Author Topic: AEA ASM?  (Read 13250 times)

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Balletdork

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AEA ASM?
« on: Mar 20, 2011, 01:11 pm »
SO~ Regional SM's -- what's your feeling on the requirement of an AEA ASM? I live in a state where as far as I know there are only a 1/2 dozen AEA stage managers.... and yet I'm required by the union to have an AEA ASM for any musical or show with a cast greater than 10.... HMMMMM.....

Which means my producer either has to

A. essentially give someone a card- usually someone who is NOT READY

B. hire a working out of town AEA ASM & house them & pay our of town salary

C. hire an AEA ACTOR as my ASM

To play devils advocate for a moment- it seems to me that the ability to hire 2 PA's - experienced stage managers or stage management majors (we have 2 BFA SM programs and 1 MFA SM locally) is far more helpful to the AEA SM, and the production, than to hire an AEA actor as the ASM.... no?





Rebbe

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #1 on: Mar 20, 2011, 02:02 pm »
Which means my producer either has to

A. essentially give someone a card- usually someone who is NOT READY

B. hire a working out of town AEA ASM & house them & pay our of town salary

C. hire an AEA ACTOR as my ASM
D.  Stick to shows with 10 or fewer actors

E.  Create enough greater than 10 shows to motivate more AEA SMs to stick around the area permanently, or to warrant the company hiring them for a full season.

The required AEA ASM opens more work opportunities for AEA members, so I support it.  I would also argue that a talented, experienced AEA ASM does bring more value to the production that student PAs.  While there may not be tons of SMs in your area, there are plenty of SMs in general, and theaters pay to house and transport actors all the time.  I donít think it outrageous at all for producers to budget for stage managers and assistant stage managers in the same way. 
"...allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."  (Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare In Love)

Balletdork

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #2 on: Mar 20, 2011, 04:15 pm »
OH- I agree- it's no way outrageous. And I support more AEA job opportunities 110%! But my SPT theater is never going to do a season that would require an ASM for the full season.

But when the producer has the option to hire a local AEA actor and call them the ASM- of course that's what they're going to do.

Maybe my wonderment is more "Why is it that producers are allowed to hire actors as ASM's?" ~

On the one hand I understand and support the tradition of SMs & actors being indistinguishable within the union- more often than not it protects the SM... but in the case of ASM's in the SPT regional world- UGH!


MatthewShiner

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #3 on: Mar 20, 2011, 08:26 pm »
Wait, wait, wait . . . there reason the union requires the hiring of the ASM on musicals and larger cast shows is that, to be honest, is that these shows require extra help . . . stage managers fought long and hard for this to be written into to many contracts.

Now, it's sad that your theater doesn't value the position of assistant stage manager to hire an honest to good stage manager for the position, and that is the across the board devaluing of our position.  There are some theatres in this country - and I won't mention by name - but they have a staff member be the SM of record, often the Box Office Manager, and they have a non-AEA person really stage manage the show.  These type of theaters completely devalue the role of stage management.

Quote
But when the producer has the option to hire a local AEA actor and call them the ASM- of course that's what they're going to do.
  Now, is the actor serving as an ASM, or are they acting and ASM?  I don't think the skill set for an ASM is SO damn special that an actor can't do it . . . hell, some of the best stage managers I know are former actors.

And there are honest to goodness actors and stage managers who bounce back and forth - for a variety of valid reasons - but most have to do with the amount of work available in a given geographical area.

And you know, the producers could always make a pitch to AEA to get a concession given your lack of professional union stage managers in state to waive the requirement and substitute two non-AEA production assistants.    Which might be a win/win/win situation . . .  what the union may require in return maybe up for grabs . . .

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

loebtmc

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #4 on: Mar 20, 2011, 08:39 pm »
The SPT requirement is that you have an AEA ASM for shows larger than 10, chorus musicals and new or complex/challenging pieces, but when that does not apply, you are still supposed to have a dedicated PA who is your non-union ASM. I agree we need that hard-won assistance and that producers need to learn to value what an ASM does, and also I agree we are too often overburdened with no OT or options. But I also work in reality and know the problem sometimes requires a compromise solution. Do you live near a university with a stage management program, or are there folks who want to be on a SM track who aren't yet professional and could use the experience and training and/or whom you cd mentor? That is a great way to make a concession work in the best interest of both sides.

