Williamstown Theatre Festival Sound Crew Walks Off

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This blew up locally... then industry wide... then the LA times picked it up.


It is certainly time to start talking about pay rates, working conditions, pay to work, internships, hours worked, etc for summer theatre.

So, CB world, what needs to change?
 

TimMc

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Making theatre, even when things mostly go right, is expensive. We're about to find out how much more expensive it can be.

Lot of folks think their job has some degree of suckage to it, and given a choice for better conditions/pay/benies, have little compunction to remain. Something like 40% of the labor force will have changed jobs and/or employers in the next couple of years (and it's already started).

I'm currently looking at how much to raise my day rate. All my expenses have gone up, so should my rates.
 

Dover

Active Member
Perhaps I am missing something but from what I can gather from this article the show was long on art and idealism but short on any form of competent business management. None of the problems presented in the article seem particularly hard to overcome, mostly consisting of the crew getting wet and not being able to dry off. I know how being wet can turn a hard job in to a miserable one but it does not make sense how it got this far.
The simple solution of why they could not join the cast in the building was never explained or even questioned. Was the cast so large that they filled the entire building? Did they not have tents for the equipment? Why were those not keeping the crew dry?

Now I think the actual problem is more involved with working hours but the article does not hit this head on, it is simply alluded to by a couple of quotes. Theater is a business and must be treated as such to survive, announcing "but it's ART" does not magically make a bad business decision into a better one. Great artistic visions do not always make practical business plans. Most time crunches I have seen eventually come back to poor planning or management of expectations. We can raise our rates as much as we want and a tightening labor market may support it for awhile but with out better management of the productions resources and funding all it will result in is less theater.
 

jtweigandt

Well-Known Member
Family goes to the Circus Parade every year as Ringling comes to town. For 30 years they see the same guy "Charlie" behind the Elephants with the rolling trash can
the coal shovel and the push broom. Year in year out there he is faithfully cleaning up the Elephant dung. Finally one year the Dad steps out of the crowd, walks up to Charlie and thanks him for being there every year, but asks... Why would you shovel Elephant dung for 30 years? Wasn't there something else you could do, some other career path that might not have been as unpleasant? Charlie replies.. "What?.... And leave show business !!??"
 

chawalang

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I honestly believe that this will just be the beginning of organizations either burning or having to negotiate with organized labor. I remember how this went for Oregon Shakes years ago. It was long and hard for them to organize but they got their contract in the end.

Part of it is that a lot of people who are coming back will have a different perspective. Maybe I should have decent working conditions and pay?! Hmmmm?!

I hope this is the case where people do make it known that basic humanity is not worth the “art” in the end. At the same time I really hope that leadership has taken the time to revaluation their practices. I’m usually antagonistic towards leadership and not hopeful they will change, this is from my lived experience, however I really do hope they have done some self reflection during this time.

I’m also curious to see how these changes effect academia. Let’s all be honest working till 4am and running our physical and mental health into the ground is never worth it. Unfortunately there are parts of academia who still believe this because they were abused when they were younger.

Does this mean that there will be a huge push for organized labor? Maybe, the problem is most of their “teachers” never told them about the labor movement in “skool”. Does this mean they will pull walk outs like this to get better working conditions? Definetly!

In the end I view this as a good thing.
 

TimMc

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@MNicolai Thank you, that does lend some clarity. It changes the tone of my comments somewhat but I think the section about art and business is still some what valid in a general sense so I will leave it as is.

Bring down the curtain on shite shows. I said in another thread that live entertainment is the most emotionally, physically, and monetarily abusive of any industry I've worked in. "Tradition" is more than a song in Fiddler, it's a way to ensure that new people in theater get the same shitty hazing in conditions, hours, and general misery, at the hands of those who proceeded them. And "we" have perpetuated this b.s. myth because we, too, were victims and part of how we process that is to inflict it on others to rationalize it as 'normal'.

The business of art exists because without it, art would be pretty much a one-on-one thing, or at best "to-a-few". Without commercialization, making any kind of living as an artist of any kind, without a patron, king or duke would be nearly impossible.

