We really like to qualify each other, don’t we? I suppose I’m generally talking about theatre here, but I think it applies generally.
For example, when reading a play, the first few pages usually mark the First Production. But it wasn’t really the first production, was it? It was the first Professional production, except it wasn’t the first professional production, it was the first UNION production.
Aside from what that means…what does that actually mean? Well, it could mean that a group of people got together who work for a theatre that is under an Equity contract decided to get the rights to a script and hold auditions for actors who either are already members of a union, or are willing to become members of a union. And then they put on the show and so it became history, written in program form at the beginning of the published play. Certainly there are myriad variations this story could have, but generally speaking, that’s the gist.
So then if my friends and I, or even people I don’t know got together and did this same play BEFORE it was published or produced by a union company, what did we do? As far as posterity is concerned on a larger level…nothing? I don’t think so.
I blogged awhile ago about certifications. And I don’t refute the idea of certifications. If I go into cardiac arrest, I’m sure as hell hoping the person with the paddles took a class at some point. But in the arts, we are certification union-status degree loving certificate holding assholes, aren’t we?
Look, it’s fairly evident that the person who takes it upon him or herself to teach armed stage combat should probably, and in some official way, know what he or she is doing. Somebody could get physically hurt. All I’m saying is, do I really need a master’s degree to teach somebody how to be seen and heard onstage. I don’t think so.
Lucky for me, I don’t really want to teach somebody that anyway. I’m pretty content to just do.
What am I trying to say here? Oh! Right. That we are a bunch of stuck up blowhards. That’s it. Myself included.
There are these ongoing Union v Non-Union battles occuring on CHris Jones’ page every day (mostly in the comments section). Union = Quality!
Um. Welll….it can, sure. What it really equals is protection. On some level. It’s a guarantee of payment for the actor. Guarantee of a meal, and guarantee of a cot backstage to tape a nap, I guess. What bothers me is that somehow this backstagey actor protection plan has mormphed into the equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. We, Actor’s Equity, have decided that YOU, actor, are talented enough to warrant health insurance…
Sure I’m oversimplifying, but c’mon. I’ve seen an Equity show with an actor that Equity-sucked. I’ve seen a non Equity show with actors that rocked.
Why does everything have to be so goddamned official all the time? Yes, I only buy toothpaste that has been recommended by the American Dental Association. Why? I have no idea. It’s what you do, I guess. I go to doctors that have been given the high sign by my insurance company because that means they are cheaper. That’s for damn sure. Do I also realize that the insurance company’s investment in said doctor has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of care given beyond giving me enough care to save said company money? Yes. But what the hell am I supposed to do about it?
Nothing. But, I feel like I am one good brainstorm away from helping the ol’ Non-Equity community.
Why haven’t we tried to start a free clinic?
Why don’t we call bullshit on producers that take advantage of us (I’m talking to tech people, too)?
Why don’t we shout to the heavens and everyone we know when we work with a director that is fantastic?
Why don’t we also shout to the heavens when a director we work with is a douche?
We need a Non-Equity honesty brigade. No dues. No contracts. Just a sense of Right.
Screw the blog and online conversations about “good theatre” or “bad theatre”. It’s fucking subjective. It just IS! There are actors I think blow BLOW. They are terrible. Awful. Untalented, shrivelly little raisins on the stage, and yet I have friends who think they rock. Who cares?
We all deserve some protection. I’ll certify that.