SMrose

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #5 on: Mar 22, 2011, 09:19 am »
Look at this as an opportunity to teach an actor/ASM to do things the way you'd want them done.

Balletdork

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #6 on: Mar 22, 2011, 03:46 pm »
Yup- I've been SMing professionally for 14 years; I've had lots of assistants- a few of which have been former actors or dancers/ or are working as both. Sometimes these end of being AWESOME- sometimes not good at all.

While under the SPT contact I was once allowed to hire 2 PA's (local SM's, both with a BFA in SM) rather than the AEA ASM. Under the LOA to LORT D however, we've always had to have the AEA ASM. The 1st time the producer hired a local actor- a very nice person, who worked VERY hard to learn how to SM~ but on a big musical with a cast of over 20 and multiple rehearsals going on at the same time- my ability to teach is frankly, limited.

The 2nd time we hired a local SM, who had just completed her BFA, who had PA'd 3 shows prior. Again, someone who still needed instruction and support-

I guess I'm wondering what you guys think of the idea of hiring the 2 EMC PA's rather than the 1 AEA ASM--?? I understand the long fight AEA has had to get ASM's on contracts- and I do support the idea in theory... I just wish that the regions had more options!!!

I certainly don't have anyone banging on my door to ASM 1 show a year~ or any local non-AEA SM's willing to join the union in order to work 1 or 2 shows every 4 years!

Scott

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #7 on: Mar 24, 2011, 08:50 am »
I certainly don't have anyone banging on my door to ASM 1 show a year~ or any local non-AEA SM's willing to join the union in order to work 1 or 2 shows every 4 years!

Well, they don't have to be knocking down the door -- but I am sure you can get an town AEA ASM to come in if notices were posted with Equity, the SMA or even Backstagejobs.com

Or is it that the producers don't want to expend logistical efforts and resources to hired a qualified professional as the negotiated contract stipulates?

BayAreaSM

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #8 on: Mar 24, 2011, 05:54 pm »
According to equity (at least to my understanding), there can only be 1 ASM earning EMC weeks under the AEA SM. So if you do get 2 EMC ASMs, only 1 would be able to gain EMC weeks under you.

I only work AEA during the summers since I work as a PSM at a ballet company during the regular season. Granted, I am married and use my husband's insurance, but I pay my dues as well as my working dues. It doesn't bother me to only work 1 or 2 Equity shows a year.

We do fight hard to have equity assistants when the shows are big, and it is important to have an assistant that knows what they're doing so that you don't have to train them. Though if you are given an untrained AEA actor as your ASM - use your prep week to get them prepared. When I have a SM intern, a lot of my prep time is spent getting them ready for the challenges that lie ahead. Granted, during the rehearsal process they hit road blocks, but you find (or make) the time to help them learn.

If there isn't anyone in your area, then I agree with Scott - the theater needs to post the notice on different websites and build into their budget the room, board and per diem to hire a non-local AEA ASM. And who knows, maybe there is someone near your area that you are not aware of that is equity. 

And, quite frankly, how is getting (1) an EMC ASM, (2) giving an AEA contract to someone who is not ready, or (3) a local AEA Actor any different from each other? To me, all of those seem the same - someone who may not be ready to do the job. If you are considering 2 EMC ASMs, why not give 1 an AEA contract and have the other act as a PA or non-eq ASM? And you/the producer would need to make a judgement call as to who is more ready to get their card.

juliz1106

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #9 on: Apr 25, 2011, 05:12 pm »
There are some theatres in this country - and I won't mention by name - but they have a staff member be the SM of record, often the Box Office Manager, and they have a non-AEA person really stage manage the show.  These type of theaters completely devalue the role of stage management.

This is the part that intrigues me.  While, yes, it does devalue the role of stage management, is it actually illegal?  These AEA agreements require an Equity SM and ASM, but does that mean these theatres can legitimately sign someone to a contract who does nothing even remotely related to stage management and still be completely within the bounds of their union obligations?

In this case I'm not talking about an Actor/ASM, or even a non-Eq PA in this role, but instead someone who does nothing related to the field of stage management - including attending rehearsals - but is nevertheless holding onto that coveted contract that could be given to a bonafide Equity Stage Manager.

