Weekly - Played out:
After 30+ years of personally subsidizing this art form through low-wages, we need to get these cheap labor liberals off of our Boards of Trustees. These board members well know what it costs to obtain quality civilian workers (I'm talking department heads, here) at their not-for-profits. But they continually, year after year after year after year exploit and take advantage of the artists.
Case in point: This summer TAG posted a notice of employment for a new head of marketing and development. The starting salary was $35,000 annually plus benefits and vacation. A first-hire staff member at the moribund TAG makes more than I do at the Intiman - a larger theatre - after 30 years and 42 productions. And nobody pays a dime to see a theatre staffer onstage. I make less than $30K a year. I rent. At 53, I make so little, I quality for and am on the waiting list for subsidized housing in Seattle. And frankly, it's not like I'm a wannabe; I'm in the top 15% of work weeks in AEA and have been for a quarter century. Even with those stats, my annual pension at retirement is still under $20,000.
Ben Moore at the Rep makes a six-figure salary; the head of development at the same institution receives upwards of $80,000. I'm clearly working on the wrong side of the footlights.
In 1991 the top salary at the Seattle Rep was between $800 - $900 dollars weekly - GOOD pay at the time. In 2007, the top salary at the Rep is between $800 - $900 a week. Do you think any staffers at the Rep, or the Rep's Board members in their respective civilian jobs went for a decade and half without a pay raise? Doubtful.
Actors have no effective advocacy within the present system. There is no meritocracy. No home. We are migrant artists. Hired to prepare and pick an eight week crop of performances and then move on. Good actors have been so cheaply obtained for so long that our boards of trustees have forgotten us. These people create the budgets we labor under. And they know damned well that the pay they scrape up for the ACTORS is a sum they themselves couldn't or wouldn't accept.
Truly, only the young can afford to be in American not-for-profit theatre.