Thursday, April 28, 2011

Theatre's survivors need life support

From creche facilities to supple hours to national average pay, there's far more producers could provide to help jobbing thesps

The old maxim that you shouldn't become an actor, or undeniably work in the theatre industry, if you can think of anything else you'd rather do rings particularly true as government cuts and the economic meltdown squeeze theatre land ever tighter. Yet acting has never been something you do to make money: it's a profession driven by love, passion and commitment, where – so it's argued – the highs of making excellent work cancel out the nadirs of unemployment and penury.

For the majority of performers, "resting" is a general situation. A recent survey among Equity members showed that almost half of the people in the UK performance industry had earned less than £6,000 from the profession in the previous year and only 6% earned more than £30,000 from acting.

As a result, actors learn to live cheaply and be ingenious, through temping, teaching, running children's parties, writing – a whole array of jobs based on the easy common denominator that they have sympathetic bosses, offer short-term contracts and can be dropped the moment an agent rings with good news. Add to this the scene of unpaid project work in the evenings and at weekends and the general picture is one of small money, enormously complicated diaries and huge amounts of commitment.

Everyone in the industry understands that work is hard to come by, and as unemployment grows it is also increasingly hard to find a suitably paid and flexible day job. In a world where the director or theatre says "jump" and the actor how high, we must be vigilant to protect each other. Small changes could make a world of difference. It's frighteningly common practice, for example, to be called for an audition or job interview only days – if not the day – before it takes place. Often, this leaves far too small notice to legally take time off work – let alone rearrange meetings, sort out childcare or prepare properly. Every day you sneak away from the office or call in sick results in a lessening chance of holding on to your paid employment – something the majority can ill afford to lose.

View this site: Behavior in Organizations (9th Edition) by Greenberg and Baron

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