Company founding artistic director pens scathing letter in response

 

Actors’ Equity Association, the national union of theater performers and stage managers, recently notified several award-winning Los Angeles theater companies, among them long-time membership company Evidence Room, that Equity has no record that they have ever produced in Los Angeles. Evidence Room founding artistic director Bart DeLorenzo has written a trenchant letter in response.

As part of a set of new Rules and Agreements that Actors’ Equity is attempting to institute in the Los Angeles theater community, the union is in the process of determining whether or not dozens of small theater companies working in theaters with 99 seats or less qualify as “membership companies.” This is a designation that would exempt them from substantially increasing actor pay in accordance with new rules for non-membership companies. The union’s new rules have served to galvanize and unite theater practitioners who oppose them, and have become the subject of heated debate in the media.

Equity’s requirements for acceptance as a membership company are twofold: one, the theater must operate primarily for the mutual benefit of its members; and two, the theater must have produced in Los Angeles prior to February 6, 2015.

Several theater companies have been notified that they are being rejected as membership companies because, according to Actors’ Equity, there is no record that they have produced in L.A. prior to February 6.

Evidence Room (http://evidenceroomtheater.com/), a company that has been in existence for 20 years, has produced more than 50 plays in Los Angeles and was named by the Los Angeles Times in 2001 as “L.A.’s most valuable rising theater,” received such a letter from Actors’ Equity, which stated that, “Based on the information that we have, it does not appear that your company meets the requirements of the membership company rule, because your company had not produced under the 99-Seat Plan prior to February 6, 2015.

Please see below for the response from Evidence Room founding artistic director Bart DeLorenzo:

Dear A—–,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. Please forgive my astonished response. As someone who has been directing and producing shows with the Evidence Room Theater for 20 years, I was really taken aback by your determination that you had no records of our theater, especially since I personally have probably signed and mailed in about 40 of those 99-seat forms registering our shows with Actors Equity over the years. And yet there are none in your records? I have to say it makes me curious about the record-keeping over there…

To me it was like your wondering if Nathan Lane had ever performed in a Broadway show. (I just looked it up: he’s done 20, about half the number of 99-seat shows Evidence Room has registered.)

A simple Google search would probably also have told you as much. (Which is what I conducted on you when I wondered who it could be that was asking such a, forgive me, LA-theater-ignorant question.) Or a conversation with practically anyone working in theater in Los Angeles might have helped you. Or if you have seriously managed to misfile all those forms over all those years, you could also have looked at our company website, which might have led you to several articles on the company in the Los Angeles Times. We haven’t been hiding.

I have to say that I have been listening for months now to Los Angeles actors complaining about the willful ignorance of their Actors Equity representatives and Equity’s dogged willfulness to eradicate the LA theater ecosystem, but your email is my first actual direct Equity encounter. And I have to say, you do nothing to correct the terrible impression everyone keeps criticizing. You perfectly enact the pattern of carelessly shooting something down based on little or no facts and asking questions later. And that just seems so out of character with the excellent meticulous and conscientious Equity stage managers I’ve worked with over the years. What is happening?

Now, A—–, your resume shows that you have worked with all sorts of people I know and respect and perhaps you have just been given a task completely outside your area. (I know I would have a hard time sorting through foreign theaters and making determinations about them.) But I have to wonder why you were given this job. Isn’t there one person in all of Actors Equity who is familiar with Los Angeles theater? If not, maybe that’s the bigger problem.

Well, A—–, you are undoubtedly tasked with many more letters like the one you sent me to deal with so I shouldn’t keep you any longer, but I would be remiss in not taking this moment to encourage you and your Equity brethren to dispense with all this bureaucratic nonsense and sit down with the 99-seat theaters and have a conversation. You all must know that this edict-on-high approach isn’t working and is never going to work. If you try to move forward with it, there will be lawsuits and strikes and rallies and all sorts of unpleasantness. The Union isn’t listening to its own members and even the most casual glance at history can tell anyone that a house divided will not stand.

