zealand, and local communities  like Santa Monica, and film makers like our guests tonight whose consciousness mirrors that of indigenous peoples around the world, arguing for giving “standing” to trees, rivers, and other natural entities,  to sue for protection, for life and their right to thrive, their right to be other than resources.

Judy Glass

Chair, Environmental Justice and Rights of Nature Committee

Climate Reality Project Leadership Team Member

San Fernando Valley Chapter

November 2021

Please join us at our November Chapter meeting by registering at bit.ly/SFVCR

And join in wherever you can in establishing and protecting the Rights of Nature so that you don’t have to worry about what you will say when your grandchildren look up at you and ask, “What is a tree?”

Listen, Y’all!  For those of you who live anywhere in or near the West side of The San Fernando Valley in the North end of Los Angeles, California, USA,  there is big news that will change what you know about your neighborhood.

Plans are about to be launched for a major redesign of one of the busiest areas in that region.

34 acres extending from Topanga Canyon Blvd. on the West to Owensmouth Ave. on the East and from Oxnard St. on the South end to Erwin St. on the North will be completely redesigned with a mix of residential and commercial buildings that will change the look and feel of the area.

 Included in the multi-phase plan, projected to be completed in 2033, are:

  • 5.6 acres of public open space
  • A 15,000-seat entertainment center
  • 1400 new rental units
  • 5610 parking spaces
  • 572 hotel rooms
  • 629,000 square feet of office space
  • 244,000 square feet of restaurants and shops

Buildings on the site will range between one and 28 stories tall.

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021 the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the Climate Reality Project will host Councilmember Bob Blumenfield (3rd Council District, which spans the northwest portion of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley, including the communities of Canoga Park, Reseda, Tarzana, Winnetka and Woodland Hills).

Along with learning more about his position on climate initiatives in Los Angeles,  Councilmember Blumenfield will share with us his thoughts about the Warner Center redevelopment plan.

Projected completion by 2033 is 12 years away, folks.  That means 12 years of construction. Those of you who live or work near the building site may want to be prepared for the impacts this will cause.

Projected completion by 2033 is 12 years away, folks.  That means 12 years of construction. Those of you who live or work near the building site may want to be prepared for the impacts this will cause.

Join us on Zoom, Tuesday night, October 12, 2021, 7:00 pm PST to hear what Councilmember Blumenfield has to say and to add your thoughts and questions.

References

Westfield Mall article May 2019

https://la.curbed.com/2019/5/1/18524405/warner-center-promenade-westfield-mall-redevelopment

Westfield Mall Article Feb 2020

https://la.curbed.com/2020/2/24/21150888/warner-center-promenade-mall-affordable-housing-appeal

Today’s post is a call for each of you to hop over to our fellow blogger Sean P. Carlin’s page and read his latest post about President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan.  Even if politics is not your thing you will find yourself built into this plan. Mr. Carlin explains why we, as a country and as fellow human beings sharing this planet, need to support this plan and why it is critical that we each do what we can to convince our Congress members to get it passed.

“U.S. President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan is the politically ambitious, morally imaginative piece of legislation we need to tackle the ever-worsening climate crisis by rebuilding our country and rebooting our economy through grand-scale public-works projects.  Whether we actually get it, however, comes down to how hard we—all American citizens—are willing to fight for its full passage and implementation.”

Sean P. Carlin

So writes Author Sean P. Carlin, Climate Activist and Leadership Member of The Climate Reality Project. The central focus of his blog piece is a credible and clear analysis of current geopolitical, environmental, and economic realities that have brought us face to face with a global crisis that, if left unchecked, will spell the end of life as we know it on this planet. Mr. Carlin properly places this set of interconnecting issues at the top of the list of critical concerns for our civilization.

Politics is in everything. But this is about fighting a global crisis that threatens to make portions of the planet uninhabitable. It is also about raising wages for essential home care workers and creating good jobs for people from disadvantaged communities. It is also about clean water for everybody. And child care programs.  And modernizing public transportation and our power grid. And so much more.

