Guest Column: Charlayne Woodard Urges ‘Yes’ Vote on Actors’ Equity’s 99-Seat Theater Proposal

99 seat plan LA Theater Charlayne
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Since the late ’80s, Actors’ Equity Association has recognized the Los Angeles 99-Seat Theater Agreement, which allows members to showcase their work for negligible stipends. Now, the union is proposing to eliminate the agreement in favor of two new internal membership rules and one new agreement.

The new agreement, if enacted as it is currently proposed, would require actors be paid minimum wage ($9 an hour in L.A. County) for rehearsal and performances, with no contributions to pension or health insurance. To many in the L.A. theater community, the proposal represents a threat to the city’s vibrant intimate-theater scene.

Equity members in L.A. County can vote through April 17 on the proposal in what the union calls an “advisory referendum.” The outcome of the vote will be taken into account when Equity’s National Council meets April 21 to deliberate over the proposal and determine the final form of the new arrangement.

ACTOR-PLAYWRIGHT CHARLAYNE WOODARD:

Thirty years ago, a dedicated group of Los Angeles stage actors successfully challenged their own union, Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), to permit them to act in small theaters of 99 seats or less without any compensation other than carfare during performances.  This allowed Equity members to work up to 36 hours per week for four rehearsal weeks and up to 80 performances. Consequently, for a full production, actors in 99-seat theaters receive about 18¢ a day.

It’s okay to volunteer, as long as everyone else is volunteering. In 99-seat theaters, everyone but the actor gets paid, including producers, staff, playwrights, directors, stage managers, choreographers and musicians, as well as set, costume, lighting and other designers.

This agreement was not intended to last in perpetuity. But 30 years later, hundreds of small, often actor-driven theaters continue to rely on this imperfect business model. Many L.A.-based AEA members are no longer willing to work as unpaid volunteers, and have asked their union to step in. AEA is a labor union and must comply with both federal and state labor laws, and these laws do not allow employers to use professional actors as volunteers. They require that actors receive at least a minimum wage. It’s the law, folks.

While it’s true that many of these small but dedicated theater companies are barely subsisting, many companies, including some of those leading the charge against paying their actors, have existed for decades, gross hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and even have their own dedicated spaces.

I myself have worked in, and benefited from, 99-seat theater productions, both as a cast member and a self-producing playwright. Even so, I believe it’s time to improve this business model, which relies on grossly underpaying union labor.

In cities around the country, actors are paid at least a minimum wage, and those theater communities thrive. Our commitment, our craft and our work are worth way more than minimum wage. But we have to start somewhere and change this unfair situation. We are professionals and it’s time we are treated as such.

Our union needs our support. Beginning March 25, AEA members have been receiving ballots to vote on a non-binding, advisory proposal. Our Council of nationally elected representatives will then consider this proposal in depth. Based on the input of members, as well as California state law, the Council will likely make changes to the proposal itself, and a final decision will be made.

A “Yes” vote means you want to make a Change to the existing system. A “No” vote means you want to maintain the status quo and continue to work with no pay.

Vote “Yes,” Change for 99.

— CHARLAYNE WOODARD

(The views expressed by Woodard are her own and do not represent those of Variety.)

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  1. JBabbin says:

    Actors Equity Association’s current LA 99-Seat Theatre Proposal is simply not ready to go, very poorly drafted and should not be supported at this time.

    It includes no Pension & Health Contributions, which is of primary importance to all independent contractors including actors, stage managers and entertainment professionals.

    The newly created Los Angeles Self-Produced Project Code (LASPPC) prohibits members from self-producing using an LLC, LLP, FEIN or 501C. In addition to increasing financial risks by forcing the
    co-mingling of personal and business assets, safety concerns arise since all members producing under the LASPPC must forgo any union safety protections.

    The alternative being advocated by members that correlates salaries to budgets is preferable since it allows intimate theatres develop into the Hollywood Area Theatre Contract by the gradual increase of labor costs.

    AEA has historically provided flexible solutions for developing theatre while providing the best working conditions and benefits for its members. The current 99-Seat Proposal runs counter to that tradition and should be rejected in its current form. We simply can and must do better.

