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June 05, 2015

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Jerry Hoffman

Congratulation, Antaeus!

Frances

Chicago critic of 20+ years here. Can't say I'm surprised about the Bitter Lemons "Imperative." Here's a tangential but related anecdote: A few years ago, I was approached to review for a Chicago website whose editor has a close relationship with the Bitter Lemons peoples - the LA-based "editor" of the Chicago site used the possibility that I might get cross posted on BL as a selling point. I wouldn't get paid, said editor told me, but it was a fantastic opportunity because of the "exposure" I'd get. I couldn't believe the cluelessness/ arrogance of that offer. A) I don't need exposure and B) Hello, I need to eat. If I'm going to work for you, I think it's reasonable to expect that you're going to pay me. In like, actual money. In retrospect, I'm surprised they didn't ask me to pay them for the privilege of appearing on their website. Needless to say, I am not nor will I ever write for these entitled hucksters.

Joel Swetow

Dear Mr. Butler,
I am an Antaeus Company member. I'm writing because I think you may not have an entirely accurate understanding of what Antaeus's move to a new space is about. The notion that Antaeus is somehow gaming the Membership Company provision that Equity has put forth, or is taking advantage of actors, is simply and flatly false. In the latter case, for example, it's crucial to remember that Antaeus is an actors' collective. WE run the company, so there simply is no one there to take advantage of us. But the idea that Antaeus is going to move into a new space and continue in perpetuity to pay its actors virtually nothing while still charging dues, is equally untrue. In fact, what Antaeus is doing is EXACTLY what it should be doing and what we want theatres to be doing to grow and gradually increase their actors' remuneration and decrease their financial contribution. In its current 49 seat space, Antaeus would NEVER have been able to generate enough income or donations to increase actor pay or support a staff to grow the theatre. If you're suggesting that jumping straight to minimum wage or even to a mid-size capacity is the answer, your understanding of the economics of small theatre in Los Angeles and of Antaeus in particular is, I'm afraid, perhaps a tad scanty. Either of those two moves at this stage in Antaeus's growth would absolutely sound a certain death knell for the company. So what Antaeus is doing is without question a necessary first step, an interim step in a well thought out plan to do precisely what we would like theatres to be doing -- which is not be satisfied with where they are, and push themselves to grow and change. And it is without a doubt an investment in building a foundation for the actors of Antaeus, so that we can have the ability and facility to become increasingly more self sustaining as we grow. With these facts in hand, I'm sure that you and anyone who believes in the gradual improvement of the actors' lot in Los Angeles will enthusiastically celebrate Antaeus's bold move to a better space and a better future.

isaac

Joel,

My guess is that this was a drive-by comment, but just in case I just wanted to say that you're actually agreeing with me. I've said all along that theaters in LA put money that should go into artists' pockets into real estate expenses that aren't justified by the level of audience support the theaters have. We apparently agree on this. That, as a company of actors, you pushed your fellow actors outside Antaeus to vote against their own self-interest for the benefit of your company is worse, not better.

Joel Swetow

Dear Mr. Butler,
Thanks so much for your response. But if I'm not mistaken, I'm pretty sure you demeaned me with your "drive-by" comment, proceeded to willfully misunderstand and hilariously contort my points, continued by grossly mischaracterizing Antaeus's position, actions, and influence, and concluded by patronizingly insulting the entire Los Angeles theatre community. Pretty good for a day's work. I leave it to your readers to decide whether your position, my response, and your creative misrepresentation of it are in the same universe. Regardless, your tactics, tone, and intellectual dishonesty confirm for me that there's really no point in engaging with you any further.

Leo Marks

Isaac, you can disagree with the strategic decisions of Antaeus company members; but you should know that our Union does not disagree. Equity staff saw the plans and gave their blessing to this move well before the 99-seat referendum. So they don't seem to share your view that this represents some form of exploitation. I'd say that's because if you're going to grow a theater and an audience base to the point where you can sustainably pay your actors, this is exactly the kind of step you need to be taking.

It's fine that you have an opinion about what Antaeus company members ought to want. Nevertheless, what Antaeus company members clearly DO want is a stable home with space for rehearsals and classes and a growing audience. That's why the entire company has contributed to the campaign for the move.

Your comment about Antaeans pushing other actors to vote against their self-interest is a little weird. It's certainly patronizing to those outside actors. I think they voted the way they saw fit. (If it turns out I have the power to hypnotize or strong-arm fellow actors into betraying their own interests, I'm going to start using it for much more malevolent purposes than swaying an Equity vote.)

By the way, I agree that the Bitter Lemons debacle is an embarrassment--but only to Bitter Lemons, not to LA or the pro99 movement. The LA theater community has responded with exactly the right blend of outrage and mockery, I would say. Meanwhile, critics have defected from the site in protest, and other sites have condemned it. So it's clearly not representative of anything but a dumb idea.

Isaac

Hey Joel,

I meant no offense by the drive-by comment so I'm sorry if you felt demeaned by it. Often when someone with whom I've never interacted leaves a heated comment on a post of mine, they aren't a regular reader and never come back to read my response, so odds were good it was what they call a "drive by." Certainly didn't mean to dismiss you or your point of view.

Isaac

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