Employers paying a living wage
Sure, we’ve got some employers paying salaries with the money they made from the last show. But then we’ve got theaters with endowments, with big donors who qualify for a low LORT tier because of their box office income but can raise money for $10 million dollar lobbies. Just like we achieved Off-Broadway, all employers need to pay based on their total budget. That's the fairest way to do it but also the best way for us to be paid what we're worth.
When I work chorus, I make minimum. I rely on parts and understudy payments for a livable wage. Most contracts don’t have swings, so I can’t honestly call out if I’m sick or hurt without the show being thrown into temporary chaos. Part of that is us dispelling the “show must go on” myth. But the bigger part is negotiating for understudies and swings, sick and vacation pay, and PT so if you feel a twinge, you don’t push through til it’s a full blown injury.
Equity ASMs and "PAs"
Here’s a loop hole for ya: using Equity Stage Managers off contract doing stage management work but calling them PAs so save money. And many Stage Managers will take those jobs because of the networking opportunities and potential for future employment. I don’t blame them. But I do blame the Producers who have set up a system where the incentive for future contract work asks my Stage Management brothers and sisters to work for less.
And it baffles me that many of our contracts only require one Equity Stage Manager. We know it's a bigger job than that and ASMs deserve to be put on contract as well. That takes negotiating capital and power and I'm willing to put my priorities there.
Getting back to "normal"
No doubt the employers are going to come to us, asking for relief. And plenty of members just want to get back to work, myself included. My hope is that by the time we hit the first convention next summer, we will be past the Covid crisis and on the road back to normal. But normal doesn’t work. Normal means we are paid less than we’re worth. Normal means that there is still a majority of Producers and Artistic Directors that are white and male. Normal means the playing field for stage managers and actors of color remains uneven. So while I want us to return to work and think we will, it can’t be with business as usual. This is our opportunity to reinvent the system: in our industry and in our Union. And this convention is the opportunity to start that reinvention from the Union side.
Maintaining in-person Auditions
Listen, I love a good self tape. I can make it on my schedule, prepare as I need to, and control the quality. But there is nothing like being in the room with another human. Dancing in my living room is not the same as in a studio with actual space to move. There is an energy to a live audition, just like a play needs a live audience. While we all must have a presence on video, I won’t stand for our required Equity auditions to be permanently replaced with a digital facsimile of the real thing.
Education - for current and future members
Knowledge is power. In a really uncertain time in an already uncertain industry, we are constantly striving for answers. Even when I sat on Council, I didn't have all the answers. But I used my position, along with co-chair Jennifer Swiderski, to revamp and revitalise the Member Education programming, including New Member Orientations. That led me Entry to Equity where I helped develop the new Outreach programming and continue to train presenters. Previously, it was one staff member going out and talking to as many people as he could. Now, however, it is us, the members talking to our future brothers and sisters.
Education also means transparency. Now I know for negotiating power, Equity can't always show all it's cards. But knowledge isn't a commodity and can't be wielded as such. It's about better communication that is more constant and frankly, more human. That is achievable if it is something we demand. Sometimes we achieve that tone and often we don't. What better way to empower the 51,000+ of us who want to stand strong than by filling us with information?