Equity Waiver Wars

by Cynthia Wands

I remember when I worked in San Francisco as an actor, yes, in the 1980’s, and there were the “Equity” and the “Non-Equity” theater wars. This was during a period of time when Equity Waiver contracts were being negotiated for the smaller San Francisco houses, and a non-union organization, BATWA, wanted to be part of the dialogue. (BATWA stood for “Bay Area Theater Workers Association”.)  I was a member of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) and I was a member of BATWA.  There were yelling, screaming sessions with small theater managers and actors and playwrights. I remember that it did not end well. Thank God those days are over.

I ended my membership in AEA in the 1990’s, for many reasons, but especially after attending some of the Los Angeles area AEA meetings.  (Yes, there were more of those yelling, screaming sessions  that did not end well. This time between AEA members and AEA union officials. I remember thinking when I left those meetings for the last time: Thank God those days are over.) And now here we are, in 2015, with a similar conflict going on in the theater community once again.  In this Bitter Lemons article, you’ll find some of this yelling and screaming behavior still going on in the comment sections:

Bitter Lemons: Just a National AEA Councillor and a Los Angeles AEA Member Having a Friendly Conversation…

In the past few weeks I’ve been following the conflict and the articles and the calls to action:

Stage Scene LA: 99 Seat Plan in Jeopardy

The Huffington Post: A Love Letter Wake Up Call

Backstage: Equity Fires Back at LA Theater Critics

There are so many real and passionate issues to be considered in this conflict: I wish the noise of it all could be voiced without the mud slinging and fury.

Ballots for the vote on the plan will be mailed to the AEA members on March 25. The ballots will need to be returned by April 17, and the union’s council will make a final decision on the new 99-seat plan April 21.  I’m no longer an AEA member, so I won’t be voting on this issue, but I can see that this new plan will affect the future of how theater is produced here in Los Angeles. I might not be saying Thank God those days are over.

Crystal Globe










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