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December 09, 2013


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Leaving aside the issue of the Bats for a second; can't a building be an investment in a company's future and stability? If you own rehearsal space you don't have to pay to rent it, and can rent it out to others. If you have a more attractive and comfortable theater, you can attract new audiences (remember them?) and donors. If done right, in the long term this could provide a stable base to eventually increase staff, budget and stipends. (It could also be a clusterfuck, but that's probably not the intent!)

As for unpaid interns, while I'm not a fan, isn't it a little bit like med school or something? You work hard to get better at your craft and make connections and then it supposedly pays off? I'm not sure I buy that myself, but I'm just not sure it's evil either. I worked (in a paid union position) at a prominent summer theater whose interns PAID to be there (for housing, technically). It was a little appalling to me when I started, and it definitely limited who was able to come, which I still hate. But it was also SCHOOL. Those kids learned an amazing amount, and every single one of them who stuck with it works constantly now, traced directly to those contacts. The system worked. I grant that it would also have worked if we had paid them. (This was in production, not acting, which is of course a whole different can of worms.)

I don't know anything about the Bats. It could be horrible slavery. It could also be an amazing experience that everyone loves. I'm not saying they shouldn't get paid, but unpaid interns and a new building aren't necessarily related, or necessarily bad.

Michael Davis

"The Bats who... used to have to pay to audition". Is this true? I've lived in New York for a while, and I've never know this to be the case.

I think the discussion you're provoking is an interesting one. Whether or not it's ok for not-for-profit, non commercial institutions to ask young artists to work for "opportunity" rather than money. Is this practice valuable to the arts, to the artists, or is it exploitation?

However, asking young actors to pay to audition would be crossing the line, and if The Flea did this at some point it certainly speaks to a displacement of values. As far as I'm aware The Flea has never asked actors to pay for auditions. They hold open calls. Could you verify this statement? I'd be much more interested in your side of the argument if I trusted that you were publishing facts, not just taking pot-shots at an institution that you don't agree with.


Hey Michael,

My info comes from a friend who used to work at the Flea and was a regular in downtown theatre circles. The weird thing is, that it's only really in acting that such pay-to-play arrangements are considered really bad. Nearly every literary magazine, for example, even those that don't pay their contributors, charge a fee for submissions. Most schools charge you to apply. etc. and so forth.

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