Sunday, October 12, 2008

City Arts Seattle: So Long, Seattle: October 2008:

"The institutions have grown large, metastasized, at the expense of the actors, the designers - the artists," Ballard argues. "The weekly acting salary at the big Seattle theatres was between $700 and $900 back in the early nineties. The price range for acting at the big theatres in 2008 is . . . between $700 and $900. It hasn't changed in over fifteen years!

"In Seattle the median income is now $45,000 a year. Last year, working all the time, I made $25,000. At the age of fifty-four. And $3,000 of that was unemployment." He's taught locally to supplement his income but says that even full-time veteran teachers of theatre at the university level here might make hardly more than $30,000 a year.

"I'm mad as hell and I can't pay my bills anymore!" Ballard declares. This even though he is a single man without a family, has been steadily employed from 1974 on and, since at least 1979, has been in the top tier of all Equity union actors across America in terms of number of weeks worked annually.

"I left Seattle and full-time acting simply because I could no longer make ends meet. I was working more and more and harder and harder and making less and less money." Just before the teaching offer came from Savannah - and before the economy began to tank - Ballard was taking a course to get a real-estate broker's license.

"I'm not a young guy anymore," he says, plaintively. "I can't hop on a bike and deliver messages."

But he's well equipped to deliver his message of reform. He stresses that he's not just bellyaching on his own behalf; he wants the wider community to grasp the professional's plight and how it threatens the art form.

1:47 PM