A crucial Actors' Equity membership meeting is being held Friday at 1 p.m. at the Doolittle Theatre, at which members opposed to the new 99-Seat Actors' Theatre Plan (the restructured Equity Waiver plan voted in by referendum in April) may have a chance to vote to rescind it.
The contention is that if more than 750 members show up and more than two-thirds of them vote to rescind, Equity must comply. But the union's western regional director, Edward Weston, has already contested the constitutionality of such a vote.
Equity issued a paper last week, clarifying its position in the ongoing controversy. There was nothing especially new in it, except that it more lucidly laid out the reasons why the actors' union felt a change was needed in the Waiver (whereby Equity "waives" certain rules in theaters with fewer than 100 seats)--namely to rectify abuses and professionalize small theater.
However, the paper did nothing to allay the concerns of some actors and Waiver theater operators about the manner in which the amended Waiver plan was voted into being or what many see as its "unworkable" restrictions.
The Actors' Plan, which becomes effective Oct. 3, faces some challenges. Among them: Charges brought last week against Equity's Western Advisory Board by 11 actors and actor/producers who allege that the referendum violated Equity's constitution and by-laws, membership resolutions and voting rules. The group's attorneys have asked Equity executive secretary Alan Eisenberg to appoint a hearing committee to look at the evidence and render a judgment.
Contacted Wednesday, Eisenberg said "I have no comment; I'm meeting with lawyers today."
Whatever the outcome of Friday's meeting, it's unlikely we've heard the last of this dispute.
MORE STEW FOR THE POT: The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers met last month to discuss developments in the Waiver situation.
"We're trying to foster the community's growth at the same time as fostering its professionalism," said spokesman Barnett Kellman, a member of this society's executive board. "The consensus is that there are good things in the kind of laissez-faire of the Waiver community. Our members want to see that preserved. At the same time, we want to see theater out here professionalized in a way that won't squelch its growth. Directors are also concerned about rights of consultation with playwrights, issues of casting approval and amount of rehearsal time."
Is this an official position?
"It represents the activity of a newly formed committee of West Coast members within the union. Vision is what we're looking for. We feel the (actors' 99-seat theatre) plan may be regulation-heavy and we don't think Draconian measures are the right approach. The society wants to make it feelings known in the hope that by throwing its hat in the ring people will come and talk to us."
Interested parties may do so by calling Dorothy Lyman at (213) 465-8431 or 464-1522.
WHAT GOES AROUND: It may not be the same group of people, but yes, Shakespeare is coming back to the John Anson Ford Theatre. Ben Donenberg's Shakespeare Festival/LA will be taking its Citicorp Plaza production of "The Comedy of Errors" to the Ford Sept. 10 and 11.
"We've had great support and raised the $50,000 we needed," said a jubilant Donenberg, who chiefly credits supervisor Ed Edelman with making the move possible.
The production, set at Mardi Gras in 1920s New Orleans, will be directed by Kevin Kelley and mounted backwards on the Ford stage, allowing an audience of about 400 to sit on stage around it.
Citicorp play dates are Aug 13-Sept. 4, 3:30 p.m. Admission everywhere: nonperishable essentials for the needy. Call (213) 489-1121.
WORKING THE NOTES: The Los Angeles Theatre Center has appointed Paul Hough to head a newly formed Musical Theatre Lab that hopes to address "significant human, social and artistic issues" in "new combinations of talent."
"It sounds lofty, I know, but my notion is that musical theater can contain the highest of notions," said Hough, a Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle award-winner for "Berlin to Broadway" in 1985. "Too often books for musicals have contained simple ideas, or been adaptations of simple stories less important than they should be.
"When I look at the history of music, it seems far more dedicated to seriousness. It's the kind of thing we'd like to allow to happen. (Stephen) Sondheim's 'Into the Woods' and even (Craig Lucas') 'Three Postcards,' strive for a mythic dimension. One of the lab's main functions will be to find teammates with the same concerns who'll want to write about the same things."
Serious ones, of course.