    Thank you.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Pure crap! I’m not an actor and even I know it’s pure crap!

  3. I disagree, Charlayne. A “Yes” vote cements a proposal we do not want, no matter what the union says to the contrary. Although it can result in them instituting this proposal, a majority of “No” votes, start a conversation towards a proposal a majority of the LA contingent can support. As a member of both Actors Equity and the Dramatist Guild I am voting “No” on the current proposal.

  4. Tim Sheridan says:

    I just want to say that I think Variety might have done a more thoughtful job in selecting someone to write in favor of AEA’s proposal. Ms. Woodard has written “facts” that are easily proved fiction; the briefest of glances at the insightful comments here will show that. I think your readers and subscribers deserve better. If I were AEA, I would be very disappointed in your decision. (Of course, as a Pro99 L.A. small theatre actor, I’m quite happy with this your stumble.)

  5. Numerous others have commented on the many errors in understanding in Ms. Woodard’s article, ranging from the fact that a “no” vote on the proposal equals being against all change (it’s simply “no” to this specific AEA proposal) to the myth that everyone is making out like a bandit in 99-seat theatre but the actors.

    Speaking as a playwright, I’ve more often than not received a small royalty for my work produced in 99-seat (or typically much smaller) houses. However, when you’re working in a theatre this tiny, that royalty is a pittance. I make more money when one of my published plays runs for a couple of weekends at a high school. But it’s never been about money at the 99-seat level. For countless playwrights, it’s been an opportunity to develop new plays, and numerous plays (from Bare to Small Engine Repairs to the Don’t Hug Me series to many of the works of E.M. Lewis) have originated here and gone on to success elsewhere.

    What concerns me greatly, in addition to the issues others have pointed out, is that Ms. Woodard is an elected member of the Dramatists Guild council (I myself voted for her last time) and ostensibly should be representing the interests of Guild member playwrights. Instead, she’s doing the opposite, aggressively advocating for the destruction of a system that helps so many dramatists. This seems to completely contradict her responsibility as a council member. Perhaps the right thing for her to do is to resign her position on the council so that she can commit herself fully to advocating for Actors’ Equity.

  6. Miss Woodard, As your career was conceived and promoted out of 99 seat plan, I find it erroneous that you choose to deprive others of the same opportunity, While everyone wants to see everyone get paid, not everyone but the actors get paid. Your assertions are disingenuous, and your math is faulty. You were fed misinformation and now in some spirit if union solidarity you keep repeating the lies, even though it has been brought to your attention that they are indeed lies.

    If you seek truth, if you want real change, you will reconsider this proposal, which is neither well conceived nor conducive to improving either that state of theatre nor getting more contracts. This proposal as written is destructive and oppressive. Change does not come from those adjectives, it comes for frank open conversation, understanding and a willingness to provide some empathy for those in opposition.

    Please read what you are endorsing, please know what you are helping destroy, and please listen to those around you who speak with clarity and a fervent desire to improve theatre in LA and the opportunities for all theatre artists.

  7. jon says:

    The SMALL (noncorporate) theaters in LA barely make rent every month..while i sincerely am a fan of miss Woodard’s talent, i can tell you as one who has worked many of these jobs in LA 99-seat theater this statement is inaccurate : ” In 99-seat theaters, everyone but the actor gets paid, including producers, staff, playwrights, directors, stage managers, choreographers and musicians, as well as set, costume, lighting and other designers.”
    just not true, or i would have been paid for, say, doing electrics and stage work..99-seat agreement needs updating, this is true, blanket politics that will force many small theaters out of the game is ill-advised. we need change, but not the current AEA proposal.

  8. Roz Cohn says:

    I’ve never seen one of Ms. Woodard’s performances and am sure she’s a wonderful talent. What’s not so wonderful is her inability to understand that maybe 100 AEA members have complained about wanting minimum wage in 99 seat theatre vs. the THOUSANDS of us who can see through the smoke and mirrors AEA is sending out and that their proposal is not thought out AT ALL and destructive to the entire fabric of theatre in Los Angeles. Ms. Woodard’s argument is sadly unfounded and destructive to all of us engaged in this battle for the freedom to live as creative artists. Variety should now post a rebuttal from the Pro99 side.

