The Playgoer: Reform the Equity Showcase?

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Reform the Equity Showcase?

Downtown impressario John Clancy has now joined the theatre blogosphere. A welcome entry.

I'm interested in his campaign to reform the Equity "Showcase" code, which allows union actors to work in small "off-off" (decidedly not for profit) venues for free. This exemption is crucial in maintaining some minimal quality of acting in the more adventurous work being done on the fringes here in NYC. At least the plays that do require experienced and/or just older actors. Otherwise, off-off would just be community theatre. It also allows for directors to work on a high artistic level on a project outside of the instituitional system as long as they and a few good actors feel passionately enough to volunteer their time to.

With the unique perspective of a very active downtown producer, Clancy (who also founded the NYC Fringe Festival) offers constructive criticism of the code as it now works, and is drafting on his site an alternative. He's inviting feedback and collaboration, so take him up on it.

He also wants to change the language of how we classify such theatre ("Indie Theatre" does have a nice ring to it) and proposes a "League of Independent Producers" to pool resources and promote each others' work. Personally, I wonder if the idea of a league of fringe artists isn't a kind of oxymoron. One of the wonderful things of a strong fringe scene is you never know where the next great show will come from, and it might come from some loner just off the boat who never was in "league" with anyone.

Still, nothing wrong with building community and joining forces--especially for promotion and for lobbying for better conditions with Equity, building codes, city hall, etc.

A good discussion on this also at Matthew Freeman's blog, with comments by Clancy and others. Apparently limits on length of run is one of the Showcase's big problems.

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