This will be a quick note because it doesn’t require much elaboration: the company I have been describing will need to exist outside of Actors Equity. To my knowledge, there is no AEA provision for actors who are also owners, and whose income will be based on a distrubution of profits and not a set salary. (If I am wrong about this, I hope someone will correct me.)
I am a supporter of unions–I grew up in a union family, and was a member of one while I was still in high school. But as I said about the founding of Actor’s Equity when, after World War I, they opposed the growing power of the Producing Managers’ Association (who had replaced the Theatrical Syndicate): AEA represented a necessary and heroic resistance to a situation that was laving actors increasingly vulnerable and powerless. But at the same time, like any other union, the tacit assumption is that the members are employees who band together in negotiations with the owners. Unions set working conditions: minimum salaries, specific rehearsal times and rules, the maximum number of performances per week, benefits, and so forth.
And those rules do not provide the flexibility necessary for a company based on the ownership model. The goal, of course, is to exceed union minimums as quickly as possible, but a company in the startup phase will likely be unable to meet those goals immediately. When Robert Porterfield was forming the Barter Theater, Equity officials “looked the other way” concerning the non-monetary payment the union actors were receiving; today, Equity is much more formalized and less able to do such things. I sincerely doubt that Equity would accept in-kind payment as a substitute for monetary remuneration.
As with the decision to not become a nonprofit, not being unionized is also part of the ownership model.
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