Monthly Archives: December 2013

Old Navy Khakis

As the theatre community is rumbling for change in the wake of NEWSIES and KINKY BOOTS tours being announced as going out on tiered production contracts, let’s not waste time pointing fingers. Truth is…every single person who makes a dollar in the theatre is a fraction of the problem. Presenters, producers, the union, and each and every one of us who are members of the union. I think now is a good time to shed a little light on the root of the problem here.

IDEOLOGY

Our union’s fundamental guiding principle in negotiating with producers is no longer in line with how most of us feel.

“For saving the resulting 48 Equity jobs — more jobs than the average touring show and jobs paying far more than the average Equity job — the union received considerable grief – not so much from the cast as from other members — for having “allowed” the B.E. producers to reduce the actors’ salaries. The truth is that AEA doesn’t allow producers to reduce member salaries, AEA allows producers not to eliminate member jobs. Would you rather have 80 jobs at $2000 a week or 400 jobs at $1000 a week?”

-Nick Wyman (AEA President)

As aspiring actors we arrived in NYC knowing full well the risk we were taking. There has never been a guarantee of employment, but there used to be a CHANCE of earning a living. As Equity continues to “save Equity jobs” by lowering salaries, fewer and fewer actors have that chance. It is a question of quantity or quality.

I, personally, support more aggressive negotiations that could result in fewer union jobs but with the union jobs that remain having appropriate salaries. Ask yourself if you feel the same way. This is the issue at the heart of the matter. Do you want more jobs that pay less or perhaps fewer jobs that pay more? Touring will never be what it was but what legacy do you wish to secure for the future?

As you mull this over, maybe think about the skills you offer as a union actor like a luxury item. Yes, you can go to Old Navy and get the square-shaped khakis with the crooked seams that will unravel in a few months but wouldn’t you rather have the slim-cut chinos from J. Crew that feel so fucking nice. I am not likening non-union actors to Old Navy khakis. CALM DOWN. But I am saying that with the union brand what you are paying for is a guarantee of quality. If we don’t believe that we are the best…why should producers?

*You can read the full letter by Nick Wyman here.

Advertisements

Yes. Do it.

This morning I woke up and checked my FB in bed as I always do. Usually this involves dropping my phone on my face a few times before my fingers wake up or I drag myself to an upright position. The very first thing I read was a new blog from Annoying Actor Friend, which you can read here. It was like Christmas morning had come all over again.

People were heatedly and intelligently discussing what should be done in the wake of NEWSIES and KINKY BOOTS going out on tiered production contracts. People were asking what could/should be done. Asking if there is anything we CAN do. Saying words like PICKET, UNION, ORGANIZE.

This is how change happens. It’s not about having answers right now. It is about not being afraid to ask the QUESTIONS. It is about showing strength in numbers. It is about collectively arriving at a new understanding. It is about stepping out from behind our computers and looking each other squarely in the eye and demanding change. Change from each other, our union, and our industry.

People have brought up the idea of picketing auditions. Yes. Do it. Make a peaceful scene. Make the union and its membership accountable to their actions. People are always saying that there is always another actor in the wings waiting for your job. Yes. There is. But I challenge that actor to walk across a line of his/her peers who are standing up for what is right. It is time for us to be accountable to each other. To do something for the good of the community and not just the good of the individual. Sometimes you have to be willing to burn things to the ground in order to rebuild something better.

I am excited to be living in a time where actors are beginning to realize their power. We are valuable and it is high time that we begin acting that way. People only treat you as well as you demand to be treated. Demand more.

Whether you agree or not, please be a part of the discussion and make YOUR voice heard.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 10th at 2pm. Equity mtg 14th floor of equity bldg.

Panhandler.com

Today I got an idea for a website…

Welcome to PANHANDLER.COM!

Kickstarter. IndieGogo. GoFundMe. They all sound so cute and entrepreneurial. Here on PANHANDLER you’re just going to have to own up to your self-seeking humbuggery.

I keep coming across people using crowdfunding sites for their own personal gain. Vet bills, yoga teacher training, plane tickets to weddings, etc. I know that I am particularly curmudgeonly but am I really the only one who’s bothered by this? When did this become ok?

How about we just call it what it is? Good ol’ fashioned begging. Would these people who are trying to get their hands on your hard-earned dollars take their lazy, entitled asses to Penn Station and ask commuters for dollars? I mean face-to-face asking someone for money. The kind where people dismiss you, wave you off, and say “fuck you, you bum.” Quite frankly I would find that to be more acceptable and perhaps even admirable. It’s humbling to ask someone for help. It teaches you compassion. It gives you a real sense of humility and gratitude. It puts into perspective the relevance of your “need.” You don’t get that from sitting on your couch and setting up a donation page with a cute pic and witty copy.

If you need dollars for your next step in life, think about picking up an extra shift. Hustle. Work harder. Work smarter. Tap in to the resources around you. Use your networks and see if you offer a service that someone needs. Solve your own problem. Don’t ask me to do it for you. Maybe I’m a fool but I think that the greatest part of the human experience is living through the bullshit. Solving your own problems. Changing your own situation. Working shitty hours at shitty jobs.

Instead of KICKSTARTING something with crowdfunding, why not JUMP START your life by living it for yourself?

“If you can’t say anything nice…”

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I call bullshit. What is so great about being NICE? Did we learn nothing from the witch (as sung by Bernadette…not Vanessa or Victoria) in INTO THE WOODS.

“You’re so nice.
You’re not good,
You’re not bad,
You’re just nice.
I’m not good,
I’m not nice,
I’m just right.
I’m the Witch.
You’re the world.

I’m the hitch.
I’m what no one believes,
I’m the Witch.
You’re all liars and theives,
Like his father,
Like his son will be, too-
Oh, why bother?
You’ll just do what you do.”

Could Stephen Sondheim have gotten it more right? If your mind isn’t blown by that lyrical truth-telling, I’m worried for humanity. Being nice might ensure that you have lots of “friends” but being honest will ensure that you have the right friends.

Please, everyone. Tell your truth. Tell it freely. Encourage others to do so. When someone tells you to “hush” continue to tell your truth. Silencing opinions that are contrary to an agenda is a tired old maneuver. Politicians and parents have been using it for years.

Lest you think that I am promoting slander and hate-spewing, here are some things I think we should all be aware of when speaking our truth…

  1. If you wouldn’t say it in public, don’t say it online. Have the courage of your convictions. I once got into a Facebook word fight with a casting director who took offense to something I said about Sutton Foster. Believe me when I say that I would have said it in public and I would have said it to Sutton Foster herself if she had asked me what I thought about her performance.
  2. Ask yourself if you are speaking from an honest place. Are you speaking out of jealousy? Not that jealousy doesn’t deserve a voice but maybe that voice should only be heard in your own home. I’d hate you to lose your street-cred because of an emotional outburst.
  3. Truth-tellers don’t  get to worry about consequences.
  4. Be open to discussion. People are going to want to argue with you. Welcome the discourse. We can all learn from each other.
  5. Serve praise with as much fervor as you dole out your disdain.
  6. Feel free to ignore 1-5 because I pretty much believe in your right to say whatever you want. The good, the bad, the honest, the jealous, the hateful.

When did “positivity” became the most acceptable outlook? When did having a negative opinion of something become a negative thing? You can work within the current belief system or you can build your own and start to change the game. Having a different opinion is ok. Supporting that opinion with fact, experience, and passion is even better. Engage. Discuss. Learn.

I’d rather right than nice.