Look who’s upset over actors getting paid more.

There’s an interesting controversy brewing on the left coast, and it’s not about whether there should be a Sharknado III.

No, this one is actually about theater.  Yep, they not only have theater in Hollywood, they have troubles with the theater in Hollywood, just like we do.

So what’s the brouhaha all about?  (And a side note:  isn’t brouhaha one of the most fun words on the planet?  Say it with me.  Brouhaha.  Brouhaha.  Hehe.)

Here’s what happened.

Actors’ Equity tried to do what unions are supposed to do; work for better conditions and salaries for their members.  See, the current 99 Seat Plan in LA doesn’t even pay minimum wage, so AEA proposed an agreement that got their members increases for performance pay and compensation for rehearsals (there is currently none).

No brainer, right?

Then why did everyone, from Producers, Actors (including high profile ones like Tim Robbins) and even critics come out and say, “Don’t do this or you’ll kill what little theater there is in LA”?  One article’s headline was . . .

“Has Actors’ Equity Sounded A Death Knell For Small L.A. Theaters?”

See, it turns out that the majority of the Producers of 99 seat productions are actors themselves.  Many of them produce these shows to showcase themselves, so they see their compensation as visibility.  And since they are already losing money on these shows, additional salaries would just lose them more money.

But still, shouldn’t minimum wage be minimum wage?  Could ticket prices go up to pay for it?  Should the Producers find a way to raise more money to provide the actors with this poverty level compensation?

It has turned into a pretty big fight, with lawyers involved, and it will be interesting to see how it shakes out, especially since New York City has its own version of the 99 Seat Plan, called the Equity Showcase, where lots of Actors, Producers and Playwrights get their start.  The compensation for the Showcase Code is under minimum wage too . . . so will AEA propose changes here too?

Only time, and probably what happens in LA, will tell.

What do you think?  Should the pay go up?  Should the pay go down?  Comment below.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.