Although 2016 theater news in Los Angeles was dominated by the battle over the elimination or preservation of the 99-Seat Plan, there were other stories that captured Footlights readers’ attention as well. Here are the 10 most-read pieces of 2016, along with their opening paragraphs. There’s a mix of both aggregated coverage and original insights. The list gives some indication of what theater-goers found most compelling in 2016.
#10 — Popular SoCal radio newsman and L.A. theater stalwart, Steve Julian, succumbs to cancer
The City of Angeles is the land of the motored commute. And so it’s not surprising that many in Los Angeles are accustomed to the radio sound of Steve Julian, the Morning Edition host of Southern California’s NPR affiliate KPCC (89.3 FM). His voice, after all, is boomed from the antenna atop Mt. Wilson and reaches all of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. But many in Southern California also know Julian beyond his radio personality for he sits on the boards of several theater companies and is a passionate theater maker. He is a writer, a director, and a regular participant in the Hollywood Fringe festival. He was interviewed by Footlights in 2014 about Ribbon of Life, his Fringe production then onstage… MORE
Sometimes you can be a strong presence without being a physical presence.
If you lived in Los Angeles in the past 15 years, it’s likely you’re familiar with Steve Julian’s voice. I can’t remember a time when I was in my car in the morning when he wasn’t there with me. He was the morning man for NPR station KPCC, the station’s call letters alluding to its operator, Pasadena City College. Because I live and work in the Pasadena area, he was never really far from me. But because his voice was modulated on a frequency of eighty-nine million, three hundred thousand cycles per second and beamed off the mile-high Mt. Wilson at 600 Watts, he was never far from the millions who lived in Los Angeles and Orange counties either… MORE
#9 — Equity President Kate Shindle gives her views of L.A. intimate theater
“I have to be careful what I say about this because now [LA actors] are suing us. There’s a group that has filed, but not served, a lawsuit against Equity for basically this [Equity change in the 99-seat plan]. So I can’t stray too far into it. But I think that the whole thing is something of a balancing act. I mean obviously there’s a somewhat thriving – some would say completely thriving – community out there of actors who feel that they can do the kind of work they want to do and they don’t care if they get paid. There are also members who have moved to LA – and I’ve actually even talked to some of my friends who are not involved in that conversation at all – moved to LA thinking “Let me try some tv and film.” People who work here all the time but in the meantime: “I’d love to continue to do some theater.” And they had to give up the theater because there’s just basically no way to make a living.“… MORE
#8 — Kevin Delin examines Equity’s possible motivations for eliminating the 99-Seat Plan, including a video suggesting part of the reason is Equity’s closer ties to the AFL-CIO
Understanding the moment-by-moment emotional drive of a character is fundamental to good acting. That’s why the most clichéd of all actor statements is “What’s my motivation?” (To which Alfred Hitchcock would reply “Your salary.”)
When an actor judges a character – imposing their own world view on what the writer wrought – the ability to understand motivation is lost. Or as my acting instructor often said: “Vampires aren’t trying to hurt you, they just need your blood to survive.” Die Hard is a classic film in part because of Alan Rickman’s portrayal of a villainous psychopath. Are we surprised to learn that Rickman felt his character was neither a villain nor a psychopath? A good actor will never judge a character. Actors – good actors, anyway – prepare for their roles with great imagination to ensure that each of their actions comes from a justified place.
After all, no normal human being acts against their own self-interest.
And yet that is exactly the reaction of many actors, especially those in New York City, who wonder why Los Angeles actors are fighting so hard to protect 99-seat theater. These actors assume that Los Angeles actors don’t want to get paid… MORE
#7 — L.A. Lawsuit Plaintiffs respond to Actors’ Equity President Kate Shindle remarks
“And the other is that – and I think this is one of the things that guided the Council – the idea that a mid-sized theater could open at this point, or even a smallish theater, could open at this point in Los Angeles when they had to compete with the 99-seat business model (which is much more cost-effective) is kind of preposterous.” ~ Actors’ Equity President Kate Shindle
On a superficial level – without critical thinking and in depth study – this most pernicious belief makes sense. Unfortunately, what sometimes seems to be common sense can itself be preposterous and can lead to disastrous conclusions and actions… MORE
#6 — Hollywood Fringe ends 7-year relationship with Bitter Lemons
After The Chicago Reader story on the long-time actor abuse at Profiles Theatre appeared, Colin Mitchell, Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Bitter Lemons, published an editorial which, while not outright excusing the behavior and culture found at Profiles, claimed:
What everyone seems to be either ignoring or intentionally skirting with this bizarre story coming out of Chicago is this:
These were all consenting adults.
