Letter: Equity Stonewalls L.A. Theater Company

This open letter to the L.A. Theater Community first appeared on Facebook and is reprinted here with permission:

Dear Colleagues,

Actors Equity has chosen to put us on the public “Do Not Work” list. We want you to know the facts.

For the last year, we have been attempting to have the Academy Repertory Company (our member company that was established in 2003) designated as a Member Company. We have been denied that classification. Equity’s official reason for that denial was that our application didn’t include “Academy Repertory Company”.

According to Equity:

Your company was registered as New Musicals Inc./Academy for New Musical Theatre.

The demonstrably provable fact is that we registered all three of our branches in the same application, including our Member Company, the Academy Repertory Company. But Equity seems to be determined to deny our repertory company’s status as a Membership Company by somehow invalidating our paperwork.

We have asked for a meeting with Gail Gabler and Allison Harma about our membership company on ten separate occasions over the past thirteen months, but Equity has refused to take a meeting with us on this subject on all ten occasions, insisting instead that we take a meeting with them to discuss the new minimum wage contract. We have, on each occasion, respectfully informed Equity that contracts are inapplicable when we are clearly a Membership Company and our members are joyful volunteers, and have been for 14 years.

Instead of agreeing to meet with us about our Membership Company status, and explain to us why they are insisting that our paperwork was incorrect when we can prove that it wasn’t, Equity has chosen to put us on the national public “Do Not Work” list, causing very real damage to our name and reputation across the country.

Those of you with whom we have had the pleasure of reading and singing new musicals know how respectful we are of actors, stage managers and all theatre artists. Please continue to know that you are all always welcome at the Academy Repertory Company, New Musicals Inc, and the Academy for New Musical Theatre, whether you’re a member of Equity or not.

Scott Guy, Executive Director
John Sparks, Founding Director
Elise Dewsberry, Artistic Director
New Musicals Inc./The Academy for New Musical Theatre/The Academy Repertory Company

About Peter Finlayson

Peter Finlayson is the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-chief of FootLights magazine and footlight.click. While working on a prelaw program at the University of Michigan, he happily got involved with the theatre program. Much to his mother’s chagrin, law school never happened, but in a career spanning more than 4 decades, Peter has performed, directed or designed more than 150 productions. In his spare time, he is working on a new play. You can follow him on Twitter @Thtrdog .

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  1. The Academy for New Musicals (ANMT), also known as New Musicals Inc (NMI) has been an incredibly valuable resource for both playwrights and actors in Los Angeles. The company of actors, many of whom have belonged to ANMT/NMI for more than a decade, consider the organization indispensible both for career development and opportunities to be seen by myriad audiences.

    The actors are, in every sense, members of the organization with longstanding and loyal ties. For Equity to deny NMI the chance to even discuss the situation would be laughable if it weren’t harming so many people. I urge Equity to have a dialogue with NMI and reconsider their mistaken ruling.

  2. I am astonished that Equity is refusing to consult with such a magnificent and reputable membership company as NMI. Please let these people keep doing their great theater work! It”s a tough enough world for the arts, without Equity trying to put a stranglehold on good companies.

  3. Once again, AEA’s actions are despicable, and inexplicable. While I’m so glad that I withdrew from AEA years ago, I’m angry that AEA is strangling the my L.A. theatre community. I have heard the plight of those at NMI over the months as this situation has developed and as they continued to try to get a meeting with AEA. There’s is no reasonable explanation why they have been denied the proper classification, or AT LEAST given a meeting to discuss the situation.

  4. Alas, Actors Equity — which once was necessary to protect the rights of actors — is no longer about actors or equity, as proven by this deplorable situation. AEA is a bureaucracy, run by bureaucrats who have no interest in art or theatre or the real interests of their members. Of course everyone wants to be paid for his/her work, but in the peculiar geography of Los Angeles, small theatres simply can’t make enough to pay actors what they’re worth. If actors, in that situation, choose to volunteer their time and talent so that they can play the kinds of roles they NEED to play to grow in their art, why is their union determined to prevent them? In my opinion, every Equity actor in Los Angeles should simply resign from the union. Period. End of story.

  5. Actors Equity has become a basket of deplorables.

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