This is not about whose bumper sticker makes you feel better. It is truly about do you want the human race to survive the next 50 years? Do you want your children to have clean air to breathe? Replacing old paradigms about job creation and getting past old, short-sighted attitudes that are literally poisoning our planet and our population will be our only path to survival.

President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, currently on the floor of Congress, will be crucial to getting America on the right road to building a healthy, sustainable future for you and your family. The depth of the research done by Mr. Carlin as a basis for his conclusions is impressive and his investment of many years learning about these issues from the likes of former Vice President Al Gore and others lends credibility and clarity to his descriptions of the issues at hand.

There is no guarantee that President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will pass. So, please, lend your support.

FOR THOSE READERS WHO MIGHT NOT HAVE THE TIME TO READ THE ENTIRE PIECE: PLEASE JUMP TO THE BULLET POINTS TOWARD THE END OF THE BLOG POST.

Mr. Carlin has made the process of making your voice heard super easy.  He has done the work for us providing a handful of ways you can jump right in:  Links to send petitions, content to help you write to your local officials and members of Congress, a pre-written Tweet you can copy and post complete with hash tags and handles, and even simple instructions on how to share the word about this effort with friends and family.

Beautifully summarized by the author, Mr. Carlin says:

“I want nothing more than for you all to share the profound hope I feel for what comes next—for the fairer, more just, more sustainable world we’re about to build.  But hope requires action.  We can’t just trust that this will get done; we have to ensure it does—with the fullest degree of moral imagination possible.  We have to, every single one of us, demand it…. I do believe we will get meaningful climate legislation this year, and that, consequently, President Biden will be able to go to the COP26 conference in Glasgow this autumn in a position of profound moral and geopolitical authority on this matter, but it isn’t going to happen unless every citizen in America plays their part. None of us are singlehandedly responsible for solving the climate crisis, but we all have a moral obligation to contribute what we can to the solution. There’s a path forward on the table. Let’s take it.”

Sean P. Carlin,
Author, Climate Activist,
Leadership Member Climate Reality Project

The electric fan sits on the floor by the window. It protects me from the heat and humidity that plagues modern society.  In my youth I lived in world where my goals were achievable and my task list was short enough to complete by the end of the week. Here in Los Angeles it was almost always pleasantly warm and dry.  And I didn’t have to Another hot,oppressive dayfight the weather to make space in my brain to tackle daily goals and dreams. I don’t remember having so much to fight for and certainly not so much to fight through.

Now I feel the encroaching world press in on me in ways I never expected. And on top of all the daily challenges, the aches, the tasks piling up around me, the demands of a world grown altogether too connected to handle in any rational fashion, I have to fight through the physical discomfort of an environment grown so hot and sticky that it produces another, previously unexplored, struggle:  distraction. Distraction of a physical nature that Just. Should. Not. Be. There.

But there it is.  It frightens me to think I may have grown so old that my body can no longer survive in its environment. And it frightens me to think that we may have so deeply destroyed our environment that we, as a species, may not survive the very effects we have loaded on our planet and our own backs.

But, I have never been one to sit in my fears for very long. No pouting, pity-party for me!  So, kick up the level on the fan.  Take a drink of cold water. Take a deep breath.  Focus on what’s next.  Focus.  Ignore the ache that sits at the back of my brain that screams at me, “You could lose this time.”  Just put one foot in front of the other for as long as you possibly can and – focus. Say a prayer of gratitude for the cool air coming at me from the fan by the window enveloping me like a Cone of Silence.  (Yeah, you have to be “of a certain age” to understand that reference!)

Just keep fighting to move forward. Enjoy the cool air and ….. Focus.

I published this post six years ago.  It has gotten only more relevant as time passes.  As we reach this year’s Thanksgiving celebration I give thanks for those in public service who actually understand that their jobs exist to serve the public.

