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99 Seat Plan: Minimum Wage v. Stipend

Fact: It’s hard to make a living in theatre, so hopefully you aren’t here for the money. It’s even harder to make a living in theatre in LA. You might be asking “why are they so horribly special?” Well, there’s this magical thing called the 99-Seat Theatre Plan. It’s a code drafted up by Actor’s Equity Association that allows it’s union members to ear as little as $7. Oh, no, not $7 an hour… $7 dollars a week. How can they expect anyone to live on $7 a week? Now clearly they don’t expect this because the code states that this is solely for a theatre with 99 seats or less. It can’t be a larger space that has cut back, nor can there be standing room. I do have to give credit to equity, they still require the companies to maintain the parts of the contract that are necessary for health and safety, including but not limited to rehearsal hours and company representatives.

In some ways I support the plan. It allows for theaters with a great design team and great script to get great (typically well paid) equity actors without having to sacrifice their budget to wages. This is great if well known film actor is really passionate about a piece. THEY CAN AFFORD TO BE PAID BASICALLY NOTHING.

Above is a promotional video for The Actors’ Gang, a theatre company in Los Angeles which operates on a 99-seat code (not contract, it’s very specific). They’ve had actors such as Helen Hunt and Jack Black on their stages, so the 99-Seat Plan does have it’s upswings.

I sit and hear story after story about how hard it is to make a living in the arts. I listen to my recently graduated friends who nanny in the day so they can stage manage at night to build their resume. Why do we think we deserve less? Why do we accept this fate that tells us we, as artists, are destined to fail? Tom Buderwitz puts it perfectly: “There has been talk over the years that Los Angeles theater gets no respect. Respect starts from within. We must place a higher value on our work and ourselves. It is time.” Check out the rest of his article here. 

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