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Offstage Villains, Heroes

January 04, 1987

Theater critic Dan Sullivan wrote about actors leaving live theater performances for more film and television employment (Dec. 14).

He quoted a local director as saying, "The real villain of the piece is Actors' Equity. . . . In practice, this means rehearsals can proceed right up to the dress rehearsal and preview and, if Mammon beckons, the actor can blithely excuse himself and turn the whole project over to an under-rehearsed understudy. . . ."

It is fashionable to blame Actors' Equity for all the ills of the theater, but most unfair, and in this case just not true. There are various ways an actor can terminate a contract, depending on the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

But, quite simply (in a regular Equity production), the actor is prohibited from leaving during the rehearsal period up to the opening performance. (The producer, however, still retains the right to fire the actor during the rehearsal period.)

If there is a "villain," it is not Actors' Equity but a society that still does not consider acting a serious profession, and actors deserving of earning a living like real people.

All of the actors I know, and I know a lot, are deeply committed to live theater and to serving the audiences which support live theater. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they could concentrate on their art without the constant specter of unemployment, underemployment and underpayment.

EDWARD WESTON

Western Regional Director

Actors' Equity Assn.

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