Paul Birchall’s Got It Covered
Letter to the Judge, from Armina LaManna; Bitter Lemons Reincarnates Itself as Better Lemons
From the Desk of Armina
As December dwindles, we all wait anxiously to see which comes first: the decision on whether any of three filings will be heard by their respective authorities, the U.S. District Court for the California Central District, and the National Labor Relations Board. Those filings are Ed Asner, et al Vs Actors’ Equity , et al; and two NLRB Filings: one on AEA’s handling of the now infamous April, 2015 non-binding referendum in which AEA’s proposed plan was rejected by 2/3 of local members, yet was pushed through regardless by the union’s National Council; and the other on whether or not Financial Core in one union has any bearing on a member’s participation in a sister union. (AEA’s Executive Director Mary McColl has asserted that sister unions have reciprocity, in matters of Financial Core.) Meanwhile, the new AEA Agreement scheduled to take effect December 14 threatens to permanently alter the small theater landscape in Los Angeles, one of the country’s largest theater communities.
On November 7, Judge Terry Hatter (who is presiding over the AEA case) received a letter dated October 31 from none other than performer/99-seat scene dissident Armina LaManna, and others.
In an annoyed response, the court not only rejected the letter for being both meddling and inappropriate, it ordered counsel to instruct all parties that the letter had not been entered into the case file.
In the letter, LaManna writes, “Make no mistake, this case is about the producers’ (plaintiffs’) unwavering goal to never pay their employees — artists like me.”
She continues, “The list of the plaintiffs in this case comprises (sic) producers and employers who have for decades benefited not just from unfair and ethical business practices, but who have also shirked all responsibilities… by paying themselves, but not paying any wages to their employees — actors, stage managers, and in many cases, directors, designers, and stage hands.”
Later she writes, “Some producers have even convinced certain city councilmembers into advocating actors’ endless illegal labor as engines for attracting patronage to local businesses in their district.” She then asks the judge to, “please stand up for me and the many other artists who have been taken advantage of for decades in this town by the same group of slum-producers.”
LaManna appears to think that Los Angeles is a town full of fat cat producers of 99 Seat Shows making their money from those $15 buck tickets. Apart from that, the letter is intriguing because it concludes with a list of names, preceded by the statement, “The names below are those of union artists who join me in my plea to you because they too have been victims of these plaintiffs’ actions over the last five decades.” The list includes Tom Buderwitz, Kyle Nudo, John Ross Clark, Perry Lambert, Perry Ojeda, Melissa Bailey, Robert DuSold, Matthew Cargegis, Jeffrey Landman, Bryan Landrine, Barry Pearl and Ann Colby Stocking.
The ruling shows up on the case docket as follows:
NOTICE OF DISCREPANCY AND ORDER: Re Letter sent to Judge received on 2016, Local Rule 83-205 no letters to the judge. The person is not listed on the docket as a party. The document is NOT to be filed, but instead REJECTED, and is ORDERED returned to counsel. Counsel shall immediately notify in writing, all parties previously served with the attached documents that the said documents have not been filed with the court by Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr. (shb) (Entered: 11/28/2016)
A Better Bitter, or a Bitter Better?
In other news, we were curious when we received a press release last week from Enci Box, announcing the reboot of the defunct Bitter Lemons site. Bitter Lemons, as you will remember, shut down this summer as a result of a series of unfortunate posts by then-editor Colin Mitchell and several other affiliated writers. (Mitchell suggested that actors who were abused at a theater, and knowing that theater’s history for abuse, must share some responsibility for their own abuse.) The resurrected site will now be known as Better Lemons and, according to Box, will return to its roots as a site for aggregating reviews from various sources and running what seems to be promotional content for producers who submit content to the site. Box is listed as the publisher, with the editor-in-chief chores handled by Ashley Steed, a capable individual knowledgeable about our theater scene and who has been variously active with the Stage Raw website, the LA Theater Network Facebook page, and other organizations.
A few weeks earlier, Box had sent an e-mail to local critics suggesting that they register with Better Lemons. A visit to their newly launched site shows a new layout for the compilation of reviews of shows that have recently opened.
I am hopeful that Better Lemons will be a good thing for the local community, instead of adding to the bad feelings that typified its previous incarnation. We’re confident that Steed is a straight-shooter and that her agenda is the betterment of local theater rather than the aggrandizement of herself.
One technical issue: I can’t help but notice that critics are listed on the site as if they are native to it, which strikes me as presumptuous. In any case, we’re interested and excited by what Better Lemons will add to the local debate on matters of interest to the community. More voices are needed, and Stage Raw welcomes them.