Tag Archives: Odyssey Theatre

Actors’ Equity Association vs. Los Angeles Theater

 

Steven Leigh Morris

Steven Leigh Morris, Executive Director of LA Stage Alliance

by Steven Leigh Morris

PART I:
The National Stage Union is Sued (Yet Again) by Its Own Members

If the showdown between the New York-based actors/stage managers union, Actors’ Equity Association (AEA, or Equity), and the L.A. theater community were a soap opera, I’d have changed the channel long ago. This show has been on the air since 1986, and these guys really need to come up with some fresh storylines.

For the uninitiated, last year, AEA announced that it was terminating the 99-Seat Theater Plan, an agreement between the union and its L.A. County membership that’s been in place since 1989, though it’s been regularly modified since then.

The Plan governed the way most of L.A. theater was performed for almost 30 years. It permitted its 7,000-8,000 union actors to volunteer in L.A. County theaters of no more than 99-seats, should they wish to do so, for reasons of artistic fulfillment and/or professional advancement. Examples of the latter include multiple examples of shows produced under the 99-Seat Plan transferring — often with the actors who created those roles — to larger theaters under contract within Los Angeles as well as to other cities, including Chicago and New York.

The Plan also presented a boon of opportunity to playwrights, whose new works wouldn’t stand a chance in theaters with higher production budgets. But that’s another story.

As volunteers under the Plan, union actors had the right to leave at any time. The actors were guaranteed minimal expense stipends per performance from the producers along with union health and safety protections. The 99-seat cap was designed to ensure that producers wouldn’t exploit the actors financially. A ticket price cap was also built in, for exactly the same reason, along with a cap on the number of performances for all such productions. This was all agreed to in the 1989 out-of-court settlement of a contentious lawsuit filed by a number of actors against their union in September, 1988. Those plaintiffs, led by actress Salome Jens and including some of the same plaintiffs who returned for another round in 2015 (Tom Ormeny, Maria Gobetti, Joseph Stern and Gary Grossman), believed that in a field (the theater) with such pervasive unemployment, the union had been unreasonably restricting their right to work under conditions and for reasons that they (the actors) found useful.

Among the litany of complaints in the current lawsuit is that Equity refused to meet for an entire year with the L.A.-based “Review Committee” that was created in the 1989 out-of-court settlement. Among the purposes of the Review Committee was to advise the union on its proposed changes to the Plan. On learning in November, 2013, that the union intended to end the Plan, the Review Committee requested a meeting with Equity to discuss these rumblings. Equity’s 99-Seat Plan Administrator, Michael Van Duzer, granted that meeting eight months later, in July, 2014. But shortly before that meeting, Equity’s Executive Director Mary McColl fired Van Duzer, cancelled the meeting, and never scheduled another.

Now let’s flash back for a moment, to the mid 1980s. You’ll find the complaints on both sides to be almost identical to today’s. This failure of the union to meet with representatives of L.A.’s small theaters, for example, was a pattern that had unfolded about 30 years prior.  Continue reading

Advertisements

Forever Flamenco heats up the westside with ‘Luz Y Sombra’ led by Gabriel Osuna on Feb 21

Forever Flamenco_Gabriel-Osuna

Gabriel Osuna

Because of the set design for our current hit play Dream Catcher, this month’s Forever Flamenco returns to West L.A. as guest production at the Odyssey Theatre on Sunday, February 21st at 8pm.

Journey from the traditional roots of flamenco to experimental projects featuring mixes from Osuna Productions. Under the artistic direction of guitarist Gabriel Osuna, the evening will feature dancers Vanessa Albalos and Briseyda Zarate; singer Vicente Griego; percussionist Gerardo Morales on the cajon; and guitarists Osuna and José Tanaka. The Los Angeles Times hails the series as “the earth and fire of first-class flamenco,” and LA Splash says, “Being the sensual, intimate art form that it is… the way you feel when you walk out of a Forever Flamenco performance is pretty darn fabulous.”

Forever Flamenco is produced by Deborah Lawlor and James Bennett. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard, LA, CA 90025

More Info/Get Tickets

“Accomplices” Playwright Bernard Weinraub Honored in New York

Bernard Weinraub, author of the Fountain hit play The Accomplices and a 1959 graduate of the City College of New York, will be inducted into CCNY’s Communications Alumni Hall of Fame at the 37th annual dinner of our organization on Wednesday, May 9 2012 at the National Arts Club in New York. Like others before him, Bernie is being honored for his career accomplishments since graduating from CCNY.

Weinraub is a former New York Times correspondent and the author of The Accomplices, a hit play at the Fountain (2008) which dramatized the true story of Peter Bergson’s crusade to wake-up the FDR administration to take action to save Jews in Nazi Germany.  The Fountain revival of the play one year later at The Odyssey Theatre was also a sold-out success.

The annual dinner of the City College Communications Alumni typically attracts some 100 guests, many drawn from our membership roster, which includes an impressive array of opinion leaders from the media, advertising, public relations, film and video.  Among previous Hall of Fame alumni are writers and editors at major media and leaders from allied fields. Past inductees to our Hall of Fame include the novelists Walter Moseley and Oscar Hijuelos, as well as journalists from the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Associated Press and TV and radio network broadcasters.