Tara's Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles

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.

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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.

 

 

Local elections are generally poorly attended.  It’s been difficult to get people to understand just how local politics affects their lives. This Letter To The Editor appeared in today’s Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times and it states the case beautifully:

I would like to thank the 82.41% of registered voters of the great city of Los Angeles for having such trust and confidence in the 11.59% of us who voted in Tuesday’s election. 

 Half of the City Council, half of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education and half of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of  Trustees were picked. Voters also weighed a bunch of ballot measures that will decide where some of our tax money will go. 

 Yes, less than 12% of us decided how the city will be run for the next few years.

Dorit Dowler-Guerrero, Los Angeles

It’s very simple.  As long as we still have a democracy, get out and vote. It’s the way our voices are heard.

 

In the face of  the massive, ongoing power-grab by the right-wing conservatives in the service of their corporate masters there has been little to cheer about in recent months.  Item by item we have seen our constitutional protections threatened, our rights degraded and our societal safeguards pulled out from under our feet. 

Underlying so much of these losses is the fact that our politicians are almost completely bought and paid for by corporations looking to curry favor from elected officials.  And in the face of such large amounts of money, most politicians lose any shred of integrity they may have had and think only of how they will win re-election when their current term is up. By accepting large corporate campaign donations the elected official feels obligated to make political and legislative decisions that favor their corporate donors – usually at the expense of the middle class, the working poor, seniors, the mentally ill and other vulnerable groups, not to mention the environment.

BUT!  We finally have  some good news as a result of the passage of Ballot Measure H which passed in yesterday’s Los Angeles election. Measure H is the first step in changing the way elections are held in the state of California.  Establishing public funding for political campaigns is the only way we will ever get our democracy out of the clutches of big money and level the playing field so that qualified candidates can run for office without having to seek out or accept corporate or private donations.  When elections are publicly funded the elected officials will not be beholden to any donor. They will be able to do the job they were elected to do without corporate influence and without spending – as they do now – almost 30% of their day fund-raising for their next election rather than doing the people’s business.

Public funding for campaigns exists now in 7 states and it works!  Read on for a statement from the California  Clean Money Campaign:

http://www.caclean.org/progress/

Yes on H logo -- Support Fair Elections!

Voters Resoundingly Say “YES” to Fair Elections in Los Angeles!                                                                               

Last night, Los Angeles residents sent a message to  leaders across the state and across the country:  It’s time to end corporate and big money special interest control of our political system.

By an overwhelming 3-1 margin, 75% of Los Angeles residents voted “YES!” on Measure H, the Los Angeles Clean Money, Fair Elections measure.

The immediate ramification of Measure H is that bidders on large city contracts will no longer be allowed to make campaign contributions to elected officials who decide who wins – some of the most potentially corruptive campaign contributions one could imagine.

But the most important result of Measure H is lifting the maximum balance in the City’s public financing campaign trust fund.  This will eventually allow L.A. to move to full, Clean Money, Fair Elections public funding of campaigns, so that candidates don’t take big money from any special interest donors and are accountable only to the voters.  And believe us, when the time is right, we’ll be asking you all to help demand that it does!

This victory has statewide and national implications.  As Nick Nyhart, President of the national Public Campaign said:

“There should be no doubt about it – this is a victory that will boost the fortunes of money and politics reform far beyond LA.”


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As a member of the Americana-Folk/Rock band, John Zipperer & Friends, Tara performs in around Los Angeles, CA (with an occasional out-of-town appearance). Come see for yourself why John Zipperer's CD "Full Circle" has been on the top 25 of the Roots Music Report Album Chart for over a year!

Tara Sitser - Author / Singer/Songwriter

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