Tim Wright - What's your 99 seat story?
I’ve held off on adding my thoughts because I have an obvious bias, but I do think it’s important for anyone on the fence to know why I’m voting no, and that it goes beyond my role as a producer and Artistic Director.
I joined AEA in 2000. At the time I was also running a small not for profit theatre in New Jersey. I went to undergrad to get my degree in acting but I was also good at producing and most of all I loved the community of actors, directors, playwrights, designers and technicians that had assembled in support of a common goal – the development and production of new work for the stage. I had it all – I was running around all day doing plays and getting paid under a TYA contract and at night I was working with my closest friends in plays that we loved and getting paid under an SPT contract. Not a lot of money, but insurance and enough to live. I would have done it for free. As a matter of fact, I do now.
My grandma called me an asshole, because she thought I was being taken advantage of, because I was at my theatre all the time: taking out trash, cleaning bathrooms, building sets. To me, it didn’t matter – I wanted to be at the theatre. Even if I was there by myself, I was in service to something larger than myself. I was in service with and to my friends and the mission of our theatre. Sharing those common goals was important to me. It made me a better actor and a better person. It wasn’t all about me, it was about what I could do to serve the play, the production, the theatre and my fellows.
When I moved to Los Angeles I was told that theatre didn’t exist, that theatre was for showcases, that no one took it seriously. That was 15 years ago. I take it seriously and I know most everyone else I’ve worked with and come in to contact with the past 15 years takes it seriously. I joined Circle X almost immediately upon arriving and I found a new group of friends and collaborators and it’s been my artistic home since day one. I have been an actor, a stage manager, a designer, a producer, a custodian, an audience member and just about every other thing a person can do in a theatre. I approach everything I do professionally, whether or not there is a wage attached to it. That’s about respect for the craft and for myself and for everyone around me. I’m proud of the work we do, of the relationships we have with artists and other companies and I’m proud that it happens in Los Angeles. An outside eye may see our budgets or tax returns and think we have tremendous resources, but the fact is we struggle and scrape and beg for everything we get. We fight together as a company to realize our goals and our potential. We fight together.
I’m voting no on the AEA proposal for 99 seat theatre in Los Angeles because I believe it is wrong and I believe we can do better. We must do better. I think actors can and should be paid more but this jump is not reasonable and should have been negotiated and discussed with people like me. No matter what my title is I am an actor first. I would think that if AEA had a choice between a producer that was an actor (and member of the union) and a producer that was just a producer they’d prefer the union member, but that is clearly not the case.
Vote No and let’s send a message. We want change, but not this change. #pro99
Tim Wright AEA Member / Producer
Peter Konerko is a LA portrait photographer shooting out of Los Angeles and New York. This project is a part of the #AEAvoteNO, #Pro99 #unity99 and @ActorsEquity campaign.