Los Angeles-based theater critic and essayist, Anthony Byrnes, provides a succinct summary of the present situation between the LA theater community and Actors’ Equity. As Byrnes emphasizes, the situation seems to continually cycle back to issues that neither the 1980s settlement (in favor of the LA actors) nor the 99-Seat Plan elimination last year (Equity’s initiative) fully resolved.
Act I of the latest drama ended with a stalemate: a group of LA actors filed, but did not (yet) serve, a lawsuit on their Union and Equity agreed to delay the implementation of the new plan. Both sides are now participating in a closed-room discussion about the situation.
Act II began when Equity President Kate Shindle, who was not heading the Union when Equity eliminated the 99-Seat Plan last year, commented on the situation as part of a larger interview (transcription of her comments). These comments were all that were needed to re-ignite the smoldering political tinder of the unresolved issues from previous months. As Byrnes notes, however, this time the discussion is more refined and sophisticated. In particular, noted actors Dakin Matthews and Vanessa Stewart rebutted Shindle’s key points with, respectively, detailed analysis and an immense database. In addition, the plaintiffs themselves responded to Equity in an open letter in Footlights.
As Act II progresses, we are sure that others will want to be heard. Footlights will continue to give voice to those views and encourage public awareness and discussion of this most important theatrical issue facing the City of Angels. For as Byrnes articulates, this discussion may well be just a canary in a larger coal mine with implications for the evolution of the arts nationwide.