Spring News Roundup
New Theater Movement in LA; Michael Shepperd elected to AEA National Council; Laura Zucker Steps Down at LACAC; Dan Bonnell on a Slow Road to Recovery
By Paul Birchall
As LA theater continues to adjust to Actors Equity’s tone deaf rewriting of the local intimate theater scene, a group of the city’s small theaters have bound together to form a sort of consortium – an organization of theaters that have been denied the membership status exemption in the new Union rules — meaning that unlike those theaters have been granted that exception by AEA, they are not allowed to have AEA actors volunteer and accept expense reimbursements.
A press release, first published by Footlights, lists 16 local theater companies that have formed the Independent Theatres of Los Angeles — members of which include the creative core of the L.A. stage community, including the Fountain, the Odyssey, Skylight, and the Santa Monica Playhouse, amongst others – and notes that, as their first collaborative event, they’ve already held general auditions for interested non-AEA talent. Almost one thousand actors have been seen so far.
Skylight Producer Gary Grossman, also one of the former plaintiffs in the recent Pro99 case against AEA, states in the release that ““The purpose of ITLA is to say to Los Angeles and all other cities listening that our theaters will continue to provide an opportunity for all artists to volunteer their craft,” which is a euphemism for the theaters hedging their bets, now that many of ITLAs theaters, including the Odyssey Theatre and the Skylight Theatre, are on AEA’s “do not work” list for AEA actors, because of the theaters’ refusal to sign the union’s new collective bargaining agreement. Grossman says that all actors (AEA and non-AEA) are welcome to work in these theaters, though the AEA actors will have to sort out their options directly with their union.
In other union matters, another plaintiff in the AEA lawsuit, Michael A. Shepperd, was just elected to the union’s National Council – yes the same Council that overturned a 2/3 referendum of local membership in April 2015 to preserve the former 99-Seat Plan. AEA’s National Council, in its actions, has been largely dismissive of the stated concerns of Los Angeles stage actors over the past two years.
Can Shepperd make a difference? Or will he be yet another in a chorus of voices in the wilderness? To represent local interests, he’ll need to conduct a charm offensive, and he’s the right man for that job – capable of being both charming and offensive, each when needed.
Changes at LACAC
Laura Zucker, the sometimes prickly, super-smart Executive Director of the LA County Arts Commission has announced her resignation, after serving 25 years in the post.
“The last 25 years have been filled with wonderful opportunities to grow the arts in Los Angeles in so many ways. I’ve been continually inspired by the resiliency and ingenuity of the artists, organizations, educators, advocates and arts and culture supporters who shape our region. The Arts Commission is terrifically positioned to move into its next phase and I’m ready for new challenges,” Zucker said.
Zucker’s myriad accomplishments include the eightfold increase of the public arts grant program, which funds almost 400 nonprofit arts programs. In addition, according to the County’s press rep, “Ms. Zucker was instrumental in the adoption of Los Angeles County’s civic art policy in 2005, and since then more than 40 civic art projects have been completed and another 40 commissions ranging in size from $10,000 to $1 million are underway. She led the creation of Arts for All, the region’s initiative dedicated to restoring arts education for all public school students, which is now working with 65 out of the County’s 81 school districts. She also spearheaded the creation of the largest paid summer arts internship program in the country, which employs 132 undergraduates each summer to work in performing arts organizations”
No word yet on Zucker’s replacement
Landmark Globe Theater Faces Bulldozers
It looks like one of West Hollywood’s last remaining independent theater companies is in danger of losing its home, as Odalys Nanin’s decade-old Macha Theater Company is engaged in an old fashioned gentrification battle with landlord Emser Tile, who owns the building in which the Macha Theater resides. The landlord has filed notice to demolish the theater, along with a number of buildings around it, to create an updated mixed-use complex.
The Macha Theater itself, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary operating in the former Globe Theater on 1107 N. Kings Row, is a unique structure, built to resemble Shakespeare’s Globe Playhouse, with a circular stage and audience on pew like seats at three quarters round. Under Nanin’s watch, the theater has steadfastly devoted itself to productions of relevance to the local LGBT community, including self-produced shows including Marilyn, My Love, The Adventures of the Lieutenant Nun, and Garbo’s Cuban Lover.
In an attempt to prevent the demolition of the unique performance space, Nanin filed a request with the West Hollywood City Council for the theater to be named a historical landmark, which would preserve the space. In a brief conversation at the West Hollywood City Council Meeting in April, Nanin noted to me that the playhouse “structure is a post-war corrugated building, the only one in West Hollywood, and the inside is a precise half scale model of the original Globe Theater. It has been there for 45 years!”
Although the contract consultants hired to evaluate the building’s historical status returned a report stating that the site was “probably ineligible for designation through the Commercial Historical Resources Survey,” the theater points to consultants from the LA Conservancy and the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance who noted that building’s historical merits.
At a recent West Hollywood City Council meeting, the city council ordered its staff to perform additional analysis and evaluation of the historical value of the Macha, as well as the buildings surrounding it. Noted Nanin, “(If Macha goes), there will be no artistic landmarks in the city of West Hollywood. Yet, we’re considered ‘the Creative City’!”
We’ll keep you informed as to how this story develops.
Dan Bonnell’s Long and Winding Road
It’s been over a month since we learned about director Dan Bonnell’s stroke, right on the eve of a production planning meeting at Sacred Fools Theater, The news has been covered thoroughly and sympathetically in Steven Leigh Morris’s piece for this website, but now we’ve learned that actress Jacqueline Wright has started a Facebook fundraising page to help pay Bonnell’s medical bills. Dan still hasn’t woken up, though he’s being weaned off a ventilator and is showing some signs of what could be interpreted as responsiveness. Be sure to follow Stage Raw for more information!
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