  9. asanisimasa4 says:

    I am not sure why Ms, Woodard decided to be the Joan of Arc for the AEA plan that would basically annihilate many dozens of Los Angeles intimate theatres. She is sending out DAILY (sometimes several) notices of support for the plan to everyone who would, or is forced by her, to listen. Many actors, producers, and directors have tried to explain her (on Facebook’s PRO99 and other pages) that the numbers of paying actors what would after deductions be more like $13-$14 an hour, would be impossible unless we raise the price of tickets to $50 or more (and you can find companies that will sell you tickets to major shows on Broadway for less).. Especially in larger cast show–just think Shakespeare, Chekhov, major musicals, this would be the kiss of death. I am one of those horrible slave-driver producers forcing actors to act for so little. For almost 40 years now I produce plays ranging from classics to avant garde, from musicals to pantomime. I could count on one hand the productions that actually paid for themselves. I have invested at least 100 but probably 200 thousand dollars out of my salary to pay for the productions. (My day job is that of a substitute teacher mostly with Special Ed kids). Similarly as most actors and other artists who work in the LA intimate theatres I do not direct or produce in order to make a living, but because I MUST DO THEATRE. Unfortunately Ms. Woodard no longer feels (or maybe never felt) that need. –Since this site does not list names and I do not want to hide anonymously, my name is Pavel Cerny.

  10. Marie says:

    Ms. Woodard’s erroneous claims would seem bent on misleading other AEA members that 1) “Yes'” votes in this case means members are really voting for a CHANGE to the existing system. And 2) That a ”No” vote actually means actors want NO change at all and want to continue to work with ‘negligible pay’.

    Unfortunately and in fact, Ms. Woodard’s key assertions in this article are false. The consquences of the vote in question are absolutely quite the opposite of what Ms. Woodard promises. And she has been informed of these self-evident facts time and again by other members on many public forums, including radio, Facebook, Twitter, and now via comments sections of Op Ed pieces like this one.

    In reality, AEA membership can only offer leadership a “non-binding, advisory” vote to either vote this proposal UP or DOWN as it is currently articulated on ballots now out to members. That’s it. End of story. Any nebulous, future, airy-fairy, TBD changes to the current proposal that Ms. Woodard tantalizingly yet falsely alludes to, HAVE to be re-done and re-circulated to membership for voting AFTER the current proposal is voted DOWN and BEFORE any “change” to the current Plan can happen. Period. End of story.

    To reiterate, the current, hotly debated membership vote is only “advisory and NON-binding” to leadership’s ultimate decision in this case. So you may wonder why AEA leadership and their cronies care what the membership votes since leadership can legally do what they want, regardless of the membership vote. Keep in mind, legally, AEA only put this to their own, binding councilors’ vote AFTER they go through the formality of X-number of by-the-numbers town halls meetings, disingenuous Review Committee meetings, symbolic membership votes, etc, In short, all their formality efforts to date were legally necessary in order to summarily snuff out 99 Seat Plan completely, with or without a YES vote from the masses.

    Well, okay, I will admit that it would be a LOT easier for AEA to avoid lawsuit fodder and member heat if they get a clear YES vote here. So that’s why they are propagandizing and stumping so much to whip the vote, even though they don’t technically NEED the members YES vote to do what they say they will do anyway.

    As to their effective war cry “Minimum wage!” – Did you know that the AEA leadership in the 80’s negotiated the settlement on this matter so that 99 Seat Theatre was specifically DESIGNED never be able to afford a real profit in order to pay actor-volunteers “minimum wage”? This is due to simple math – 99 seat restrictions mean very limited ticket sales/profits per each AEA- limited production run. AEA could choose to work with 99 seat plan theatres to modify those restrictions and build them to mid-size to sustain a tier payment plan for actors. But no. AEA knows full well that small theater will not be able to comply with the new min. wage that that AEA demands under this proposal they are determined to abolish the current Plan.

