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   July 31, 2015

President Shindle’s Inaugural Column

by Kate Shindle


AEA President Nick Wyman

President Kate Shindle

I got my Equity card at 22. At the time, I was just graduating from Northwestern University, and I didn’t know much about Actors’ Equity Association — or unions in general. All I knew was that I had auditioned for a summer stock production of Into the Woods at Little Theatre on the Square. When the artistic director called to offer me the role of the Witch, he finished with “...and we’ll give you your card.” Since then, my summers have included projects at Pittsburgh CLO, Bay Street Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, and what I fondly remember as the “It’s A Dry Heat” leg of the Cabaret tour, in which we spent several weeks winding through Arizona and Texas.

There’s something so magical about summer shows. No matter how organized or professional they are, there’s still a sense of community that I’ve rarely experienced elsewhere. In a business where the emphasis on commerce can often overshadow the idealism and artistry that drew us to the stage in the first place, it’s always great to find those shadowy corners where the work is mostly just fun. Summer shows have consistently provided that kind of respite for me.

This summer, however, I’m not doing a show. I’m diving into my new role as President of Actors’ Equity, learning the ropes and exploring how things have changed since I stepped down from my office as Eastern Regional Vice President three years ago. And these days, I know a lot more about Equity than I did when I arrived in Sullivan, Illinois, all those summers ago. I know that the rules and protections we enjoy in the workplace were developed and fought for over many years, so that we don’t have to worry about our safety. Or having housing that makes us feel like professionals. Or whether our paychecks will clear. Sometimes, that means that we have to face the harsh reality that what we love to do is also part of a big-money industry; the Broadway League recently announced that the 2014-2015 season generated a record-breaking $1.36 billion in gross revenue. There are times when I wish we never had to leave the “play” of what we do and focus on the “work” of what we do. But that is, after all, the definition of being a professional artist. We may have fun, and we may make it look easy. But ultimately, it is our job.

I am incredibly optimistic about the future of Equity. I’m already working with our staff and Council on a number of initiatives to be rolled out in the coming months. I want to foster an environment in which our members recognize the impact the union has on our everyday lives, and seek to become more involved and engaged. I want to strengthen every single one of our theatrical communities, and help members to succeed. Everyone has a different definition of what’s cool; to me, the coolest thing Equity can do is to encourage its members to be passionate, vocal activists and ambassadors. Because that will not only make our industry more successful, it will also make our union stronger.

Finally, it’s no secret that the past few months have been tumultuous ones. Plenty of our members have concerns about whether Los Angeles intimate theatre can continue to thrive after Council voted up some significant changes to the status quo in April.

I am aware of and attentive to this situation. In fact, my first trip as president was to our North Hollywood office, where Executive Director Mary McColl, Western Regional Director Gail Gabler and I met with some of the most passionate Pro99 members to discuss what comes next. I want to help Los Angeles theatre succeed, and we had what I felt was a very productive conversation. In the meantime, there are still things to celebrate in Los Angeles. In June, Tom and Barry 2 Nights Only (Hollywood Fringe Festival) was the first show to be produced under the new 99- Seat Theatre Agreement. And our members—in fact, the whole community—can be very proud of the recent dedication of Hollywood Theatre Row. Check it out next time you’re at Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue, and visit their website at hollywoodtheatrerow.com.

That’s all for now. Back to Production Contract negotiations. Please take a minute to follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/AEAPresident (@AEAPresident) for more regular updates. Thank you so much for your votes, and enjoy the rest of your summer — wherever you may be!

This marks the first column of President Shindle since her election in May.


Contact President Kate Shindle at president@actorsequity.org.

 

From the President Archives

President Shindle's Inaugural Column

Labor Day, Unions for Artists and the Value of Unity

When in doubt, ask The Actors Fund

On Gratitude

Unsung Heroes

Changing the World, One Benefit at a Time

Evolution

On Progress

 
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