Actors’ Equity members living on the west coast are about to move in to a new home this summer.
The new L.A. Equity home, located in the NOHO Arts District and slated to open this summer, marks the organization’s sixth move in the area — Actors' Equity first landed in Los Angeles in 1921.
The difference, this time, is that Equity now owns the building it’s moving into — as opposed to renting, which is one of the main reasons Equity bought this building, to control the organization’s cost over a long-term period.
According to Steve DiPaola, Assistant Executive Director for Finance and Administration, the rental market in L.A. is volatile, so when it comes to renting, costs can be rather high.
“We’re committed to being in Los Angeles,” DiPaola said. “So if we’re going to be there, it just made more sense to be able to own something and to control our costs over the long run rather than be held hostage to market variations.”
Aside from the new Actors' Equity office space, one of the major facets, and accomplishments — and goals — of the new building is the brand new Audition Center.
The L.A. audition center will be similar to the New York City center. An acoustician was brought into the space several times to make sure that the acoustics are in good condition, and so that the office staff won’t get interrupted by auditions.
“The audition center is going to be state-of-the-art,” said DiPaola. “It’s got terrific sound attenuation, it’s in a nice building that has a very high roof and no columns — completely unobstructed space in order to dance and have a terrific audition experience.”
DiPaola stated that it was important that Equity give members an Audition Center in the L.A. office so that the union can have some control over the quality of its members’ audition experience. The office will also house the usual Equity offices and staff as well as a branch of the Actors Federal Credit Union.
“The concept that we decided to design the space with was really the idea of that interior space being almost like a set on a stage,” said Shawn Bleet, one of the architects with OKB Architecture working on the new Actors' Equity building. “As you move around the ‘stage’ inside, there would be different backdrops.”
Another perk, in addition to the long-term savings, includes the ample parking space for members and staff that comes with this new building. And, more parking will allow for additional opportunities for member education seminars and events to happen in the new office.
For Dee Jay Bankhead, the project manager overseeing the construction with Denham Wolf Real Estate Services, any challenges that have come with the new building have been good encounters.
“I think in this case, the challenges are really great things actually,” said Bankhead. “In L.A., it’s a freestanding building, it’s unoccupied. We really are able to go in there and complete all the work. We are in a great position because we can do everything in one phase.”
Where members audition was another reason why Actors' Equity bought the new building in North Hollywood. It was noticed that a lot of members were not only auditioning, but generally living, in a place that wasn’t providing convenient access to the current L.A. Equity office.
“Where we are presently in West Hollywood, we are lost in all of the white noise that is Hollywood Boulevard,” DiPaola said. “By moving to our new location, which is near to where members live and audition, we are able to create a much stronger identity.”
Building a strong Equity identity is another objective coupled with this move. When it comes to the exterior of the building, Equity’s logo will be prominently featured.
“I think the building gives Actors’ Equity a real place, a standalone building, that establishes a presence in Los Angeles,” Bankhead said. “I think it gives a visual presence, and physical presence, for Equity in L.A.”
For many actors, the new Equity office gives them another closer, second home.