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Equity Flees SF

June 12, 2008

The American Actors Equity Association (AEA) is pulling out of San Francisco.

On June 5, members of the Equity Bay Area Advisory Committee received a letter from Equity's headquarters advising them of the organization's decision to close San Francisco's AEA office. "Over the next several months we will transition the administration of San Francisco/Bay Area Equity companies to our Los Angeles office," the letter, signed by AEA President Mark Zimmerman and Executive Director John P Connolly, read.

The decision comes as a result of an AEA study into the organization's business practices. The departure of San Francisco AEA business rep, Joel Reamer, to sister organization AFTRA in May, further prompted the decision.

Bay Area actors are reacting strongly to the news.

"There has been no consultation with the local membership regarding problems maintaining the office, no discussion about why there has been a problem maintaining a local rep, and no conversation at all with local membership," says Bay Area Equity member, Steven Pawley. "The decision was announced to us by staff members only and it was presented as a decision already made."

AEA's head office maintains that Bay Area Equity members were kept in the loop about the decision.

"In consolidating and upgrading our business practices it was decided this year to eliminate the San Francisco office," says AEA spokesperson Maria Somma. "The study was presented to the Western Regional Board. Then it went to the National Planning Committee and then on to the President's Planning Committee. We had a meeting with the Bay Area Advisory Committee in the last week of May to inform them of our decision. We then sent a letter out to every single one of our members last week."

AEA has had a presence in the Bay Area since the mid- to late 1970s. Following the closure of the San Francisco office, AEA will continue to maintain three other main offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

According to Somma, the relocation of Bay Area Equity business to Los Angeles is a positive move.

"The consolidation of our offices on the west coast will give us a stronger infrastructure. The change will be greatly facilitated by today's high-speed, advanced telecommunications," she says. "Furthermore, we intend to have not just one but a team of business agents working with Bay Area members in the future."

Bay Area industry officials have mixed feelings about the decision.

"I think closing the SF office will have a negative effect for both actors and theatres in our region," says Brad Erickson, Executive Director of Theatre Bay Area, the region's performing arts umbrella organization. "But I also recognize that this is an internal decision on Equity's part. They have the right and the responsibility to make whatever staffing decisions they deem fit. I just want to make sure the regional and national leadership understand the many benefits provided by this local office."

"This is a serious issue for local AEA artists and smaller theatres," says Kelly Ground, Chair of Equity's Bay Area Advisory Committee. "The big houses have totally outsourced productions, actors and directors from New York. The only avenues for local artists are the smaller companies. These companies need nurturing to use AEA actors. They benefit in the long run, in terms of quality and the ability to apply for grant funding. They need a local presence. A phone call isn't going to do it."


  • Bay Area Equity members were not kept in the loop. We received a letter saying that they were leaving.
    Go ahead and leave but don't say that it's for our own good and it'll better serve us. B.S.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At June 14, 2008 at 4:16 PM  

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