Another Chapter Opens in the Waiver Wars; ‘Babes in Toyland’ Extended in Costa Mesa

And then there was one: The first show to open under Actors’ Equity’s controversial new Actors 99-Seat Theater Plan will be “And Then There Were None,” opening Friday in Tujunga.

The Agatha Christie mystery (formerly known as “10 Little Indians”) will play the Folding Chair Theater, which operates a 75-seat space at the Sunland-Tujunga Municipal Auditorium. Out of the 11 actors, six are Equity members and two others belong to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), also covered by the Equity plan under an inter-union agreement; each will receive $10 a performance under the requirements of the plan. The other three actors have been given the option of selling eight tickets and keeping the money.

Although the Folding Chair Theater is in its third season, only its most recent show last spring was an Equity Waiver production, under Equity’s old rules. Producer JoAnne Oram said the theater applied for Waiver status at about the same time that Equity made clear its intent to change the Waiver rules. “And Then There Were None” will play Fridays and Saturdays for six weekends.

Meanwhile, the first show to defy the new Equity plan, the Santa Monica Playhouse’s “The Great Fair--Sholom Aleichem on Tour,” opened as planned last Friday. “We’re open,” acknowledged Chris DeCarlo, a producer of the show and also one of its two Equity actors.


As of Wednesday morning, however, Equity had taken no action against DeCarlo and the show’s other Equity member/producer, Evelyn Rudie. “I haven’t seen any kind of proof that they did open,” said Equity’s Michael Van Duzer. What would constitute proof? “A program, or if anyone reported it.”

The Waiver Wars now move to Long Beach, where two shows are about to open in Waiver theaters.

At International City Theatre, five Equity members are in the 8-actor cast of “Vanishing Points,” opening Friday, yet artistic director Shashin Desai does not intend to sign the Equity plan--"unless we have to,” he said. Desai will follow the rules of the new plan, including payments to actors of $14 per performance, but he won’t register his show under the new plan--because “I do not want to create problems with other Waiver theaters.” If Equity tries to enforce the plan, however, Desai will sign it.

Another Long Beach Equity Waiver space, the Studio Theatre of the Long Beach Community Players, is sidestepping the issue, at least temporarily, by using non-Equity actors as “A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking,” opening Saturday. General manager Elaine Herman said that director Robert Sternberg was not instructed to use non-Equity actors; casting was open to anyone.


The only other publicized opening in a Waiver space this weekend, “How the Other Half Loves” at the Tiffany, circumvented the new rules by using the grandfather clause Equity attached to the new plan. The first paid public preview of “How the Other Half Loves” was on Oct. 2, a few hours before the Equity plan went into effect.

BABES IN COSTA MESA: California Music Theatre’s holiday offering, “Babes in Toyland,” will extend its run with an engagement at Orange County Performing Arts Center. “Babes” will play CMT’s house, Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Dec. 10-18, then move to Costa Mesa for nine performances from Dec. 22-30.

Robert Morse will play the role of the Toymaker. Director Toby Bluth plans to update Victor Herbert’s 1903 show with such additions as a skateboard for Little Boy Blue and a Mother Goose child dressed as a Ninja. The language will be “very now and ‘80s,” said CMT artistic director Gary Davis. But most of the costumes will remain in period and anyway, added Davis, the show is “amazingly timeless.”

This will be the second CMT show to move on to the center. Last summer both organizations, as well as the Music Center Operating Company, invested in a revival of “Strike Up the Band” and presented it at all three venues. This time, Orange County is simply booking the show rather than investing in it, and other bookings prevented the Music Center from considering adding “Babes” to its schedule.

HURLY-BURLY: David Rabe’s staging of his own Hollywood play, “Hurlyburly,” finally has an opening date: Nov. 16 at the Westwood Playhouse, with previews starting Nov. 8. Besides the previously reported Sean Penn and Danny Aiello, the cast will include Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner, Scott Plank, Belinda Bauer and Jill Schoelen. Information: 208-5454.

WANTED: Memorabilia from professional theatrical productions in Los Angeles or Orange counties during the last 20 years. The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle plans to mount a full-scale exhibition of costumes, props, posters, set models and miniatures and other mementos in connection with its 20th anniversary celebration next April. Items from shows that were nominated for Circle awards are particularly wanted, but items from other shows are also welcome. Contact coordinating producers Darryl Allara and Ken Freehill at (213) 466-7816 or (213) 465-0070.