The editorial went on to state:
C’mon, people, where is the personal responsibility?… MORE
#5 — Years of actor abuse in award-winning Chicago theater exposed
In her review, [Sun-Times critic Hedy] Weiss noted the bruises on the actors’ arms. “At one point, a female cast member is being brutally choked, then forced to give a makeshift blow job,” wrote the Chicago theater blogger the Fourth Walsh. “It’s vicious and real!”
The reason Killer Joe felt so vicious and so real was because it was. All of it: the choking, the bruises, the deep-throating of a chicken leg, the body slam into the refrigerator, [Darrell] Cox’s groping of Wellin through her dress as Joe attempts to seduce Dottie, Cox’s semierection at the beginning of Act II after Joe succeeds. “It was real,” says Darcy McGill, the costume designer, “because there was a psychopath onstage.”… MORE
#4 — Dakin Matthews examines a statement by Equity regarding actors’ pay – and whimsically follows it to its logical conclusion.
In a recent letter to the membership – I assume I was not the only person who got it – an AEA press release (“The Actual Facts”) quoted Mary McColl as comparing Los Angeles to a number of other major American cities in order to “look at the facts.” Being a great believer in fact-based analysis and planning, I appreciated the effort. And I really appreciated getting some hitherto unavailable data and one hypothetical.
The two pieces of data I was particularly grateful for were:
LA 2014-2015 “paid work weeks for Equity members” in Los Angeles County: 6,500.
LA 2014-2015 “unpaid work weeks for actors in Los Angeles County”: 11,013.
And the hypothetical I most enjoyed was the statement that
“If those unpaid work weeks were actually paid work weeks, then 99-seat theatre would represent the second largest source of paid employment in the Western Region—second only to LORT.”… MORE
#3 — Kevin Delin examines the impact of Classic works in both the sciences and the arts
classic (noun): A work of art of recognized and established value.
The inclusion of the words “of art,” however, makes this definition unnecessarily narrow. Here’s a better one:
classic (noun): A work of recognized and established value.
It’s necessary to widen the definition because works of science can also be classics. Examples include Newton’s Principia and Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. That you’ve likely heard of both these authors is proof of their works’ classic status… MORE
#2 — Dakin Matthews examines Equity’s claims that the Courts should dismiss the L.A. lawsuit
Again, I’m not a lawyer or a judge, and I was never present at any meetings of the Review Committee or at any of the facilitated discussions. I have no inside information from either side, though it must be clear by now that I support the plaintiffs’ side of the lawsuit, even though I think that some of their arguments are questionable. But I can read complex documents – even legalese – and I am pretty aware of the issues involved and the exact wording of the various documents in dispute. So I would like to add something to Steven Leigh Morris’s and Kevin Delin’s already excellent summaries and critiques of the recent Motion to Dismiss from Equity.
The first thing to remember is that a Motion to Dismiss suggests that the plaintiffs don’t even have a case. In response, plaintiffs don’t have to prove their case, only to demonstrate that they have a case. That some issues are litigable; that not all issues are dismissible… MORE
#1 — Vanessa Stewart releases a massive database proving 99-Seat Plan productions created significant paid work for Equity members
I just spent about a year of researching 99-Seat productions that moved to contracts. And here’s what I found (with help from the Los Angeles Theater Community):
At least 127 productions that began in 99-Seat theaters graduated to a level where the actors received Equity contracts.
917 Equity contracts were generated from these shows.
And since the year 2000, exactly 100 of these shows have moved. That’s an average of more than 6 shows moving to contract per year! As our reputation has grown, our community seems to have picked up some steam… MORE