Monday, May 21, 2007

Code Reform Movement

This is my opinion…..

Off-Off-Broadway started in 1958. It has continued and survived for 50 years and it continues to get larger every year. This longevity not only bears witness to the tenacity and devotion of the Off-Off-Broadway community, it also tells me that there is a hole in the artistic world of New York City that is not being filled by Broadway and Off-Broadway.

Off-Off-Broadway has earned it's seat at the table of legitimacy.

The Showcase Code, as it stands does not seem to work for anyone. Equity actors have expressed their unhappiness with it; the companies and organizations producing under this code are unhappy with it; and ultimately it sets theatre creators at odds with a union that is here to support/enforce a healthy environment for theatre creation.

At our meeting yesterday (Sunday, May 20th) we announced our (and by "our" I mean the Coalition for Code Reform) plans to engage Equity in a conversation on how we can work together to help solve our on-going issues.

For me it is not so much a matter of specifying the terms of a code, it is simply getting Equity to acknowledge that Off-Off-Broadway is an essential part of the New York theatrical landscape so that we can have a discussion and start to build a structure that will be beneficial to everyone.

I believe that there are 3 distinct sides to this issue; there are the Off-Off-Broadway producers (and 90% of them are artists themselves and many are Equity members), there are the Equity members and there is Equity the institution. Each of these groups have very different goals and needs that have to be addressed. If any one side does not respect and value the others, then an equitable agreement is simply not possible.

The Actor's Equity Association is an unincorporated association, which means that it is owed by its members. That means that if the members want a change.... then they can request a change. This is why the petition element of the Code Reform movement is so important. If a large number of Equity members believe that code revision is necessary, then the Association will have to take those interests into consideration.

Quite honestly I believe that the petition may be the single most important element of this movement. It is fantastic to have a discussion paper and to be able to present Equity with a well researched and thought out proposal. It is also tremendous to be able to point to the various community groups (not just OOB, but from the entire NYC theatrical community) to show the support of this movement. But it is the Equity members themselves that must stand up and have their voices be heard.

Whether this movement is successful is yet to be seen.

I know that the 9 people who make up the Coalition are all deeply committed to the Off-Off-Broadway community and have spent literally thousands of hours researching, discussing, writing and planning to try and make it successful. I also know that now is the time for change. Off-Off-Broadway is ready.

To sign the petition or to see excerpts for the May 20th meeting go to

Shay Gines
Executive Director

1 comment:

  1. Hey Shay-

    I agree that it's a great step that Equity is taking by recognizing the importance of OOB, but it's all about dollars and cents. It's wonderful to get the additional rehearsal weeks, but without extra performances, it still breaks the bank to put on a show. At the very least, there could be an increase to a 20-performance schedule. This would also help the show (producer, playwright and actors) since there is more time for the press to come, build an audience, and gain the experience of putting on a show. The whole point is to create an alternative theatre model to Broadway and Off-Broadway in smaller spaces, with smaller budgets, with less experienced actors and emerging writers, but without a viable financial base it continues to be an uphill battle. Why can't everyone make it easier so we can all breathe and make beautiful theatre?

    Joan Ross Sorkin