Offscript: The Tiers and Tears Edition

The L.A. 99-Seat Theatre wars get a full airing with special guest Isaac Butler, and the editors have some recommendations.

Every other week, the editors of American Theatre curate a free-ranging discussion about the lively arts.

This week, we take a deep dive into the roiling brouhaha over the L.A. 99-Seat Theatre Plan, and Actors Equity’s new proposals to change it from non-remunerative “showcase”-type code to an actual, minimum-wage-paying contract. It’s a topic we’ve covered with an in-depth piece or two, but to address the controversy’s national implications—and explain it to people not familiar with the Los Angeles theatre scene—senior Rob Weinert-Kendt, who cut his teeth covering the West Coast, is joined by Isaac Butler, a longtime D.C.- and Brooklyn-based theatremaker, freelance writer and all-around culture pundit (mainly on his blog Parabasis). The conversation veers into some obvious and many unexpected areas on this hot-button issue.

Meanwhile, Rob is joined by fellow senior editor Eliza Bent for a chat about the upcoming issue of American Theatre and about a new frontier of theatrical experimentation: showtimes. The two editors conclude the show with recommendations: This time it’s Eliza’s turn to rave about the musical phenom Hamilton (now headed for Broadway), and Rob gives long overdue props to the indispensable L.A. theatre website Bitter Lemons, a review-aggregating site which has been ground zero for the 99-seat wars.

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  • Louedda

    Why on earth wouldn’t you involve someone in this discussion who actually LIVES IN LA AND WORKS IN LA 99 SEAT THEATER?!

    • It’s a good question, Louedda. I’ve personally done a lot of reporting on the L.A. point of view, as it’s the city where I was formed as a theatre journalist; Isaac represents an articulate voice from outside the scene. Indeed, both of us are mostly observers/journalists about our respective scenes, rather than people in the trenches on either side (either pro-99-seaters or Equity). I think back-and-forths between the directly affected parties are already going on, including in the stories I’ve reported and elsewhere. The idea here was that having a thoughtful discussion between two who are observers–Isaac is not a union representative, and I’m not an L.A. theater producer, but each of us respectively is pretty well informed about those points of view–would add something to the discourse. It’s not intended to be the last word.