George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950)  was a playwright, journalist, public speaker and champion of the working class.  He wrote more than 60 plays in his lifetime and was the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion (adaptation of his play of the same name).

Many of us may be surprised to learn that he was also a co-founder of the London School of Economics.  No slouch he.

In stark contrast to the attitudes of so many of our currently elected officials, here is his statement about public service:

“This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.

Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

…if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm.

Yesterday President Obama posted his thoughts on the Republican bill currently on the floor of Congress that would radically change what we know as health care in this country.

I know this post has been widely circulated. But I believe it is important, and hopefully helpful, to isolate a few of his thoughts from the post.  The entire post is included below.

 

 

“We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.”

“For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.”

“I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.”

“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else.”

“Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”

POSTED June 22, 2017; on FaceBook by President Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.

We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

words-matter

 

I have long been a fan of the short story form.  In fact, the short story form is far harder than longer forms of writing. Making your intention clear in a limited amount of words is not an easy task. There is a long line of authors whose work I enjoy but top of the list in this regard has always been Harlan Ellison.  There are many reasons I am a life-long, die-hard Ellison fan, but chiefly, my admiration is for his ability to select just exactly the right word for every moment in his stories with never a word wasted.

 Here’s a favorite example: 

 “A foot was planted between my shoulder blades and the fist let go of my shirt, and I was booted forward onto my suitcase, which slid a few feet, carrying me as on a raft.

I fell off, rolled over and tried to sit up. Conquest, Slaughter, Famine and Death were staring down at me.”

Quoted from All the Lies That Are My Life by Harlan Ellison

 There is no need to give the reader any more detailed description of the four guys who are about to beat up our protagonist. The phrase “Conquest, Slaughter, Famine and Death” tells you everything you need to know.

 Another master at choosing just the right words is Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, who sums up this thought beautifully:

 “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

 

And another famous author offers clarity on the subject. When asked his opinion on cursing Mark Twain had this to say:

“The English language is a poor enough means of communication as it is. I figure we ought to use all the words we got.”

 Notice here that he did not advise using MORE words than needed at one time but choosing the RIGHT words for what you are trying to convey at that moment.

 

 Words matter.  They can offer great kindness but also great sorrow. They can build relationships or tear down entire communities. Words have weight and meaning and sometimes great consequences. 

When you are attempting to evaluate someone’s character listen very closely to the word they choose to use.  Their choices are not casual. They are a result of a lifetime of attitudes and perceptions and are evidence of the state of their inner psychology. 

 The speaker is telling you something about who he is and how he chooses to participate in this thing called Life.  

 Words matter.  Listen closely.

There has been so much misinformation and misunderstanding about the 99 Seat situation that it boggles the mind. 

As a 37-year member of Actor’s Equity Association I have been a working member on many of AEA’s contracts as both  performer and stage manager. I have also served – as a volunteer, mind you –  as a Councilor, Chair of the Western Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs, and as a member of a handful of AEA committees. (These are the people who discuss details and make recommendations to Council and the union negotiators for wages and working conditions for the various contracts that protect actors and stage managers working in professional theater.)

Twenty-some years ago I was on the committee that met with, and wrestled with, the Waiver Theater Operators, the Actors who made themselves into Producers so they could produce theater while asking their fellow actors to work without pay. In that process I learned much about the history of what was originally called “Waiver Theater” which after 16 years became “99-Seat Theater” and has now become a collection of three plans; one of which is the new Agreement that controls working conditions for AEA members working in small theater.

So, I know a little something about all this.  And, I gotta tell ya, if you don’t know the history, and the real facts behind this issue, you are likely to come to the wrong conclusion about what is rapidly turning into a lawsuit by the 99-Seat producers against Actor’s Equity.  Those who do not know their history are bound to repeat it.

