• Donyale Werle

    I too was very upset reading this article. It was so clearly written
    from the perspective of management that is alienates much of the
    industry. The tone of the article is also confusing. It seems to support
    this new law while at the same time it details clear instructions on how
    to avoid paying the money that would equal this overtime pay.

    I would like American Theater magazine to do a financial story on the
    thousands of non-salaried freelance theatrical employees (directors, actors, designers, choreographers, playwrights, stage managers, etc.), many who make far below $47,500 a year, and most would not qualify for this overtime pay. Our work is often at the center of your magazine, but our dismal economic realities are far from the public eye.

    Donyale Werle

  • Carson Elrod

    This was a very hard article to read. It’s hard to see a magazine about the theatre help brainstorm how to avoid paying theatre-professionals a living wage and game the system as new rules are put in place. Theatres have a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the American business sector that our model can be based on dignity and a fair wage for hard work. I’m looking forward to the companion piece in which that model is advocated for and celebrated rather than this one which explains how to do the opposite.

  • Nick Westrate

    Ms. Tran,

    I am writing regarding your article in American Theater Magazine entitled “Something’s Got to Give.” I found the piece to be a spurious attack not only on hard working theater employees across America, but also on the very ethos of the art form itself. It indeed reads as a cheaters guide to maximize profits for these “not for profit” institutions at the expense of the hard working people who keep them open. I also find it completely absurd that you are writing the follow-up piece after demonstrating complete disregard for the lives of these employees. I don’t know if you make under 47,000 dollars a year, but as someone who has made under that threshold during many many years in my life, I can tell you that it is not easy to survive, let alone start a family, or plan for a future.

    Working in the theater is a labor of love, but it is indeed labor. Our president, Barack Obama, has courageously stood up for workers rights and extended overtime benefits. This is the type of action that should be celebrated, and theaters who work their employees into over-time hours should not rely on them to do this based on love of the institution, but rather compensate them for their efforts. These men and women have children, aging parents, or perhaps just lives outside of work that should be valued. Their employment should not be threatened, and institutions like Theater Communications Group should really think long and hard before recommending their members cheat and undermine their workers.

    “Not-for-profit” institutions must compete, and I am very aware that it is not easy in the current economic and political climate. But using the tactics of unfriendly corporations and right-wing think tanks does not align with the ethics of the American Theater that I have devoted my life to.

    I sincerely hope that you, American Theater Magazine, and Theater Communications Group consider your words and actions more carefully. I also hope that you recommit to the rights of working people and artists who comprise the vast vast majority of your readership and workforce.

    – Nick Westrate

    Proud AEA, and SAG/AFTRA member

  • This is editor Rob Weinert-Kendt. We’ve heard your complaints about the piece and taken them to heart. While the overall intent of the piece was not to create a “cheaters’ guide” so that theatres can subvert a progressive law that is long overdue, we can see now that the dispassionate tone in which we’ve listed the options that employers have (weighing onerous solutions equally with more generous ones), coupled with the way the piece is directed (entirely to managers’ concerns, not to workers’), makes it seem like we’re endorsing the idea that theatres should maintain the status quo at all costs, and at the expense of workers. That was not our intent. We could/should have written and edited this with all our readers in mind, not only theatre managers. Rather than rewrite the piece, though, we want to address this oversight with a follow-up piece, so we’re currently seeking feedback and input (which can be kept anonymous) from any theatre workers who make a salary of less than $47,000 to find out what they think of the new rules. You can contact the author of this piece, Diep Tran, at her email, dtran@tcg.org. Thank you for reading and responding, and apologies for not getting this completely right the first time.

    • Andy Lang

      While your willingness to admit to doing a poor job and address the other side of this is admirable, albeit tardy, I question the decision to do a separate follow-up. I’d much rather you pull the piece now, and replace it with a more expanded, even-handed, respectful version when it’s complete. I fear too many readers won’t have the time or interest to read two pieces in full, especially when the publication itself admits the first one is horrendously flawed and disrespectful to a large swath of the people who make theatre happen.

