In Case You Missed It: Equity News Heats Up Out West and George Costanza's Coming to Broadway

News   In Case You Missed It: Equity News Heats Up Out West and George Costanza's Coming to Broadway
 
Actors, they are a funny lot. During an era when most unions are crippled by government action and the lobbyist efforts of well-funded corporate interests, stage performers are still rather robustly represented by the Actors’ Equity Association. And, yet, some of the group’s members seem to just wish the union would go away and leave them alone.

Last month, relations between the union and its rank and file in Los Angeles became strained over Equity’s plans to overhaul the city’s 99-Seat Theatre Plan contract. AEA has created a proposal for a new contract, which would guarantee actors and stage managers are paid a salary no less than minimum wage. (Under the current plan, members receive a performance stipend, which can be as little as $7 a performance, that allows them to perform as an Equity member). However, the West Coast theatre scene responded negatively. With more pay for the actors, detractors said, experimental theatre in small houses might no longer be possible.

Matters continue to escalate/deteriorate this past week. On March 23, a group of actors actually picketed their own union headquarters in L.A..

AEA responded by issuing a statement, which said, in part: “Actors' Equity Association believes 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. Equity's proposal, which resulted from six months of intensive listening to all sides of the issue has been created to answer three distinct messages from our membership — they want to be able to collaborate with like-minded artists, continue to participate in membership companies, and be paid for their work. Equity believes that actors should be respected and compensated fairly for their work, just like directors, musicians, set designers, and other professionals who are compensated in 99 seat productions. Equity has repeatedly stated that these are proposals and should not be considered the final decision of the union.”

Later in the week, members of Equity in Los Angeles begin voting today on their union's plan. AEA members in good standing who reside in Los Angeles County can vote today through April 17. The vote is only advisory. The union’s national council will decide on April 21 whether to accept, modify or reject the proposal.

Jason Alexander
Jason Alexander

*** Who better to replace Larry David in his own play Fish in the Dark than Jason Alexander? After all, Alexander basically played a version of David for years in the sitcom “Seinfeld,” which David co-created.

Alexander will step into the production when David finishes his scheduled run on June 7. The production, which was scheduled to close on that date, will now extend through July 19.

Alexander is, of course, a Broadway vet who has a Tony Award on his mantel at home. But he hasn’t been on a Broadway stage for 25 years. Why? Well, apparently he was offered a role in this sitcom by some unknown named Larry David, and it kinda took off. Very circular.

***

Musicals don’t get made into films much anymore. The recent Into the Woods and Jersey Boys are two rare examples.

So, it was news that Sony Pictures had decided to produce the film version of the hit show Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which concerns the early life and career of the singer/songwriter.

The film adaptation will be produced by Tom Hanks and his business partner Gary Goetzman as well as Paul Blake, who is the lead producer of the Broadway musical, which continues at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

The motion picture company will have the rights to King's songbook as well as those of her collaborators Gerry Goffin — King's ex-husband, who died recently — and Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, another songwriting team who are featured as characters in the show.

*** Theatrical press agents are no longer content to dwell in the shadows of show business, it seemed.

The last five years have seen book-length memoirs by flacks Merle Debuskey, David Rosenberg and Susan L. Schulman. (The first, written by yours truly, arguably kicked off the current onslaught of publicist memoirs.) Rosenberg wasn’t content just to write down his recollections. He also performed in a one-man show about his experiences.

And now we have Call My Publicist! The Starry Education of a Broadway Press Agent, a show starring and written by Josh Ellis, a Broadway press agent active mainly from 1973-92. Gretchen Cryer will direct a staged reading of the piece April 8 at the York Theatre. Ellis handled more than 60 shows in all, including many Off-Broadway, but his main claim to fame is he worked for infamous Broadway producer David Merrick as part of the team at the Solters & Roskin office, during the latter part of Merrick's producing career. He also later opened his own agency, The Joshua Ellis Office.

Ellis served as press rep for such landmark shows as Mack & Mabel, 42nd Street, The Elephant Man, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Big River, Fences, two revivals of The King and I and the Frank Langella revival of Dracula. Among many top Broadway press agents who worked as Ellis' associates at various times were Adrian Bryan-Brown, Chris Boneau, David LeShay, Jackie Green and Susanne Tighe, who are all still active in the theatre.

Maybe they, too, will soon have their own shows.

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