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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: July ::
Re: Exploitation of Actors
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1338  Tuesday, 4 July 2000.

[1]     From:   William Sutton <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 Jun 2000 10:56:06 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1334 Re: Exploitation of Actors

[2]     From:   Jeffrey Myers <
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        Date:   Sunday, 2 Jul 2000 08:11:28 -0400
        Subj:   exploited actors


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Sutton <
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Date:           Friday, 30 Jun 2000 10:56:06 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 11.1334 Re: Exploitation of Actors
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1334 Re: Exploitation of Actors

Hi there,
Why is it chillingly familiar?
What's 'a Limbaugh listening.....'?

The exploitation of actors and acts has always happened. 'Are you
working dahling?' Performers make notoriously bad negotiators and so
will take anything. I just finished Michael Caine's autobiography which
illustrates a modern actor's struggle from low to high.

But indeed how can you prove such 'exploitation' happened and if it was
condoned by the high earners and/or tolerated by the wanabees. Do we
have that much info? What difference does it make anyway? Everyone is
aware of the rules when you step into the theatrical/performance arena.
There are capitalist and communal ways to deal with any oppressive
hierarchy even from within it. But these terms make it seem worse than
it actually is.

The whole apprentice thing was quite caring and nurturing I thought. I
know there was a system of fines levied for drunkeness, lateness to
rehearsals etc. The only 'real world' record comes from Henslowe's
diaries and that reads like a theatre pawnbook.  Henslowe sounds typical
of owner/managers of comedy clubs today who may love or hate comedy but
have no idea how the creative mind works. The cashcow must be milked and
the actors are the milkmaids. A very few came through the ranks of
performer to become owners, like James Burbage. Henslowe it seems bought
his way into the goldmine that was the Elizabethan entertainment
industry.

Performers want one thing: the limelight. Owners know this and allow
them the opportunity to show they can hold it, then pay them more to
keep them doing it for them exclusively. When their novelty fades, their
looks decay, their song remains the same, their limbs break or swell:
they lose their place. The lucky few survive.  Talent is the key factor.
Hard work, dedication, determination and renewed longevity are the daily
taskmasters if you are lucky enough to be working. If not then drugs,
alcohol and mental instability are your necessary requirements to cope.
(Or gardening or snail racing it needn't necessarily be vice).

I work in standup comedy and the pay scale slides on your position as a
performer. The Master of Ceremonies (compere, host), the opener, the
second (third fourth fifth) and the headliner can and do have different
wages. Often the acts themselves are in any of the above positions on
any given evening or venue. The million dollar acts of course came from
this hierarchy.

But the bottom line is make 'em laugh or you're an unemployed act. Then
you can join the open podiums and try-out sets where your pay cheque is
the experience. (and if the bar staff like you free drinks). And it's
amazing what people will put up with for the experience.

I'm off to try and make 'em laugh.

I am unsure where this fits in but here it is.

Exploitedly yours,
William S.-)

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jeffrey Myers <
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Date:           Sunday, 2 Jul 2000 08:11:28 -0400
Subject:        exploited actors

I was asked for evidence about exploitation of actors in Shakespeare's
day.  The exploitation of child actors, including kidnapping them, is
known to have occurred from contemporary documents.  I believe Harbage
refers to this exploitation in _Shakespeare and the Rival Traditions_
(don't have access to that work at the moment), which might be outdated
in some respects but not, I believe, in such a basic observation.
Shakespeare's company was different from the child companies, but I
suspect the young actors and non-shareholders in his company were not
always compensated in proportion to their contributions.

As for the link between employment and exploitation, a fellow named Marx
had a few things to say about that.  Anyone who doesn't realize that
much of what passes in our time for employment is, to a greater or
lesser extent, exploitation has his head in some kind of hole.

Jeff Myers
 

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