The NoHo 10
The North Hollywood 10, a Twitter group passionately devoted to passing Actors Equity Association new 99-seat theatre proposal (of which I wrote so brilliantly in my last entry). I have no idea who is connected to the NoHo 10, nor do I have any desire to. If I did, I would have advised them to add an 11th guy who's savvy about using social media, since their campaign to date has been tired missives that "actors deserve to be paid¯ and lashing out at anyone who disagrees with them as being "anti-union¯ (they applied that tag to Los Angeles Assemblymember Ian Calderon when he spoke out in support of small theatre in the city, despite his unblemished record of pro-union support). But this has been a take-no-prisoners war from the beginning. Actors Equity has steadfastly contended that everyone in 99-seat theatre gets paid handsomely except the actors, and to prove their point e-mailed the testimonial of a person who claimed that her back-breaking childcare costs weren't covered by the tiny stipend she made. But when it came out that the person in question was actually bellyaching about a job she had taken as a director and not an actor, no one backed down on the assertion that only actors were placed in a dicey financial proposition taking part in intimate theatre.For all the soap-boxing the NoHo 10 has done about being professional artists, I haven't found their social networking campaign to be either professional or artistic. The one original graphic they've tweeted is a sloppy-looking graph:
Which prompted me to tweet back my own sloppy-looking response:
They immediately blocked me from their Twitter feed for having the audacity to mock their point of view, which they have every right to do. They've blocked literally dozens of other Pro99 responders to their feed (actors who are in favor of leaving small theatre as a volunteer proposition rather than mandating actors be paid minimum wage for rehearsals and performances), which sadly indicates to me that they're not interested in any meaningful dialogue that will end in a lasting compromise. To be fair, if I had responded in a more mature fashion rather than simply parodying their slapdash production values, it's not inconceivable that they may have been more receptive to what I have to say.And what I have to say is that no one on either side is opposed to actors getting paid. That's the whole reason actors came to L.A. in the first place, to mine the endless riches to be made from appearing in McDonald's commercials and playing Emergency Room orderlies on One Life to Live. In fact, the Pro99 faction loves being paid so much that they want to stay in town to pursue those lucrative McRib ads rather than getting their live theatre performance fix by going to Scottsdale to act in a production of Come Blow Your Horn. 99-seat theatre didn't come into being because there was a massive audience willing to shell out Big Bucks to see unknown actors perform a bare-bones staging of The Two Noble Kinsmen. It was created because a bunch of actors came to town in the hopes of making money from gigs at NBC and Paramount and needed to feed their souls by acting in The Two Noble Kinsmen, even if hardly anybody came to see it (and anybody who has ever read The Two Noble Kinsmen will be aware that it doesn't possess the titillating mass appeal of Fifty Shades of Grey).
If that makes them mere hobbyists as so many of the pro-proposal faction have said, so be it. The great English actor Charles Laughton once said "Never call me a professional. I am an amateur. Amateurs do something for the sheer love of it. A professional is a whore.¯" But if the North Hollywood 10 is such a professional group as they insist, I'd advise them to hire a professional graphic artist. The only other picture on their Twitter page is their banner image, which disconcertingly depicts an empty audience in front of a closed curtain. I hope that they'll take to heart one tweet that they recently sent out that I liked very much. "The future is US; working hard together to find a way for professional theater to thrive in LA.¯ I'd like to think that "us¯ meant the NoHo 10 faction and the Pro99 faction working together, along with everyone else in the LA theatre community. That includes producers, directors, playwrights, stage managers, designers, technicians and front-of-house staff. And let's even include the audience in that collective, the one member of the partnership who no one seems to give any thought to. The vote on Equity membership support on the union's proposal for 99-seat theatre will be announced today, and however it turns out I hope that hands can reach across the aisle to try and make intimate theatre a satisfying experience for everyone who takes part in it. Otherwise, the North Hollywood 10's banner of an empty audience in front of a closed curtain may prove to be sadly prophetic.