By PAM HARBAUGH
Here’s something interesting…It’s about Actors Equity Association, the union for professional actors and stage managers.
For 25 years, AEA has agreed to waive rules for its members working in a small, 99-seat theater. Called the Equity Waiver, it has allowed actors the opportunity to work with small theaters on collaborations of creative theatrical projects, and given them a chance to have roles they may not get in larger theaters.
However, in April AEA eliminated the Equity Waiver for 99-seat theaters and require the theaters to pay AEA members at least minimum wage ($9 an hour and $10 an hour next year). But that move was in defiance of a ruling in a 1989 litigation which stated that any change in the Equity Waiver would require a Review Committee to conduct substantial discussion among all parties involved.
Despite a membership vote, which reportedly resulted in a 2 to 1 vote in favor of Equity Waiver, AEA decided to revoke the waiver policy. That action has resulted in a lawsuit by members of the Los Angeles theatrical community who say under the new Equity rules, they would be prohibited from volunteering their talent at those small theaters; and that foisting new wage rules on the the theaters will force them to close or to hire non-union actors.
There are other facts in this.
The 99-seat theaters that had used Equity Waivers have one year to transition to the new rule. There are theaters which will be exempt: those are theaters with less than 50 seats, and produce no more than 16 performances of one production budgeted at less than $20,000.