Friday, December 31, 2004

Mercury Theatre building to be auctioned:
The property housing the Mercury Theatre, Cullen's Bar & Grill and the restaurant Strega Nona are to be sold in an open outcry auction, said Frank Diliberto, senior vice president of Inland Real Estate Auctions Inc. The businesses are located at 3741-47 N. Southport Ave., on the same block as the Music Box Theatre.
There are any number of uses for the property, Diliberto said. He said the site could be redeveloped for residential or retail uses, or continue as it is used now.
Michael Cullen, one of the owners of the property, said he is interested in buying it at the auction. He added that his bar and the theater will remain in operation
(from Chicago Tribune).

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Some theatres turn to eBay to supplement income:
Arena Stage auctioned off a silk kimono from "M. Butterfly" on eBay last week for $637.76. It also unloaded two hand-carved thrones from "Camelot," getting $152.50 for the pair.
It has grown to be an important source of funds, turning in-kind contributions to cash, says Shayna Englin of Mindshare Interactive Campaigns, a Washington organization that advises Arena, Signature and others on how to tackle the new fields in fundraising.
Though there are modest start-up costs and slim returns so far, compared with the organizations' needs, the beneficiaries are pleased. They are reaching people in all corners of the world, people who don't have to get dressed and be fed at a cocktail party
(from The Washington Post). I don't know of any Chicago area theatre that has done online auctioning of props and costumes.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.
-Alfred Hitchcock

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Hal Prince explains what makes for a hit:
All you have to do is tell the audience something they want to hear.
[Harold] Prince went on to expound his theory: The enduring Broadway masterpieces affirm something that matters profoundly to the audience. Do you want to believe that everyone is entitled to their 15 minutes of fame? You'll love A Chorus Line.
Is it important to feel confident that your culture will endure despite political upheaval? Fiddler On The Roof is just the show for you.
So what does The Phantom Of The Opera tell us? Back to Prince and his bagel. It's such a big hit because it sends out two reassuring messages. No matter how inadequate you feel, it's possible that the person you've dreamed about can be yours, if just for a moment.
And the second message? I still recall Prince's grin. That's the big one, kid: Love conquers everything
(from Toronto Star).

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Actors and Their Phones' Area Codes:
As unpopular as this opinion may be with those living outside the major acting cities, I think area code matters. Maybe I'm being overly picky here, but, to me, a long-distance phone number implies a long-distance actor. And a long-distance actor implies possible problems or at least additional effort on the part of those casting. For example if I am casting something and see a (707) or (215) number, my first thought is that the actor is submitting from those regions. This is unattractive, in that I don't want to call them only to find out they can't make it out for my small-potatoes project - or worse, that they plan to fly out or make a major drive just for one two-minute audition. Talk about pressure.
Long-distance area codes also give the impression that actors are not here, not committed to their careers. It seems a little like they have one foot out the door - that either they aren't pursuing it full time, or they are keeping their old numbers so they can return to their old lives if this "acting thing" doesn't work out

Steppenwolf received grant to develop new plays:
Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company is one of six theaters nationwide to receive a $700,000 grant in support of the development of new plays
(from Chicago Sun-Times).

Saturday, December 11, 2004

For a great discussion of the casting process, you can listen to CDs Barbara Fiorentino and Rebecca Mangieri, along with series creator Shawn Ryan, on the DVD commentary of episode 12 of season two of The Shield (entitled "Breakpoint"). While their comments are focused on television casting in the LA market, much of what they say also applies to Chicago. You can rent it, or buy it, and spend less than you might for a casting director workshop.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A British theatre is pricing tickets based on demand:
Anyone who uses budget airlines knows that the earlier you book your ticket, the better the deal you get. What would happen if a similar pricing strategy was applied to theatre tickets?
For all 27 performances, the first 20 seats will be sold on a first-come-first-served basis at £10 each, the next 20 at £20 and so on, until only the final 20 seats are available priced at £30 each.
(from Guardian Unlimited).

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Plays Without Music Find Broadway Harsh:
With the average cost of producing a new play on Broadway approaching or surpassing $2 million ("Gem of the Ocean" cost $2 million) and the traditional audience for plays seemingly shrinking, producers and playwrights say that a lasting losing streak could have a disastrous effect on the theater as a whole.
"The disappearance of the Broadway play poses a significant problem for anyone whose wants to make a living writing plays," said John Weidman, president of the Dramatists Guild, "which, by extension, poses a problem for anyone who cares about the future of the American theater."
(from The New York Times). I imagine this is also bad news for actors everywhere.