What must be done is for organizations to stop making 'art' with the pretense that it is NOT a business. It is. And it costs a lot of money to throw people at a business, compensate and treat them fairly, and not abuse the concepts of internships and apprenticeships in the process.

We'll see how long this stays up...
 
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I honestly believe that this will just be the beginning of organizations either burning or having to negotiate with organized labor. I remember how this went for Oregon Shakes years ago. It was long and hard for them to organize but they got their contract in the end.

Part of it is that a lot of people who are coming back will have a different perspective. Maybe I should have decent working conditions and pay?! Hmmmm?!

I hope this is the case where people do make it known that basic humanity is not worth the “art” in the end. At the same time I really hope that leadership has taken the time to revaluation their practices. I’m usually antagonistic towards leadership and not hopeful they will change, this is from my lived experience, however I really do hope they have done some self reflection during this time.

I’m also curious to see how these changes effect academia. Let’s all be honest working till 4am and running our physical and mental health into the ground is never worth it. Unfortunately there are parts of academia who still believe this because they were abused when they were younger.

Does this mean that there will be a huge push for organized labor? Maybe, the problem is most of their “teachers” never told them about the labor movement in “skool”. Does this mean they will pull walk outs like this to get better working conditions? Definetly!

In the end I view this as a good thing.
Ya it really does start there. One reason I hate that most people who teach never worked professionally for more then a handful of years if at all. One of my college friends went right from undergrad to grad and now he is teaching at a 3rd tier theatre program in the midwest. The performance world is just as bad. We are all taught that we'll have to work long long hours for little pay and that is just how it is. Well... that isn't how it is. This is probably a good to to point out too the huge number of theatre programs out there that produce people who never actually work. The school I went to is in that bucket... only a handful of people in my programs actually went on to work in the industry. It never ceases to amaze me how unattached college theatre programs are from the real world and how much they feed into this. You are taught to do shows on crap budgets with unlimited labor, 24hr access, and essentially unlimited time which is 100% opposite of real life. Added to that everyone is taught to be a "designer" so a lot of the craft that can actually make you money is left by the wayside. Long story short, that is how we get to the place where people end up in jobs like these and take it.
 

cbrandt

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I wonder how many of these problems could be solved if we trained our theatrical administration staff a little more as managers and supervisors, and a little less as artists. These are all problems that have been solved in many other industries, but it seems that the people who end up in leadership positions are designers, not administrators. That leads to huge blind spots in planning and organization.
 

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I wonder how many of these problems could be solved if we trained our theatrical administration staff a little more as managers and supervisors, and a little less as artists. These are all problems that have been solved in many other industries, but it seems that the people who end up in leadership positions are designers, not administrators. That leads to huge blind spots in planning and organization.
Or even more likely... failed or retired onstage talent. It has always blown my mind as easy as an MBA is to get everywhere how little there are in the theatre industry. There are a ton in the R&R world but legit theatre has little to none. Added to that many companies lump artistic director and managing director together, so both "HR" and artistic are lumped together and that never works... and that person is rarely every good at both. Then there are the people who get "art administration" degrees that have so little of a handle on what actually happens boots on the ground that they cause more harm then good.
 

Catherder

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I wonder how many of these problems could be solved if we trained our theatrical administration staff a little more as managers and supervisors, and a little less as artists. These are all problems that have been solved in many other industries, but it seems that the people who end up in leadership positions are designers, not administrators. That leads to huge blind spots in planning and organization.

You're 100% right, but it's not isolated to theater. My job is in full on panic right now because of some issues that have been percolating for a while that are finally coming home to bite us, a lot of which are because a manager didn't address them. She was a dev who got promoted and had zero training, mentoring, or coaching on managing people and processes - absolutely brilliant developer and a wonderful person. But I see it a lot in IT now, and back when I was doing social work - someone who is really good at their job gets promoted to management and the thinking seems to be that they will just be good at the managing job too. Management of people and management of work is a SKILL that needs to be taught but usually isn't.
 

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