When I first came to Los Angeles, the Equity-Waiver plan was just being put in place. If you aren’t familiar with the history, it allowed for professional actors, those belonging to AEA (Actors Equity Association), to perform on stage for significantly less money than were quoted under normal contracts. In the intervening years, the plan has changed, the scope has been adjusted, and a lot of dancing has gone on to create theatre in Los Angeles.
Now depending on your personal stake in the matter, this plan and all of the subsequent changes have been both a curse and a blessing. What had started out pretty much with the intent of allowing actors a showcase opportunity has turned into a situation where more plays are produced in Los Angeles than anywhere else in the world. With growth, the unforeseen consequences become magnified.
This has left a lot of parties not particularly happy. In the intervening years, all the tweaks have essentially assured that no one from producer to actor to stage hand has a shot of making enough money to sustain their lives. Agreements were made to limit how much a ticket could cost, how long a play could run, and slowly but surely, all the anticipated air that was going to cover costs was squeezed out. By the time we got to the great ticket giveaways and discounted seats, the financial prospects for intimate theatre was becoming increasingly bleak.
The Los Angeles Stage Alliance has been around for almost as long as Waiver Theatre. While they have performed admirably as an arts advocacy organization, by nature of their mission, they were not well positioned to act as an intermediary or representative for all of the various factions. Promoting a fair and equitable business relationship between landlords, unions, producers and artists was left to haphazard development. This was a job that was becoming ever more important.
AEA has long been frustrated with trying to administer the region in regards to all of the intimate productions. In fact, none of the appropriate unions have had a body to speak with. Producers, on the other hand, have had so many different variations of rules and regulations that they were supposed to follow, that in the end, very few know what really needs to be done.
It has long been noted that one of the things most assuredly missing from the quagmire was a producer’s league. This would be an organization that could not only address the issues of union negotiations, but could set up a system for best practices and standards for all theatre. With proper staffing and sufficient funding, marketing, a huge void to date could also be addressed.
For much of the more than thirty years that I have been a part of the LA theatre scene, this all seemed a bit of a Gordian knot. Over time, and with several fitful starts, last year a series of meetings were held in which it was finally decided that a producer’s league should be formed. A committee was elected, and consisted of Greg Crafts, Martha Demson, Michael Seel, John Flynn, David Mack, Tim Wright, Oanh Nguyen, Gedaly Guberek, Jenny Byrd, Matt McCray, David Elzer, Rick Culbertson, Michael Kricfalusi, and JJ Mayes. For nearly a year this body has met on a regular basis and forged out a framework from which an organization could be formed.
On Monday, June 17, 2013, shortly after 8 p.m. at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, a vote was held by all producers willing to attend, and with only a single nay vote, The Theatrical Producers League of Los Angeles (TPLLA) ratified the by-laws which would allow for the building of the organization.
The importance of this can only be suspected. With time and loving support of the community TPLLA can redefine theatre in Los Angeles. With lots of sweat, and possibly some figurative blood, the seemingly insurmountable issues to build better and bigger theatre in Los Angeles can be resolved.
Many, including myself, claim that Los Angeles is the greatest theatre city in the world. With more than 1000 productions being mounted annually, the variety and scope is nearly overwhelming. Now, the mechanism is being built that will help make that claim a known fact. Better opportunities for every actors, producers, all the way to the stage hands, but most importantly, it will give you, the audience a better Theatre.
Congratulations to The LA Theatre Community!