Everyone in LA theater wants actors to be paid more money, but there are too many Equity actors out here for that to work in the proposals that Equity has hastily revised and thrust at the community. (They perhaps save Equity’s face a little, but don’t really do anything to address the real issues.) So please, I encourage all of you over there to get to know LA theater a little more before you try to administer it so strenuously. Rip up your unpopular proposals and start fresh with a community that really wants to work with you. If you want, A—–, you can start with me. I’ll be happy to tell you about my 20-year-old company and anything else you’d like to know.

All best,

Bart

PS Below are some 99-seat titles you can use to search — with their production dates. If you can’t find any of these in your files, I can perhaps send you more. Please let me know if you need any additional information.

1995 | SWELL| May 11 – Jun 18 | LEONCE & LENA | Oct 27 – Nov 26 | THEHOUSEGUESTS | Nov 1 – Dec 2 | 1996 | THE LIFE OF STUFF |Apr 27 – Jun 28 | I’M DREAMING, BUT AM I? | Jun 16 – 30 | TALES OF THE LOST FORMICANS | Sep 14 – Oct 26 | EARLY MORNING | Sep 19 – Nov 2 co-production w/ Tuesday Prod. | SWEETHOSTAGE | Nov 15 – Dec 21 co-production w/ Real Theater | 1997 | ANDROMACHE | May 1- Jun 8 | THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST | Jul 10 – Aug 3 co-production w/ Fabulous Monsters | ALMOST BLUE | Sep 19- Oct 26 | 1998 | ONE FLEA SPARE | Sep 12 – Oct 24 | 1999 | FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID | Apr 10 – May 16 | NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH | Oct 23 – Nov 28 | 2000 | THE BERLIN CIRCLE | May 11 – July 7, 2000 | SPEED-HEDDA | Aug 12 – Oct 1 co-production w/ Fabulous Monsters | SAVED| Oct 21, 2000 – Feb 4, 2001 | 2001 | COLOGNE: OR THE WAY EVIL ENTERS THE WORLD| Jan 18 – Feb 2 | THREE DAYS OF RAIN | Mar 28 – May 26 | DON CARLOS | Jun 9 – Jul 29 | THE IMPERIALISTS AT THE CLUB CAVE CANEM | Sep 15 – Oct 20 | DELIRIUM PALACE | Nov 8 – Dec 16 | THE LOST CHRISTMAS EPISODE | Dec 1 – 23 | 2002 | DOG MOUTH | Jan 12 – Mar 2 co-production w/ Padua Plays | Feb 9 – Jun 22 | PENTECOST | May 25 – Jul 13 | NOTHIN’ BEATS PUSSY | Aug 10 – Sep 14 | HOLLYWOOD BURNING | Oct 3, 2002 – Feb 6, 2003 | HOT PROPERTY | Oct 10, 2002 – Feb 22, 2003 | CRINGE | Nov 14, 2002 – Feb 9, 2003 | 2003 | MAYHEM | Mar 20 – Apr 19 | THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH | Jun 7 – Jul 20 | MESSALINA | Oct 5 – Nov 16 | 2004 | HARD TIMES | Charles Dickens | May 1 – Jun 6 | THREE FEET UNDER | Jul 15 – Aug 8 | HOMEWRECKER | Aug 14 – Sep 11 | DARKRAPTURE | Sep 25 – Nov 6 | 2005 | FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID | March 12 – May 7 | THE BLACKS | May 21 – April 26 | KILLERS | July 23 – Sept 3 | SHE STOOPS TO COMEDY | Sept 17 – Nov 19 | 2006 | INSIDE THE CREOLE MAFIA | Feb 4 – Apr 2 co-production w/ Luna Ray Films |THE CHERRY ORCHARD | May 27 – July 2 | 2007 | ATTEMPTS ON HER LIFE | Nov 10 – Dec 15 co-production w/ Unknown Theater | 2009 | THE RECEPTIONIST | Aug 5 – Nov 21 co-production w/ the Odyssey Theatre | 2011 | MARGO VEIL | Jun 8 – Aug 14 co-production w/ the Odyssey Theatre 2012 | IVANOV | Apr 11 – June 16 co-production w/ the Odyssey Theatre | 2013 | ANNAPURNA | Apr 20 – June 9 co-production w/ the Odyssey Theatre | 2014 | PASSION PLAY | Jan 25 – March 16 co-production w/ the Odyssey Theatre