    To address Ms. Woodard’s misc. other erroneous points, the “negligible pay” to actors under 99 Seat Plan is actually called a volunteer’s stipend in 501(c)3 non-profit organization parlance – anyone can volunteer their skills at any non-profit (Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, etc) even if other necessary admin. staff/hard costs are paid something. BTW, AEA is a non-profit org itself that is, ironically, made up of VOLUNTEER actors serving as elected, unpaid voting councillors (who are not even given “negligible pay” carfare by their union) as well as PAID staff like AEA exec director, Mary McColl, who is reputed to make more 6 figures per annum than most of L.A. 99 seat annual budgets. Unlike 99 seat plan theater owners (who are almost always AEA member actors, too) who have to fundraise, sell tickets, rent theater space, hold auctions, beg for donations by passing the hat, and pay out of their own pockets to get small theater art won and done, AEA simply pays for 5 and 6 digit salaries (and bogus vote referendums) out of its own members DUES.

    It’s important to note in this case that the actors’ stipend in 99 Seat was AGREED to by AEA leadership from the get go of the Plan. It was then adjusted over the years when needed or desired via legally mandated meetings between the AEA leadership and the member/theater owners from the lawsuit called Review Committee … until last fall when the AEA leadership suddenly decided to stop communicating in good faith with the Review Committee in order to ramrod their new proposal through and summarily end the 99 Seat Plan and the need for a Review Committee that regulates them. All under the guise of smoke and mirrors “minimum wage”. For goodness sake, AEA doesn’t even pay their own volunteers min. wage, while paying other staff several times the annual budget of what most 99 seat plan theatre’s fundraise from the sweat of their brow.

    You all are super smart people and can now see that this matter is far more complex than Ms. Woodard would lead you to believe – a simple “YES” or ‘NO” vote in this case is anything but simple.

    Members who are FOR change (just not THIS change) are voting NO – so that then a realistic discussion of how to amend the current plan can commence.

    AEA leadership (and their supporters like Ms. Woodard – which seems a bit odd considering her admitted 99 seat plan roots) are voting YES because they WANT to separate their members from the small, artistic incubators of 99 seat non-profit theater because of their own agendas that have nothing to do with volunteers getting minimum wage in non-profit organizations.

    I’m sorry that vocal thespians in the L.A. theater community, who admit they have benefited from the 99 Seat Plan, are apparently falling for AEA leadership’s big ol’ ruse here.

    In closing, back in the 80s, the judge presiding over the 99 Seat v AEA lawsuit very wisely told the AEA leadership, ‘You should sit down and work something out with these people.” Current AEA opponents of 99 Seat Theatre would be well-advised to consider that admonition now.

    VOTE NO. Then, and only then, can realistic discussions of change to 99 seat happen. As it always has before.

  11. Guy Picot says:

    Ms Woodard knows perfectly well that she is not telling the truth in this “Opinion Piece”. I just hope that no-one is stupid enough to believe her. The difference between Yes and No should be pretty clear, even to Equity members. Yes means Yes to this proposal. No means No to this proposal. Her other untruths and misrepresentations have been well covered in these comments. Surely the Yes camp should be able to spell out the merits of their case without fabrication. Or maybe that’s all they’ve got.

  12. Randi Weidman says:

    I mean no disrespect. this is an honest question ( no sarcasm ). What cities have these thriving theatre communities? How many intimate theaters are paying minimum wage in these communities? I just would like to see an example of a city where this proposal is working.

  13. millerontap says:

    Basically this is a falsehood. “A “Yes” vote means you want to make a Change to the existing system. A “No” vote means you want to maintain the status quo and continue to work with no pay.” It it just the opposite if you look at the ballot. Besides, the actors DO get paid a stipend. Please stop saying the actors don’t get paid. ACTORS GET PAID A STIPEND USING THE 99 PLAN.

  14. Jim Beaver says:

    Ms. Woodard:

    I do not know you, but I have deep respect for your abilities and your reputation, the latter of which is in danger of permanent besmirchment by your insistence on making statements such as included in this column. I fully support anyone on either side of this particular discussion standing strong for what they believe in. And I am utterly opposed to ad hominem attacks on anyone for stating those beliefs. If, however, you stand behind the statements made in this column that only actors are unpaid in 99 seat theater, or that vast fortunes are being made by 99 seat producers, then I can only assume that you are either a liar or a fool. No one with an actual understanding of 99 seat theater, even someone like you, who has benefited from it but has clearly no long-term connection with it, would believe otherwise, because these statements are demonstrably false. Anyone who chooses to vote yes on this misguided proposal should stand by their convictions. But making up falsehoods is a shameful way of pressing your case.

