"[The Showcase Code] has helped to create a matryoshka doll of inequality in New York City theater."Is my favorite sentence on the blogosphere today.
|Here is a rabbit.|
I'm not putting this in as an asterisk -- here's a very important point from the producer's point-of-view:
- Federal law prohibits discrimination against employees based on their membership in labor organizations. You do not get to decide on whom to hire based on whether they're Actors Equity or SEIU or AFM or not. They might have signed an agreement with one or more unions saying they wouldn't take non-union work, but you cannot decide for them. Whether you hire or fire anyone is dependent on factors other than their union status.
- You, the employer/producer, may insist your employees pay a collective bargaining agent. But this only applies to employers in states which do not have "Right To Work" laws. Talk to your favorite labor lawyer if you feel like doing this.*
There are a lot of restrictions on the contract though -- the number of shows you can do, the ticket prices, etc. It is made to keep the producer from making any money on a Showcase production. Which is ironic because, you know, "making money" in theater isn't a problem that any off-off Broadway theater producers have.
So we're not really concerned with the exploitation of surplus labor for Capital in the case of actors (and writers and designers and directors) in the way of off-off Broadway theater because there is no money in it. In fact, the producer is all but guaranteed to lose money while making off-off-Broadway theater. There is actually no way around it.
The fact is, though, that New York indy theater sucks.
Compared to the (this is my blog and so I will say) objectively better theater scenes in San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington DC, indy theater in New York is simply terrible. It's boring. It's no fun. There's only two exceptions to this:
- Theater made by my very close friends
- Theater that isn't produced under the Showcase Code
The first thing is self-evident, of course. But the other kind of theater in New York is what I'm discussing. There are three companies I'm thinking about. They're all producers of long-running shows and they're all non-Equity.
- One is Sleep No More which has a fairly large cast, is very interesting, and actually pays their actors/dancers something in the $125/performance range (as I recall). The show is on an open run and actually makes the producers money.
- Two is Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. This is an ongoing 2-nights a week show by the New York version of the Chicago company The Neo-Futurists. The actors in that company make something -- I don't know how much, I think several hundred dollars a years. Just enough to cover subway basically.
- Three is (and yes, I gag while I type this) The Wooster Group. Nowadays the Wooster Group is part of the establishment, man. But they pay around $850 or so a week? And they do a lot of theater.
I have a gazillion complaints about The Wooster Group but the fact is that all three of those companies at least try to do things that are theatrical and interesting. And most of the downtown theater does not. They do plays about two guys in black turtlenecks talking about living in Brooklyn in their 20's.
One problem with theater, as a thing to do, is that it takes quite a while to make a given piece any good. The fact that you can't do any more than 18 shows under the Showcase Code means that necessarily you haven't done the show enough to make it not suck. And you also can't make enough money in ticket sales (because of the limitation in ticket price) to keep renting whatever space you're using anyway.
Those three companies above, and every company in DC, SF, and Chicago, don't have those problems. And (as noted above) their theater scenes are objectively better and more interesting.
*You do not feel like doing this. But the union might negotiate a contract with you wherein you agree to make sure all your employees are paying them to collectively bargain for them. And there are other restrictions and Supreme Court precedents and nonsense.