UPDATED: LA v Equity enters Act III

It’s been 2 years since this story began:

la equity act iiiAfter a Prologue of ReImagine LA activity, followed by Equity engagement with the  Los Angeles theater community via survey, focus groups, and town hall meetings, Act I opened in February 2015 dramatically:  Equity’s dropping of a “Promulgated Plan” onto Los Angeles and the announcement that the 99-Seat Plan would be terminated.

Act I consisted of phone banking, a march, and a decisive 2-1 landslide defeat of an Equity referendum by an unusually large L.A. voter turnout.  The story then double-whipsawed through Equity terminating the 99-Seat Plan anyway just days after the referendum defeat, followed a month later by the electoral ousting of the long-term Equity President Nick Wyman.  He was replaced by Kate Shindle with a little help from votes  by her Los Angeles friends.

Act II was a change of pace compared to the frenetic Act I.  It was quieter, more deliberate.  A group of Angelenos filed, but not serve, a lawsuit against both Equity and Equity Executive Director Mary McColl.  The idea was to find a way of bringing about mediated talks without having to sue Equity as was done decades ago.

The ploy worked.  Under the agreement that Mary McColl would be taken off the lawsuit, Equity and members of the LA theater community entered mediated talks supported, in part, by a $75,000 crowdsourced campaign.  And along the way, there was a quiet change in L.A. leadership as theater critic Steven Leigh Morris became the new executive director of the LA Stage Alliance.  Act II ended in June when Equity announced the failure of the mediation.  The LA plaintiffs served the lawsuit and the curtain came down.

Act III began on August 22, 2016 when the Los Angeles Theater community met in another town hall meeting to present and discuss its vision of what new intimate theater contracts should look like.

This week, KCRW critic Anthony Byrnes gave a concise history of the situation from inception to present.  His summary is particularly good for people who haven’t followed closely the events unfolding since February 2015.  And to bring us up to the moment, Hoyt Hilsman over at This Stage  and Paul Birchall over at Stage Raw  give accounts of the most recent town hall meeting.  Or just judge for yourself by watching the video capture below.

With the lawsuit working its way through the court system and both sides having now clearly defined their positions, Act III may end up just as unpredictable as the previous two.

Update August 24, 2016:  The official version of the new vision for intimate theater presented by Larry Poindexter at the town hall meeting is now online.

Update August 25, 2016:  The full program is now available on video:

Update August 27, 2016:  Hoyt Hilsman further expounded in the Huffington Post about Michael Shepperd’s town hall comments on the impact of Equity’s new L.A. policy on diversity in the city.  This prompted a direct response from Equity’s Executive Director Mary McColl.  Kevin Delin noted that McColl’s response directly contradicted her own policy and Hilsman responded to McColl’s statement.

About Tracey Paleo

Tracey Paleo is Associate Editor at FootLights Magazine. She's also the Founder and Chief Editor of the arts and culture site, Gia On The Move, where she often reviews live performance events.

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