The Tony Award Winning Musical Fun Home is currently playing at the Ahmanson and is currently has a 100% Sweet rating on the LemonMeter.
The production stars current Actor's Equity president Kate Shindle who recently did an interview with the LA Times. It's a good interview highlighting Shindle's Miss America experience and the activism she's done for HIV/AIDS. But you can't interview the president of AEA without mentioning the very contentious 99 Seat Plan battle. To refresh your memory, AEA has dismantled the 99 Seat Agreement which allowed theatres with 99 seats or less to use AEA actors for a small stipend. Now companies need to pay actors minimum wage, which when you're already working on a tiny budget is simply not possible. Many companies have already gone non-union. Which means less opportunities for LA AEA actors.
Here's what the interview has about the 99 Seat debate:
Although Shindle realizes she's speaking from a privileged perch inside one of the city's largest, most esteemed and well-funded theaters, she has fond memories of doing a 99-seat show at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood in 2002 while she was in town for pilot season.
“That show saved my sanity,” she says. “I believe small theater reminds people that they are, in fact, actors, even if they're not getting TV auditions at that particular moment. It gives them a chance to do what they love.”
On the other hand, for a union, the idea that actors should not aspire to a living wage is a bitter pill to swallow, she says. The compromise Equity made, Shindle adds, was to create membership rules that effectively provide wage requirement exemptions for more than 70% of the regularly producing 99-seat theaters in the county.
To these companies, many of which worry that the exemption could be rescinded at any moment, Shindle would like to say: “If anyone even brings up starting to move the membership companies out of that waiver before the end of my first term [in 2018], and if I'm re-elected, before the end of my second term, I'm going to smack them in the head. We have to let this settle … and we have to be sensitive to the fact that we're all artists.”
This interview has been floating around on Facebook with numerous LA based theatre makers not exactly thrilled that Shindle is here and has taken a job away from an LA actor. Considering Shindle and AEA have said that the new rules will allow for more midsize theatres to flourish (I imagine pigs will fly first) and that it will give its members more remunerative work (so far it's giving them less work as companies go non-union) it seems rather trite for Shindle to say "she did a 99 seat show here once." And that if anyone tries to touch the membership rule (which many companies have been denied) that she'll "smack them" seems a rather empty threat.