Monday, December 06, 2004


Mystery of Financial Core

The Mystery of Financial Core
by Bob Labate
originally published in PerformInk (reposted with permission)

If you want to silence a roomful of actors, just repeat the phrase "financial core" several times in a clear, firm voice. You may notice that ears are turned in your direction and that mouths are stilled so as to better hear what you might say about this subject. But despite all the interest, the concept of "financial core" remains rather mysterious, something better left to lawyers and others with knowledge of union rules and arcane federal statutes.
Well, it needn't be, but a little explanation is in order.
What Does "Financial Core" Mean?
For obvious reasons, a union such as the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is interested in negotiating contract provisions known as "union security clauses" which require union membership as a condition of employment for all employees. If an employer's agreement with a union contains a "union security clause," then that employer is required to hire only union members. Put another way, if you aren't a union member you don't work.
Not all employees, however, want to be full-fledged union members. And even those employees who may support the union's goals of better pay, benefits and more favorable work rules, may not support union activities which do not relate directly to the union's core activities of collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment. Can employees be forced to participate in all union activities and to pay all union dues and fees simply because they want to work for an employer who has signed a "union security clause?" The answer is no, but keep reading.
Almost 50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that, while a union can negotiate a "union security clause" which requires union membership as a condition of employment, an employee can satisfy that membership condition merely by paying to the union an amount equal to the union's initiation fee and dues. This minimal membership requirement is often referred to as the employee's "financial core" obligations to the union. So, if an employee can satisfy his or her "financial core" obligations simply by making payments to the union, the next question is: How much does the employee have to pay?
Over the years the Supreme Court has clarified what constitutes a "financial core" obligation and has ruled that a union (such as SAG) must notify employees that they have the right to refuse union membership and, instead, to pay only "financial core" obligations. Currently, "financial core" obligations may include only those fees and dues necessary to support the union's activities as the employees' exclusive bargaining representative. As you may suspect, controversy continues.
A Recent "Financial Core" Controversy
One such dispute involved a part-time actress, Naomi Marquez, who accepted a one-line role in an episode of a television series "Medicine Ball;" produced by Lakeside Productions. Lakeside signed a SAG collective bargaining agreement that included a standard "union security clause" requiring that any performer who worked under the agreement must be a "member of [SAG] in good standing." Under SAG rules, Marquez was required to pay $500 in SAG initiation fees before she could begin working for Lakeside.
Over a period of several days, Marquez attempted to negotiate an agreement with SAG that would allow her to pay the $500 union fee after she was paid by Lakeside. She was unable to obtain the union's agreement before the start of production and, since Marquez had not paid the fee, Lakeside hired another actress for that part. Sadly, sometime after the new actress had been hired, SAG sent a letter to Lakeside stating that SAG had no objection to Marquez being hired for the production.
Not surprisingly, Marquez sued Lakeshore and SAG alleging, among other things, that SAG had violated its duty of fair representation by failing to notify her truthfully about her right not to join the union, and that the "union security clause" in the agreement between SAG and Lakeside was misleading. A portion of this case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1998 and was resolved by an opinion of the Court which you can view at It also provides a good summary of the "financial core" controversy.
In that opinion, titled "Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild, Inc.," the Court decided only the very narrow issue of whether SAG had breached its duty to Marquez by negotiating a "union security clause" which tracked the language of the National Labor Relations Act, the statute which authorizes such clauses. While the Court found in favor of SAG, the controversy did not end because the Supreme Court noted that it was not deciding two other important issues raised by Marquez, namely, whether SAG had adequately notified Marquez of her right to elect "financial core" core status, and whether SAG had enforced the union security clause in accordance with federal law. Those issues were to be resolved by other courts or by the National Labor Relations Board.
So what does this mean for the average actor? First, that SAG is required to provide you with information which describes your right to elect "financial core" status rather than full union membership. While you won't be considered a full-fledged member of the union by electing "financial core" status, you will have the right to work on SAG projects. Second, it means that SAG must enforce the payment of "financial core" obligations in a manner which is consistent with federal law.
My experience with the staff of the Chicago SAG office has been very positive and, when representing actors and production companies, I've found the local SAG office to be quite helpful in resolving controversies quickly and efficiently. So, if you have a question about your rights, ask, and if you have a problem, write a letter or send an e-mail to the local SAG office. Just don't miss an opportunity to work simply because you are confused about "financial core."
And while the controversy over "financial core" will continue, the mystery should not.

Hyperlinks inserted by me. You can also read a summary of Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild.

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Friday, December 03, 2004

Erica Jong on talent:
Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.

Chicago Community Cinema, a networking event for independent film in Chicago, meets Tuesday, December 7th, at 6:00 PM at Excalibur, 632 N. Dearborn St. (Yahoo map).

Thursday, December 02, 2004

American Theatre Magazine named only one Chicago theatre, Silk Road Theatre Project, as one of a dozen young American companies you need to know; both Minneapolis and LA each had two on the list.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Technical Equiptment for Sale:
University Theater at the University of Chicago is in the unfortunate position of having to move our shop to a much smaller location under serious time constraints. In an effort to reduce space and storage needs, I am offering a number of items for sale. Make an offer. I have, among other things: numerous gallons of latex paint, not yet cut for scenic work, in various colors lenses: a number of 6" and 4.5" plano-convex lenses for LEKOs, 8" step lenses a box of lash cleats and other flat hardware a box of snow I would also consider offers on some 1.5" pipe, steel, other hardware, scenic materials, and floor props. If interested, please contact me soon at the number below, which is my cellular.
Dan Stearns
University of Chicago
5706 S. University Production Manager
University Theater Chicago, IL 60637
Lecturer, TAPS
Phone: 773.612.2617
Fax: 773.702.4930
UT Shop:
5020 S. Cornell
Chicago, IL 60615
This is all I know about this, caveat actor.