  15. Lady, nobody in 99 Seat Theatre makes money. Where are you getting your information? You say yourself you’ve benefited from 99 seat theatre. I imagine that’s the best training you’ve ever received. That’s why we do it. We’re not doing people’s taxes for free. We do this because WE GET SOMETHING OUT OF IT. I get to perform, which is the highest form of payment. I’ve received most of my paying gigs through doing 99 Seat.

    Really, though, it bugs me so much when people write about things they don’t understand. It’s uncool. Hopefully those that are voting (in a non-binding vote,ind you — the union really doesn’t care how the membership feels on this issue), educate themselves (the only people that truly get it are those that do 99 seat, though). I’ve said it before too, those people that have ever said to me that they are against 99 seat theatre because they deserve more than the stipend/compensation involved have been bad actors. Not saying it to be catty. But there is something to be said for actors who wants to practice and hone their craft and do things that make them passionate as artists.

    Charlayne, though, PLEASE talk to somebody who knows about this topic before you speak up on it again. It’s embarrassing for you. None of us make money in theatre. Actors have often made more than anyone involved with just their stipends. Most producers lose money and designers also get stipends now and then but nothing big. I also am wondering if you truly are voting “yes” on this proposal. I don’t truly believe you want theatre to disappear in Los Angeles, and I think now it’s a matter of stubbornness that keeps you spouting off about it. No solid/trained actors really want theatre to go away in LA. We have more than anyone, because oft he 99 seat plan. It’s awful how evil you’re being in your motives (whatever they may be, because they are still unclear — again, I don’t even believe you believe what you’re saying).

  16. Matt Ritchey says:

    As a producer, writer and director of Loa Angeles 99 seat theatre I can say undoubtedly that Charlene Woodward’s claims are false. Perhaps they are simply ignorantly so. For one, you cannot compare the Equity 99 Seat Agreement to theaters across the country. We are all aware that this is an unusual agreement and does not follow the typical standards and practices. I don’t think that anyone could argue that if you wanted to be paid minimum wage to do theatre anywhere that you should be foxed to do so – and obviously, actors are not, proven by Ms. Woodward’s quote that theaters across the country are doing so. However, the claim that directors, producers, writers, et cetera are making money in 99 Seat theater while the actors do not is patently false. Of the six shows I have directed in 99 seat theatre over the last year I have been paid for ONE – and that was a one-time $100 payment after working for a minimum of 56 hours. Looking at the contract (and by all means, look it up yourselves), it is obvious that it was created so that producers would NOT be able to rake in money while paying the actors pennies. In fact, it often happens that actors get paid and producers lose money on shows. Ms. Woodward is welcome to her opinion, but not to state inaccurate facts.

  17. Well I have to admit That Charlayne Woodward’s op-ed piece has really convinced me! Convinced me that she is even more clueless than I thought after seeing her FB posts and hearing her on the radio. She is clueless about the landscape of the 99 seat theater in Los Angeles. She is clueless about the general state of theater in America. And she is sure as hell clueless about labor law.

    But all that said, at least she knows that she got her start taking advantage of the 99 seat agreement, and will be damned if anyone else gets this opportunity. Thanks for clearing that up. #AEAvoteNO

  18. Royana Black says:

    It’s funny. Even after Ms. Woodard has been corrected (more than once, I might add) she still communicates the same misinformation.
    First, 99-seat theatre is not “unpaid”; there is a stipend and most shows I’ve done, the actors get their stipend and sometimes more.
    Second, all this paid staff referenced above? “producers, staff, playwrights, directors, stage managers, choreographers and musicians, as well as set, costume, lighting and other designers”? Where would they all fit? Most 99-seat theaters actually fit between 45 and 60 seats. And in my experience, (and I’ve been doing 99-seat theatre here since 1998, as well as Showcases in NYC — and yes, Charlayne, I’ve also been on Broadway and off-Broadway so I am a “professional”), the “staff” are the actors and director. We’ve had actors run the board, build sets, the costumes are our own clothes…so the ONLY people getting paid are the actors!
    Finally, as with ballot propositions in statewide election, a “yes” vote means you approve the proposal AS IS. There isn’t a “yes, but” box to check. The only way to get this right is to start over and the only way to do that is a “no” vote.

