Emerging From Covid, Small Theaters in Los Angeles Face a New Challenge

Demson, the producing artistic director of the Open Fist Theater Company, estimated the new law, which took effect just before California...


Demson, the producing artistic director of the Open Fist Theater Company, estimated the new law, which took effect just before California shut down, would add $193,500 in labor costs to her company’s annual budget, which now varies between $200,000 and $250,000.

Many industries have responded to the bill, known as AB5, by lobbying Sacramento for exemptions. But there is little support for that in this theater community, which tends to be politically progressive.

“It puts another financial burden on already strapped small companies,” Gilbert said. “At the same time we all support the idea that an artist should get a living wage. That’s the conundrum.”

Actors’ Equity has come out strongly against exempting its members from the law, instead pushing for financial assistance from state and federal government to help theaters get back on their feet.

“We think it’s a bad idea to have an exemption,” said Gail Gabler, the western regional director of Actors’ Equity. “We all want the same thing, We want the theater to open. It’s important for our economy and it’s important for our souls and it’s important for the actors who work in theater. But we want our actors to be fairly paid and work in safe conditions.”

As a result, theater leaders are pressing lawmakers in Sacramento for legislation that would provide aid to help theaters cover the explosion of costs. There are two main initiatives: A one-time $50 million subsidy included in the state budget for struggling small theaters, and another that would set up a state agency to handle the cost of processing the new payroll requirements.

But some small theater operators say that those bills would not do enough.

“The financial subsidies would be great if they were written as a long-term sustaining line item in the California state budget,” said Tim Robbins, the Academy Award-winning actor and artistic director of the Actors’ Gang, a small theater in Culver City. “The real question is what happens next year when there are no financial subsidies left and the new precedents for nonprofits has been established?”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Emerging From Covid, Small Theaters in Los Angeles Face a New Challenge
Emerging From Covid, Small Theaters in Los Angeles Face a New Challenge
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