Actors Equity Battle Moves to Manhattan; First Casualty of Waiver’s Demise Appears

Times Theater Writer

Whither Los Angeles’ wavering Waiver? Look to New York.

A special meeting of the council of Actors Equity will take place today in Manhattan to look at items crucial to Los Angeles.

Two matters will be considered. First, the council will look at formal charges filed by 11 actors and actor-producers alleging that the Western Advisory Board violated the Equity constitution, membership resolutions and federal and state law when it submitted a referendum in March that radically altered the Equity Waiver plan. Also, it will consider a resolution passed at the July 15 Equity membership meeting recommending that the council reverse the advisory board’s rejection of a resolution (passed at an April membership meeting) that called for rescinding the new plan.

Both items refer to the March 21 referendum, which proposed radical changes in the Equity Waiver plan (renamed the Actors’ 99-seat Theatre Plan) and passed April 3 by a vote of 1,624 to 1,023. It becomes effective Oct. 3. Other attempts to get the referendum rescinded have failed.


The latest of these was at the July 15 membership meeting, when not enough people showed up for a vote that might have overturned the referendum (though that contention has been disputed by Edward Weston, Equity’s western regional director).

The 11 actors filing charges are Barbara Beckley, Maria Gobetti, Salome Jens, Valerie Landsburg, Allan Miller, Greg Mullavey, Tom Ormeny, Linda Purl, Joe Stern, Jon Voigt and Michael Wadler.

“What we’re looking for in this whole thing is discussion,” said Ormeny, who will be traveling to New York with Beckley, Jens and Wadler to attend the meeting.

Participating in the discussion from Los Angeles (via national hookup at the local Equity office) will be Gobetti, Miller and Stern.


“It’s my understanding,” Beckley said Tuesday, “that we will have 30 minutes in which to state our case, the (advisory board) will have 30 minutes to state theirs, there will be time for councilors to ask questions before they consider the issues in executive session.”

Equity’s executive secretary, Alan Eisenberg, would not comment, confirming only that the Thursday meeting had been set up “to look at the allegations.”

GOING, GOING . . . : The earliest indirect casualty of the anticipated demise of Waiver as we know it is already here. It is Studio City’s Room for Theatre.

Officers of that 8-year-old group announced this week that while they’ll keep their nonprofit corporation for a year at least, their doors will officially close Sept. 30.

“Our lease ends,” artistic co-director Sylvia Walden said Tuesday, “and the rent increase asked by our landlord (from $2,400 to $3,600 a month) makes it impossible for us to continue here. Our landlord hasn’t been a bad guy.

“Twice he gave us reductions so that we could go on, but he can’t be expected to subsidize us. Ventura Boulevard is prime territory. And with the new (actors’) plan coming in October, there is no way we could keep going. The older plays in which we specialize all have large casts.

“It’s ironic, really. We’ve always tried to provide a supportive environment, and we’ve paid actors a percentage of the gross ever since we moved to Studio City (in 1983). But there have been abuses (at other theaters) and we’re tarred by the same brush.”

Is it over for the Waiver?


“I don’t know,” she said. “If it is, it will have sad and serious ramifications for the artistic community.”

Ironically, too, the theater ends its tenancy with somebody else’s show. Opening Monday is the Colony Studio Theatre’s staging of James McClure’s “Private Wars.”

. . . GONE: The troubled past and uncertain present of the Society for the Preservation of Variety Arts was partially resolved Tuesday when a buyer for the historic building housing the society was approved in federal bankruptcy court. Owner-designate is FLM Enterprises. Purchase price for the five-story building at 940 S. Figueroa St. in downtown Los Angeles was $2,620,000.

“That ends our occupancy there,” said society president Milt Larsen, “but it avoids foreclosure and pays off our debts--hopefully 100%. If anyone doesn’t get paid fully, it’ll be me. I’ve put a lot of my own money into this place.”

The society’s debt is to the Community Redevelopment Agency ($1,200,000), tax collectors and assorted other creditors.

“Our next step in this big soap opera in the sky,” Larsen said, “is to decide which way to go. We’d like to be in Hollywood, but we’ve had offers from Pasadena and Glendale which I can’t discuss.

“We want to start with a nice fresh slate. We’re still in business. Our collections are still ours and they’re worth a great deal. I really didn’t want them going to universities. If we let this stuff slip by, it’s like losing the last condor.

“Glendale Federal Savings has offered to help us move. Universal Studios has offered to store the collections temporarily.


“We’re looking at the Masonic Temple (on Hollywood Boulevard) as a potential site. Among others. With the Hollywood redevelopment it makes perfect sense.”

Larsen acknowledged the society is in no position to buy, “but the owners might lease it to us with option, or go in with us. The happiest thing would be if someone bought it for us,” he said, eternally optimistic.

“I spent 11 years trying to make the downtown Variety Arts work and I’m prepared to spend 11 more making it happen in Hollywood. What I’m not prepared to say is that I regret any of it. Except for the hardships of the last two years, it’s been a lot of fun.”

PIECES AND BITS: Back from its run at the Cherry Lane Theatre as part of the First International New York Festival of the Arts, Stages Trilingual Theatre is offering its English-language version of Eduardo Pavlovsky’s “Pablo” beginning tonight. . . .

And speaking of New York’s First International Festival, the Los Angeles Theatre Center has just added an English-speaking version of Soviet playwright Alexander Galin’s “Stars in the Morning Sky” to its 1988-89 season. “Sky,” which the Maly Theatre of Leningrad substituted in the New York festival (when the funds needed to stage the larger “Brothers and Sisters” could not be raised), will be staged by LATC artistic producing director Bill Bushnell Dec. 16-Jan. 15. . . .