bekah brunstetter
Bekah Brunstetter I care deeply. About a lot of things. Like really, really deep. Ow
playwright in brooklyn, NY

Hi, I am of two minds.

March 25th, 2015 by Bekah Brunstetter

Do not ever visit my blog for strong, unwavering opinions on any given issue. I am always of two minds.  It’s just how my brain works. And so today, on I Look at Life from Both Sides, Now: The ongoing debate over actor compensation for  99 seat theaters in LA.

Basically, actors in LA (and also, kind of everywhere) are not getting  compensated for doing plays. At CTG, the Geffen, the larger spaces, they most certainly are — but in most cases, with the 99 seat or smaller theaters — actors are receiving 7 to 15 dollars a performance, and no $ for rehearsal whatsoever. Equity is trying to mandate minimum wage payment for actors, for rehearsal and performance. Case closed, right? Of course people should be paid. Of course, of course, of course. I see that side of it. Absolutely. Theater artists are sometimes parents and have mortgages and student loans and should be paid.

BUT.

These smaller theaters companies have no money.

Theater. Has. Barely. Any. Money.

If these smaller companies were to pay their actors as mandated, they would go from doing, say, five shows a year, to one show a year. Gone would be the days of doing a kickstarter and putting a show up for 3K. On the one hand — maybe this would improve the QUALITY of theater in LA. Less is more. I hear that.

But on the other hand — there go hundreds of opportunities for actors, playwrights and directors. There’s also the fact that actors are currently PROTESTING this movement. They are PROTESTING a movement that would get them paid — because they want the opportunities. They’d rather do the play and not get paid. That’s how badly they want to do the work. And this incredible. I’ve thought it many times, and perhaps even said it here — if you start a career in the theater, and expect to make a living, you are looney tunes. Few people actually do make a living making plays. Gone are those days. Theater is not a career, it is a passion, a mode of self-expression. I have occasionally made a living, but I never expected it, as it is inconsistent.  It is up to the theater artist to supplement their passion, their mode of self expression, with teaching / tv / film / marrying a lawyer / perhaps being a lawyer / dog walking / accounting / foot fetish parties. We know this.

In summation, I see both the good and the harm that the new rule could do. But ultimately — I’m just really inspired. In what other industry would the workers protest getting compensated? We are crazy. We like to play dress up and play-fight with each other and write out scenes in which we scream the things that we wish we had the bravery to scream in real life. We love plays, and we will make them, we will continue to make them, paid or not.

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