Yesterday, I finally punched out some very quick thoughts on the controversial move by Actors’ Equity Association to make radical changes to LA’s 99-seat showcase code, and I felt like I should come back to it to more fully address what strike me as the most important issues raised by what’s going on there.
To briefly recap, Equity has proposed changes which essentially make it impossible for members to take part in small indie productions by requiring those producers to pay at least minimum wage for Equity members’ labor. This radically increases production costs and presents an existential threat to the health of a vibrant small theater community. On the other hand, it appears that LA’s more flexible existing showcase code has permitted some small theaters (particularly those most critically recognized) to grow much larger and robustly funded than, say, their New York counterparts.
While it seems clear that Equity’s move is overkill–throwing the baby out with the bathwater–the controversy nevertheless reveals the pernicious degree to which the devaluation of performers’ labor has become endemic in American theater. This is hardly limited to LA. Continue reading