  19. emilydonn says:

    If this proposal was actually as good as you say it is Ms. Woodard, it would be able to stand on its own merits. Instead you continue to pass false and disingenuous information along, no matter how many times you are confronted with facts and truths. If you cannot push for the proposal honestly, than basic logic and reason dictate that it is not worth passing.

    Vote NO! We want change, but not this change!

  20. Michael Wallot says:

    Ms. Woodard is ill informed. A NO vote means that the proposition AEA has given here is not the right answer and it needs more discussion and working together with AEA actors and producers like myself to find a way to improve the plan, and fill those loopholes that may have allowed a few theater groups to take advantage of the 99 seat plan for profit. Most of us NEVER profit. The plan was created to give union actors the chance to be seen onstage for film/TV producers/casting agents to see their work on this unique showbiz town. We need to retain this plan and the current protection it gives us. VOTE NO AND LETS MAKE CHANGE!

  21. John Alsedek says:

    Ms. Woodard, you threw a blanket statement out there without the slightest shred of proof. So either give specific examples of 99-seat theaters in which “everyone gets paid but the actors”, or else detract the statement.

  22. Michael Shepperd says:

    I’m sorry. I’ve tried to remain quiet on this but you are flat out lying when you say everyone but the actors get paid. I’ve produced and directed in this town for ten years with my company, never taking a directing stipend, have called in favors from other designers who were happy to create for pizza and a beer and still came completely out of pocket to pay actors their stipend when our bona fide hit still wasn’t selling as well as it should. When you say everyone gets paid but the actors, you are lying. I have respected you and your talent for years. I really hope you will retract your statement. It is a lie.

  23. Richard Levinson says:

    So, Ms. Woodard says it’s OK to volunteer as long as everyone is? Great! Because, as she learns her factual assertions about who gets paid what are flat-out wrong, I assume she will now be voting no on the AEA proposal.

  24. Myrna says:

    Ms. Woodard — Your article in Variety is incorrect. You certainly have the right to vote as you please, but I’ve gathered, from the work you do that you seem to feel passionately about truth. Please honor the truth and correct your statements. As a director and choreographer, I have worked 90% of the time in 99 seat for no fee. This was true for many or most of the non-actor talent you mention working alongside us. Vote as you please, but please do not resort to these tactics. They smack of historical unjust campaigning behavior I imagine you would find reprehensible.’ ANY non-actor talent who would like to lean on her to correct this, please do so…’Ms. Woodard — Your article in Variety is incorrect. You certainly have the right to vote as you please, but I’ve gathered, from the work you do that you seem to feel passionately about truth. Please honor the truth and correct your statements. As a director and choreographer, I have worked 90% of the time in 99 seat for no fee. This was true for many or most of the non-actor talent you mention working alongside us. Vote as you please, but please do not resort to these tactics. They smack of historical unjust campaigning behavior I imagine you would find reprehensible.’ I just FB messaged this to Ms. Woodard. You don’t have to be her FB friend to send a Private Message. ANY non-actor talent who can speak to the truth of this, and would like to lean on Ms. Woodard to correct her statement, please do so.

  25. Christopher says:

    Several commenters have accurately laid out the several ways in which Ms. Woodard (and by extension, Variety) plays fast and loose with facts in this editorial. See below. Just adding an additional moderate voice here and encouraging folks for whom this matters to see through the grandstanding. The folks leading the charge against this AEA proposal are not against forward progress– it’s a disagreement on HOW we improve the landscape for actors. I voted no on the AEA proposal because we were asked to vote on the specifics of THIS plan, not some broad idea of “change”. This plan is poorly conceived and I want my national councilors to know that before they make any major decisions about the artistic lives of its LA membership.

