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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: July ::
Re: Exploitation of Actors
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1385  Wednesday, 12 July 2000.

[1]     From:   Edmund M. Taft <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Jul 2000 22:25:22 +0000
        Subj:   Exploitation of Actors

[2]     From:   Andrew W. White <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Jul 2000 21:15:55 -0400
        Subj:   Exploitation of Actors

[3]     From:   Werner Broennimann <
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        Date:   Wed, 12 Jul 2000 10:28:36 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1369 Re: Exploitation of Actors

[4]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Jul 2000 09:50:56 -0700
        Subj:   SHK 11.1378 Re: Exploitation, Marx, and Shakespeare

[5]     From:   David Siar <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Jul 2000 11:58:52 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1378 Re: Exploitation, Marx, and Shakespeare

[6]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Jul 2000 18:41:36 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1378 Re: Exploitation, Marx, and Shakespeare

[7]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Jul 2000 21:40:45 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1378 Re: Exploitation, Marx, and Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund M. Taft <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Jul 2000 22:25:22 +0000
Subject:        Exploitation of Actors

As the president of the faculty/staff union at Marshall University
(Huntington, WV), I have found this discussion of exploitation and the
demise of Communism both fascinating and deeply disturbing.  We are in
reactionary times -- those who still support Marxism and those who
oppose it argue extreme positions full of invective for the "other
side."

Sam Small writes that "people freely paying money for the goods or
services they find of value is the basis of real democracy."  He may be
right, but by NO means is the evidence in on this large claim.  China,
Singapore, Malaysia, and others are all betting the house on the
opposite assumption: that a market economy can be blended with basically
authoritarian rule.  And they may be right.  Think about it
historically, Sam: for at least 200 years a market economy existed in
both America and England, and the former was run by the landed
aristocracy and then industrial giants, while the latter was run much
the same, with the nobility's power thrown in to boot. Nor is it by ANY
means clear that today power is less concentrated than it was, say, 50
or 100 years ago.

With all due respect to Sam, I think that he and others have a bad case
of "triumphalism," defined as the euphoria generated by the fall of the
Soviet Union and a consequent belief that the end of history is at hand:
"You cannot have a designer economy. It is impossible."  Really?  So
there will be no new economic systems in the future? Ever?  Give me a
break.

I have the greatest respect for my friend Sophie Masson's intelligence,
wit, and artistry, but I must disagree with her statement that Marx "got
just about everything wrong."  Marx thought that the state could set
prices. Historical experience suggests that he was wrong.  Without a
proper price mechanism, Marxism cannot work, or so it seems.  But as a
critic of capitalism, Marx has no peer.  Not even Dickens approaches
Marx's ability to see the ways in which capitalism itself often works as
a tool of oppression and exploitation, especially in the short run.  In
the long run, free-market theory says that things will work out.  But it
should be noted that economics has an entire subset of scholars who
devote their lives to studying why markets do not work the way they are
supposed to.

As just one example, consider the phenomenal growth of the American and
English economies from about 1825 to the early 1900s.  This growth
should not have happened because trade and tariff barriers in both
countries were both numerous and high in an attempt to protect basic
industries.  Well, the evidence suggests that these attempts worked!
Both economies grew and basic industries were not only saved but
flourished.  How to explain this?  We don't know how. But our inability
to do so should give all of us pause before we rush into the final
goodnight of global capitalism, unrestrained by unions (or by states,
for that matter).

Cliff Stetner is right.  It may be that Shakespeare's "theories" have
been "proven wrong" by history.  But that doesn't mean that he no longer
has anything worthwhile to say. Ditto Marx.

Discussions such as this can get highly emotional, so, for the record,
let me state that I am not a Marxist or a Communist or a socialist.  I
am a Truman-Humphrey Democrat who is dismayed to see that his own party
has become a pale imitation of what it once was: a force for social
change and a believer that government has an important role to play,
especially in a capitalist economy where power is concentrated in the
hands of the few.

Are actors exploited? Of course they are!

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Jul 2000 21:15:55 -0400
Subject:        Exploitation of Actors

Many thanks to Dr. Egan for daring to inject actual relevant data into
this discussion.  I should hope we could base our future discussions on
pieces like his, which reveal how easily exploited these actors were,
and why.

The notion of profit and loss-sharing continues to this day; I vividly
recall being paid next to dirt in my own early days, when "profit share"
was the rule, and when the shows were, well, shall we say hastily
produced and it showed?  In my salad days, Washington, D.C. theatres
operated out of abandoned garages and were always one step ahead of
creditors.

FWIW, we actors put up with it because we were a) young, b) living
cheaply, and c) incredibly desperate for work that would get our names
in the local papers.  (Mine was easy to spell, although there were times
when I wish it hadn't been ...)

I would be especially curious if Dr. Egan could point to a version of
this lawsuit in print -- it would be interesting to see how the
defendants accounted for themselves, if at all.

Cheers,
Andrew White
Arlington, VA

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Werner Broennimann <
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Date:           Wed, 12 Jul 2000 10:28:36 +0100
Subject: 11.1369 Re: Exploitation of Actors
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1369 Re: Exploitation of Actors

The predicament of actors then and now can be compared to that of New
Economy permatemps.  In a 1999 article on the union organiser Amy Dean
("Mother Jones meets the microchip") The Economist paraphrases her as
saying: "temporary workers are often miserable workers. The worst-paid
live a hand-to-mouth existence without medical or other benefits. Even
many of the best-paid are fearful of the future and envious of those on
the permanent payroll, as Microsoft discovered last month when some
'permatemps' won a class-action suit against it. Microsoft is
appealing."  Blaming Marx for all the crimes committed in his name is a
legitimate response for all those who had to live under Communist
regimes, but reference to those crimes does not legitimate present-day
rampant social Darwinism.  Or as Hamlet says: "Use every man after his
desert, and who shall escape whipping?  Use them after your own honour
and dignity: the less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty."

Werner Br

 

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