Those who ignore history

Twenty-Some Years Ago this exact same scenario happened.  And wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars of YOUR dues money so that the union could continue to do what it is, by design, meant to do:  PROTECT THE ACTOR FROM ABUSIVE PRODUCERS!.

As you read the following press release sent today by Actors Equity I ask you to put aside emotional responses and remember:  Actor’s Equity Association is a Labor Union. Not your psychologist. Not your acting teacher. Not your means of creative expression.  Their mandate is to negotiate and monitor wages and working conditions so that their members can actually make a living in professional theater. 

⇒ Read on.

 


-actorsequity.org _ Actors' Equity News & Media

MOVING 99-SEAT THEATRE TO LEGITIMATE PAYING PRODUCTIONS
Equity Puts Forth the Actual Facts

Los Angeles, June 30, 2016 – Actors’ Equity Association Executive Director Mary McColl issued the following statement:

Actors’ Equity Association (Equity) remains disappointed that the facilitated discussions with the plaintiffs in the Asner vs. Actors’ Equity lawsuit were unsuccessful.

If the end of the facilitated talks brings the service of the lawsuit, Equity will stand up for its members and will immediately file for a dismissal of all claims brought in the suit. Equity, a labor union representing more than 50,000 stage actors and stage managers across America, was founded upon the belief that actors should be paid for their work and treated fairly. Actors on Broadway. Actors in Kansas City. Actors in Los Angeles. All actors.

The lawsuit, which is procedural in nature, claims that Equity did not follow the steps outlined in a 1989 settlement agreement to alter the terms and conditions by which 99-seat theatre is produced in Los Angeles. Some producers and actors in Los Angeles, however, claim that the goal of the lawsuit is to retain a system that allows producers to cast actors in productions without paying for their services. And the plaintiffs have been talking about it.

Absent the facts, confusion is created. The plaintiffs have been generating misinformation while at the same time releasing insupportable “data” as their rationale for why actors should not be paid.

Let’s look at the facts.

More than 7,000 Equity members live and work in Los Angeles County.  Despite being the “entertainment capital of the world,” with actors flocking from around the globe to Southern California, Equity’s data reveals that LA County actually provides less paid work for stage actors than markets such as Baltimore/DC, Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Incredibly, in the most recent period where data is available (2014-2015), LA County (with 7,000 members) had 6,500 paid work weeks for Equity members; whereas, Baltimore/DC (with 854 members) had more than 8,700; Boston (with 845 members) had over 7,900; Chicago (with 1,589 members) had more than 15,800 paid work weeks; and Minneapolis/St. Paul (with 437 members) had more than 6,700.

The fact that these far smaller markets eclipsed LA in paid work weeks confirms the fact that a theatrical community can thrive and still pay the performers.

As you drill further into the data, more interesting facts about the plan become apparent.  During the same period (2014/2015), there was a total of 11,013 unpaid work weeks for actors in Los Angeles County. If those unpaid work weeks were actually paid work weeks, then 99-seat theatre would represent the second largest source of paid employment in the Western Region – second only to LORT.

In markets from Seattle to Chicago, unpaid work weeks are below 1%. This begs a simple question: How is it that the rest of the nation can afford to pay its actors who perform in small theatres, yet Los Angeles cannot?  Equity takes great pride in the diligence with which its producing partners nationwide work toward adding contracts.   It’s time LA producers — some of whom are incorporated as not-for-profits, but all of whom sell tickets to their productions — play by the same rules as everyone else.

Another argument often cited is that the system results in creating productions that go to Broadway. While it’s true that some shows have made the move, the path is not a direct one. Generally, years of work in multiple productions on paying contracts occur before a production that began in a 99-seat theatre makes it to a Broadway production.  Along the way, there may be productions in LORT or other theatres, changes are often made and enhancement money may be made available for development. The data shows that when a 99-seat production is staged again, the actors in the original cast — who were not paid a wage to develop the work — seldom move on with the production. One production, SMALL ENGINE REPAIR, has been cited as an example of a 99-seat production that moved to New York, but, of the actors in the original cast, only one (who was also the playwright) made the move, which was two years later.