  26. Shame on you Charlayne! You know you have misrepresented all parties involved. You benefitted from the 99 seat plan and now begrudge the opportunity to others. How shameful to have forgotten what it means to learn and grow. How criminal to stand in the way of others!

  27. Wendy Worthington says:

    I take particular exception to two of your statements. First, you assert, “In 99-seat theaters, everyone but the actor gets paid, including producers, staff, playwrights, directors, stage managers, choreographers and musicians, as well as set, costume, lighting and other designers.” This is simply not true. In most 99-seat theatres, not only are union actors paid the required stipend (and sometimes more), the non-union actors are also paid, as matter of parity. Many of these other positions are paid a very small stipend, as well, and their expenses (some of them) are also sometimes paid. the one position that most often goes without any remuneration whatsoever, and the one position that requires the most hours of (often unappreciated) work is that of the producer. This is usually because the producer of these shows is an actor.

    Second, you argue that a “No” vote is a vote for the status quo. Equity itself has denied this. A “No” vote means only that the actor voting does not approve of THIS SPECIFIC PROPOSAL. Nor should they. This is a very bad idea most specifically for all of us who live and work in Los Angeles. I am a proud member of Equity. And I have voted NO.

  28. WendyW. says:

    Amen, Ms. Woodard. If we don’t value our time and what we do, no one else will.

  29. Debi Tinsley says:

    Ms. Woodard is incorrect about the meaning of a no vote. A note no means no on THIS SPECIFIC PROPOSAL. Those who advocate a no vote agree that changes need to be made to the agreement as it stands. But we do not feel the proposal put before us will benefit union actors or theatre in general in Los Angeles. A no vote means we want to see a different proposal. Preferably one which invites ideas from those of us who actually work in these 99 seat theatres.

  30. richlounello says:

    Why do only Equity actors in Los Angeles get to work for free without impunity? How is it that they are different from Equity actors in other parts of the country? If you are willing to work for free (and there is nothing wrong with that) and are going to fight for the ability to do so, then you really shouldn’t be in Equity. The Actors’ Equity Association was established to combat the very things the 99 seat plan’s supporters advocate. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a non-Equity actor and if you want to work unpaid, that is what you should choose to become.

    • William Salyers says:

      “Work for free” vs. “work for pay” is a false dichotomy. Most professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc) may volunteer their time for projects they deem worthwhile without forfeiting their right to be paid for their work. Actors should be no different.
      Additionally, this meme that LA actors are “working for free” is a fabrication. Under the current 99-seat plan, actors receive a stipend, as do other production personnel.

    • jonmullich says:

      That’s an interesting point of view except that it doesn’t stand up in the cozy borders of L.A., where the vast majority of actors make their living under SAG-AFTRA work. And since SAG-AFTRA is a sister union of Equity, they would be equally beholden to the 99-seat theatre plan as they would be as members as AEA.

      Paid contract acting work is difficult to come by under any circumstances. I’m sure that the vast majority of AEA members are grateful for the paid work they can get when they can get it. The 99-seat theatre plan allows actors – most of whom make their living in TV and film – to volunteer for noncommercial projects even as they pursue commercial ventures. This is NOT about actors wanting to work for free and it never was. It is about following the idea that union membership should provide you with MORE options, not less.

  31. William Salyers says:

    May we please have a balancing rebuttal from someone on the other side? Veteran actor Dakin Matthews would be an excellent choice.
    Also, as has been pointed out, this piece is full of misinformation. Does VARIETY have any responsibility to correct that, or is it editorial policy that factual errors enjoy immunity when they are part of an opinion piece?
    My questions are not rhetorical; I would greatly appreciate an answer.
    Thank you.

  32. Meaghan says:

    As those below have stated, this opinion piece has too much misinformation. I encourage you to read Dakin Matthews’ comments below. Variety should ask him to write a column. There is a lot of mischaracterization of the plan, the producers (who are mostly also actors), and the vote (vote NO for this particular change, but vocally support other options!).

