If you’ve been following this blog over the last few weeks, you’ll know that I’ve been very active and very vocal in the fight with AEA about the rules governing 99 Seat Theatre in Los Angeles. I’ve been championing the value of Los Angeles’ 99 seat theatres, and how they cannot operate on the minimum wage model AEA proposes. In doing so, I’ve been indicating that theatre depends on a triad to stand: the “producers”, who find the funding, facilities, and provide the oversight; the “creatives”, who are the actors and designers that bring the production to life on the stage; and the audience, who is there to receive and appreciate the performance. In fact, I’ve argued that without the audience, there would be no theatre; actors would be like bloggers, shouting into the wind unsure whether anyone is out there.
Yet as I’ve watched the discussion fly by, the audience has yet again been forgotten. AEA thinks producers can just raise prices to provide higher wages; the audience will always be there to pay. Those organizing the rallies and marches have gotten many groups to sign on: the Producers League, the Dramatists Guild, writers, stage managers, designers. But where is the audience in all of this? Other than me, the audience’s voice has been relatively silent. Even when the pro99 forces talk about bringing groups together to work towards change, the audience does not have the ability to be a formal stakeholder, as it has no representation.
I say no more.
I say it is time for those of us in the audience to united and organize, to have our voice heard. I have decided that the audience needs a singular voice — a union (if you will) — to represent it and to ensure that the needs of the audience are met. I announce today the formation of a new group, the League of Audiences, Fans, and Others Organized for Los-Angeles-Theatre.
The goals of Audiences, Fans, and Others are simple:
- To ensure that audiences are represented in upcoming talks on the replacement for the 99 seat plan. Change is coming to the 99 seat plan, either through a “no” vote, or by AEA listening. These changes must not be unilateral; the audience must be part of the negotiations.
- To ensure that audiences have a safe and comfortable performance environment. AEA has the responsibility for actor safety, but who thinks about the audience. I’ve been to shows where the seats were reused from a 1920s theatre, and were so narrow they distracted from the show. I’ve been in theatres where the seats fall apart when you stand up. Audiences need seats of a minimum comfortable width, that are checked so they do not fail. Audiences also need adequate restroom facilities. Audiences need safe parking areas.
- To ensure that audiences can afford theatre in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is not New York (thankfully). We don’t have the tourist dollar that can pay premium prices for tickets. We have an audience that is used to affordable tickets (often due to discounting programs). We want to ensure that at least 10-20% of all tickets are available at a reasonable discount price, for every show. Additionally, parking for shows needs to be both available and affordable.
- To ensure a growing audience. When you go to many theatres, the audiences are all old and white. That must change. Audiences, Fans, and Others will design a program of audience outreach, encouraging new patrons to try and discover theatre in Los Angeles. Los Angeles’ 99 seat theatre is uniquely affordable, and we believe that if you get audiences hooked on live theatre in the 99 seat theatres, they will move up to the mid-size and larger theatres. We believe Los Angeles audiences are smart and want more than endless tours of “Wicked” or productions of “The Sound of Music”.
To fund Audiences, Fans, and Others activities, we will ask all theatres to contribute a small amount from each ticket. Probationary members will be accepted, with modest dues, with proof of attendance of at least 14 professional theatre productions (comedy clubs do not count) in Los Angeles over a 12 month period. Amateur audiences should stick to community theatre, school-based theatre, and productions at the Pantages.
I ask you, other audience members, to help me further our goal of organizing the audiences, and to spread the word.
Oh, and if you by chance aren’t an audience member… you’re one of those people up on stage… If you are an actor and a member of AEA, then by now you should have received your ballot. Actors, Fans, and Others encourages you to mark you ballot “No” and return it to Election Services forthwith (that is, promptly). We need to fight for Los Angeles’ unique theatre ecosystem and encourage that it lives, so that we, the audience members, have a wide variety of places to see you, the actors, giving your all for something other than minimum wage on stage. We thank you for your sacrifice.