The old 99-Seat Theatre Plan represents an unnecessary and avoidable roadblock for actors in Los Angeles attempting to make a living in live theatre. An ecosystem has been allowed to develop where even midsize theatre suffers because it is competing with a small theatre system that pays actors little, if anything at all. This has created a downward spiral, or race to the bottom, where the real losers are the actors, the stage managers, the audience and the theatre industry overall.

It is one of the founding principles of Actors’ Equity Association that those who work in live theatre deserve to be paid for the work that they do. Every actor and stage manager who has joined this union has agreed to work under conditions that, to the best of Equity’s knowledge, are most beneficial to the whole. This is one of the fundamental definitions of a union.  When an actor works through a rehearsal break, he or she contributes to an expectation that everyone else will give up that break as well. When an actor develops work without ever expecting any return on that development, he or she makes it more difficult for colleagues to ask for developmental compensation.  Finally, when a member — any member — works for a few dollars a show, with no pay for rehearsals, he or she damages the earning power of every other member, both monetarily and philosophically. This has not been an easy process, but Equity is committed to doing the right thing.

It is for these and many other reasons that Equity stands behind its decision to bring Los Angeles County in line with the rest of the nation, and defend its members’ right for fair compensation.

 

 

So I am one of the few oddballs who actually watches C-SPAN.  I find it to be a window into a very distant world. But a world whose actions and decisions affect us in ways we only begin to comprehend.  And sometimes those decisions have consequences that we, down here on the ground, only feel after it is too late to do anything about it.Image

In yesterday’s House Sub-committee Hearing on Copyright Regulations and Intellectual Property Law I had a moment of clarity that revealed why, when it comes to legislation about the arts, those mountain-top decision makers so often get it wrong.

The House panel was asking questions of a number of “experts” including Professor Glynn Lunney of Tulane University Law School. The question of the moment had to do with copyright restrictions applied to the music industry that used to exist but that had been recently eliminated.  The Professor was asked if the elimination of the copyright laws had any effect on “content producers” (meaning song writers, composers, music producers, etc.).

The professor cited a study that charted the amount of content produced before and after the elimination of those restrictions.  The study showed that the amount of content produced by the industry before and after the lifting of those artist protections had not changed. So the conclusion the professor and his ilk have come to is that those protections must not have been necessary!!

 WOW!! Talk about a major misunderstanding of your intended subject!!

 The inference here is that the additional protections the laws had been providing would motivate artists to produce more because income from your work is more likely. And conversely, without those protections artists will produce less music.

 This is stunningly wrong.

These conclusions are based on a business model that, I suppose, works for shoes or driveway pavers or plumbing pipe.  But artists produce because we HAVE TO!  Not just because we are getting paid to do it.  Don’t get me wrong, here. Getting paid for what you create is important.  I have always felt the creator of the art should be fairly compensated for each creation. But it is also true that we do not choose to become artists. We are called to it by something greater than ourselves.  And it is a demanding calling.

Whether you are a musician, a writer, a painter, a poet, a sculptor, a clothing designer, a novelist, a choreographer or any other type of creative spirit there is something within you that demands to be expressed.  Those who ignore that demand will pay the price, one way or the other, in personal anguish.

Artists will create whether or not we are fairly treated by society. And that is the crux of the misunderstanding of the politicians and industry experts who are creating the laws that either protect us or leave us to be taken advantage of.

As long as the politicians treat art the same way they treat widgets we will never have a system that truly understands why we create art or that values what artists contribute to society.

 If any of you out there are brave enough to contact Professor Lunney, please explain this to him.

Tara Sitser, Proud Singer/Songwriter 

Los Angeles, CA

January 19, 2014


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