    • normanx says:

      Wow. I’ve been doing under 99 seat theatre for over 20 years in Los Angeles…and I would like to find that theatre that pays everybody but the actor… then again… I’m on a life long search for unicorns and rainbows… so maybe this minimum wage thing will work out. Ok… just kidding. I don’t work for minimum wage. If I wanted minimum wage, I would work for McDonald’s. What I do as an actor, an artist in Los Angeles theatre is not about financial value. I work with some of the best people in the world on some of the best theatre in the world. This is a professional two actor union town. We are very, very good. I don’t depend on under 99 seat theatre for my livelihood…it wasn’t designed to make money; but I do depend on it for my soul.

  33. Steve Lozier says:

    Variety, there are several falsehoods in this article. I realize this piece is included as an opinion piece but if the opions are presented as facts and many of those facts are not true, it seems unethical to publish. While I don’t understand why Ms. Woodard would not check the validity of her statements, it seems the final responsibility is on Variety.

  34. John George says:

    Utterly, and willfully, inaccurate. A Yes vote means Yes to this specific, as-proposed plan. A NO vote is the only way to ensure that AEA comes back to the table and honestly works out a plan with membership. The current promulgated plan is a disaster. VOTE NO.

  35. Dakin Matthews says:

    For the sake of accuracy, I believe AEA first proposed a waiver plan at the request of its members, then rewrote it into a 99-seat plan, the details of which many of those same members disagreed with. That’s where the lawsuit came from; and the out-of-court settlement resulted in 33 specific changes to Equity’s proposal. So the first paragraph inaccurately reports the facts.

    Then in the second paragraph, Ms Woodard asserts everyone gets paid in 99-seat theatre except the actors, which is simply not true and unsupported by data. In the same paragraph she states that it’s “okay to volunteer,” and the one paragraph later states that “labor law” forbids the use of professional actors as “volunteers.” I wonder, is she suggesting that Equity has been encouraging the breaking of the law for “30 years”? Or can she not hear herself contradict herself?

    You know, when I get three paragraphs in, and I spot numerous misstatements of fact and logical contradictions, I’m not encouraged to read any further.

    But I do, and I find, after a treasure trove of misinformation, her final sentence is again a total misstatement of fact and a mischaracterization of her opponents. A YES vote only means that you want to vote for THIS change, not A change. And a NO vote is not a vote for status quo but a vote against THIS change, as the Union itself has been very careful to say over and over again. We want change, just not this change.

  36. Kevin Quinn says:

    Ms. Woodard happily asserts unproven, uninformed, unsubstantiated hearsay as fact. For months, the thousands of practitioners of 99 seat theatre have asked Equity,(and their volunteer pitch people like Ms Woodard) for a single example of “everyone” in the theatre “getting paid” before the actors. They refuse to offer facts because they have none that support their ideology. Nobody does 99 seat theatre for the money, and no one makes a substantial living from it.
    Woodard, says,”Hope! Change! Benghazi!, vote Yes for this specific proposal and then we’ll fix it to make it better!” Equity, please negotiate with your members, offer data, create a proposal that doesn’t kill off most of this precious community and then you’ll get a resounding Yes. On this extremely bad offering VOTE NO.

  37. sierrarein says:

    I believe voting “No” does not mean Status Quo, but means “not this type of change.” Most of the theaters that run 99 seat contracts want to be able to get to the level to pay minimum wage, but do not accept this sweeping “all or nothing” change that will wipe out the hard work (yes, work) that went into 99 seat theater throughout the years. This author does not acknowledge the “we want change but not this change” angle that the Pro 99 side takes, and is thus misinforming her readers.

  38. Brad Hills says:

    With the exception of her own experience in 99-seat theatre, every single thing Ms. Woodard has to say is simply inaccurate. To see an accurate assessment of what this is all about, please see Noah Wyle’s comment offering reasons to vote “no” to the Equity proposals. http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fvariety.com%2F2015%2Flegit%2Fnews%2Fnoah-wyle-vote-no-99-seat-plan-equity-1201459355%2F&h=vAQEAQ4Jn

  39. Laura Coker says:

    Not accurate. A “Yes” vote accepts the Proposal “As Written”, no mention of changes. A “No” vote, is that, no to the current Proposal. That allows to go back and try for a better Proposal that works better for both sides. By the way, not everyone gets paid as is mentioned in this article. There is more going on that is not covered here.

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