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Edward Weston, 81; Actors' Equity Leader Launched Waiver Plan

September 21, 2006|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Edward Weston, a former dancer who was instrumental in crafting the 99-seat theater plan that allowed Actors' Equity members in Los Angeles to work in small venues without insisting they be paid union scale, has died. He was 81.

Weston, who was the Western regional director of Actors' Equity from 1968 to 1990, died in his sleep of complications from a thyroid condition Sept. 6 at his Venice home, publicist Dale Olson said.

In 1978, the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle gave Weston its Margaret Hartford Award, which was usually reserved for a theater artist. The group singled out Weston's work on the 1972 Equity-waiver plan that freed actors to perform in and produce themselves in theaters seating 99 or fewer people.

A modified version of that plan remains in effect today.

"It hasn't produced the employment we'd hope for, but it's helped many actors get jobs -- if not on stage, in films or TV," Weston told The Times in 1978.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday October 02, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Edward Weston obituary: The obituary in Sept. 21's California section on Edward Weston, Western regional director of Actors' Equity from 1968 to 1990, said the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle gave him its Margaret Hartford Award. It is the Margaret Harford Award.

He went on to sum up the hazards of his job: "Most of my day I spend being yelled at. The actors don't like me because I don't do enough, and the producers don't like me because I do too much.... So it's gratifying to get some recognition."

He was known as a straightforward negotiator whose dedication to the arts gained him respect at the bargaining table, said Mary Lou Westerfield, national director of policy for Actors' Equity who worked with Weston in Los Angeles.

"Because he'd been a dancer, he was particularly caring for dancers and the concept that their careers can be so short," Westerfield said.

When he became aware of a program in England that helped retired dancers segue to new professions, Weston helped launch a similar program in the U.S. in 1985.

"He couldn't understand why we didn't have it in this country. He made it happen. It shows his initiative, drive and vision," Westerfield said.

Weston, who was born Aug. 24, 1925, in Chicago, was cast in 1942 in a touring production of "Best Foot Forward."

He went on to dance in "Allegro" on Broadway and appeared in the choruses of several shows, including "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

During World War II, he served in the Army.

Afterward, he toured Europe in "Oklahoma!" and danced in a string of live TV shows and films. In the late 1950s, he was part of a backup group that performed with Jerry Lewis.

Movie studios also called upon Weston to tap-dance in post-production, then dubbed the sound of his footwork into musicals, Westerfield said.

In retirement, he remained active with the Actors' Fund of America.

Weston is survived by a brother, Seymour Goldfarb of Boynton Beach, Fla.

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