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Actors' Equity's Proposal Will End Actor "Volunteering" In Small Theatres

A proposal by the Actors' Equity Association would require small theatres to pay actors minimum wage of $9 an hour instead of a lower per performance stipend. 

Ometi Anassi is a junior at USC and plays the lead role in Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea, a play that won the LA.. Times Critics Choice.

"It was for audition experience, I did not think i was gonna get it at all; it was so I could see what professional auditioning was like and see the atmosphere and by the grace of God, I got it," said Anassi

The play is currently at Skylight Theatre, one of many 99-seat theatres in Los Angeles.

Anassi said, "the 99-seat is allowing me to step into the door and introduce myself into the world as an actor so that I can aspire to one day be one of those more credible actors."

These small theatres in L.A. may soon be required to pay actors a minimum wage of $9 dollars if the union called Actors Equity Association passes the proposal.

Tony Abatemarco is a theatre professor at USC and a director at Skylight Theatre. He says raising the actors’ wages will only harm the industry.

"The threat right now is that we will lose several hundred theatres because you can’t simply say ‘Okay, we’ll move up to a high price scale. We’ll pay people even a minimum wage,'" said Abatemarco.

Under the existing equity code for Los Angeles theatres, actors get paid from $7 to $15 per performance and no pay for rehearsals. The proposed wage change would make pay a standard $9 dollars per hour, including rehearsals.

The Actors Equity Association said in a statement they believe that “after more than 30 years in which theaters have built their models on the fact that actors won't need to be paid, it is time for a positive and progressive change in L.A.'s intimate theater scene."

But Abatemarco says those who act don’t do it for the money. "It’s really not about the money. Any actor that believes they’re gonna feel better about themselves and their work if they’re paid minimum wage for what they do, in my opinion, they’re fooling themselves," Abatemarco said. He adds that people can make money other ways in order to do what they love.

And Anassi says higher wages may take away from his opportunities. "If this goes through, I wont be able to do things like that, because i’m not equity. I’m a young actor. I’m still in college," Anassi said.

The Actors Equity Association will make its final vote on the wage proposal in April.

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