      It would also behoove you to publish your comment as an Editor’s Note prefacing the article itself, should you keep it up, rather than leaving it buried down here midway through a passionate comment thread, where many readers won’t see it.

    • Robert Kaplowitz

      Thank you for this response! Many people who fit your description have commented on my facebook post of my above commment; I have urged them to follow up as you request above.

  • Michael Milligan

    Anyone theater manager can figure out how to cut corners and exploit people- there’s no need to write an article about it.
    Better for someone to spend some mental effort figuring out how to run a successful theater while at the same time honoring the dignity of work.

  • Amanda

    Indefensible, unethical piece. How can American Theatre and TCG stand behind the practice of circumventing a law that has been put in place to help workers attain a living wage? Have we become so corporatized that we have forgotten the principles that any self-respecting arts institution ought to live by and espouse? Disgusting.

  • Desmond3

    This article makes me furious and sick to my stomach. I would like an answer from American Theatre Magazine as to why they published something that encourages undervaluing the hardworking, highly trained professionals who work hard to create the American Theater.

  • Commish McKenzie

    I honestly can’t tell how tongue-in-cheek suggestion #5 is. I’m hoping extraordinarily, because otherwise it would be both offensive and deeply unethical for American Theatre Magazine to be suggesting this as an actual path to take.

  • Rachel

    Wow. So this right here is the reason I’m a fan of government regulation. Because there will always be people trying to find loopholes with which to cheat their employees out of their fairly earned wages.
    I’ve done my share of summer stock theatre and I don’t care how traditional it is, it is not actually okay when a theatre hires me telling me I’ll be working 9-6 with Sundays off, which of course during crunch time turns into three straight weeks of working 9-10 or even midnight with no days off. When me and my fellow shop workers calculated it out, it came to at least two weeks of free labor that was not factored into our salaries.

  • Robert Kaplowitz

    While I’m glad this discussion is happening, I am so deeply offended by the tone of this article, which is, essentially, a cheaters guide for how to avoid paying your employees what the federal government has determined to be a fair wage.

    Indeed, I find suggestions #3 and #5 to be utterly repugnant. You are suggesting that the way to respond to a law that is desperately trying to pay people what they deserve is to CUT their salaries so that when they work 50, 60 or even 80 hours in a week for the sake of making your plays, they continue to make starvation wages? Or, better yet, let’s deny them health insurance! Because, of course, when theater employees catch pneumonia or their teeth start rotting out of their mouths, it’s really in the theater’s best interest to make sure they can’t afford to go to a doctor. After all, they had to sign up for the very lowest tier of the ACA, because it’s all they could afford on the terrible salary you’re successfully paying them. And, of course, they don’t have time to go to the doctor anyhow – they’re too busy working 72 hours a week for you.

    Is this really what American Theatre Magazine proposes? Do the editors here stand behind this? Is this what American Theater itself stands for? A goal of continuing to find ways to exploit workers for the sake of a company’s bottom line?
    Yes, to suggestions 2, 4 and 6 – raise pay, cut hours, or expand staff! That’s the goal here. If your theater cannot afford its employees hours, demand less of them. Let them have the time to pursue their artistic careers – or a second job that pays better.

    And I can’t even begin to respond sanely to that relieved dismissal over the worry about freelance artists. Gosh and golly, thank goodness the US government hasn’t found a way to insist that you start paying the directors, designers and actors fairly; after all, we’re just the ones who make the creative product which is the reason your business was founded. Let’s rejoice that, after we’ve found a way to cheat that poor development associate out of enough money to make rent on their shared 1 bedroom apartment, and still have enough to buy actual produce plus their transit pass, you don’t have to worry about paying your artists any better.

  • Katrina Frances Lewonczyk

    This article is offensive.