This is not a hypothetical situation, I've seen it, on big musical productions, specifically in regard to the role of Equity ASM.  I won't name names, either, but I'm curious if this situation is the sort of thing that could/should be brought to union's attention, or in fact having someone - anyone - signed to both an SM and ASM Equity contract is enough to be a-OK with Equity.  In principal, it's infuriating, and feels like it MUST be illegal, but I somehow don't think it is.

babens

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #10 on: Apr 25, 2011, 05:34 pm »
Just looking through the SPT rulebook (which is probably where you might find this situation happening most often) we find the following:

(1) The Stage Manager or the Assistant Stage Manager shall be present
at all rehearsals and performances and shall actively run such rehearsals
and performances.

So unless that Box Office manager who is signed to the contract is actually in rehearsals then yes, they are violating the contract and Equity would be within their right, and responsibility, to take action should they discover that that is what is going on.

And just to cover bases, here is the language from a few other rulebooks.

CORST:
All rehearsals and performances shall be covered by a freestanding Stage Manager (or
Assistant Stage Manager) signed to an Equity contract. All performances must be
called by a Stage Manager (or Assistant Stage Manager) on an Equity contract who is
unencumbered by any other performance duties.

And TYA:
(1) The Stage Manager or the Assistant Stage Manager shall be present at all rehearsals and
performances. An Assistant Stage Manager shall be the individual who is assigned to assist
the Stage Manager on a specific production or productions. An Assistant Stage Manager
may not be assigned the primary responsibility for a production.

Just off of the top of my head (and because I don't feel like going through all of the rulebooks) the only contract where I can see them getting away with this is on the U/RTA contract where a qualified AEA stage manager on faculty and/or staff is supervising the student stage manager who has been given the primary responsibility for the production.

juliz1106

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #11 on: Apr 25, 2011, 06:25 pm »
But the problem with all of that language is the word "OR."  The Stage Manager OR the Assistant Stage Manager.

Does that mean that although Equity requires an AEA ASM on musicals and with casts over 10, that the ASM really doesn't have to attend rehearsals or do any stage management work, as long as the Stage Manager does?  This is why I'm asking the question.  In the situation I've seen, the duties of stage manager are covered, but the Equity stage manager and whatever run crew is hired for the production - NOT the Equity ASM - are covering all of those duties.

I know we fought for the right to have qualified, Equity help in our field when we got this clause requiring an ASM.  Sure, shows can function without an Equity ASM, or with a decent PA or Actor ASM instead, and these shows clearly do.  But when an Equity ASM is required in the contract, and the theatre covers that responsibility to the bare minimum - by putting any old person (i.e. Box Office Manager) on an ASM contract without actually assigning them to legitimately act as the SM's Assistant - doesn't that go against the very essence of that clause?  Doesn't that feel like a violation to any of the other AEA SM's out there fighting for contracts (and health weeks!)?

And if this language is all we have - that there be an ASM on an Equity contract, and that either the SM or ASM are attending rehearsals and calling the show - is there really any violation at all?  Or am I only feeling jealousy toward my fellow Equity member who has learned to buck the system by earning a coveted contract and 52 health weeks a year but not actually doing any work?

babens

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #12 on: Apr 25, 2011, 07:06 pm »
But the problem with all of that language is the word "OR."  The Stage Manager OR the Assistant Stage Manager.

Does that mean that although Equity requires an AEA ASM on musicals and with casts over 10, that the ASM really doesn't have to attend rehearsals or do any stage management work, as long as the Stage Manager does?  This is why I'm asking the question.  In the situation I've seen, the duties of stage manager are covered, but the Equity stage manager and whatever run crew is hired for the production - NOT the Equity ASM - are covering all of those duties.

I know we fought for the right to have qualified, Equity help in our field when we got this clause requiring an ASM.  Sure, shows can function without an Equity ASM, or with a decent PA or Actor ASM instead, and these shows clearly do.  But when an Equity ASM is required in the contract, and the theatre covers that responsibility to the bare minimum - by putting any old person (i.e. Box Office Manager) on an ASM contract without actually assigning them to legitimately act as the SM's Assistant - doesn't that go against the very essence of that clause?  Doesn't that feel like a violation to any of the other AEA SM's out there fighting for contracts (and health weeks!)?

And if this language is all we have - that there be an ASM on an Equity contract, and that either the SM or ASM are attending rehearsals and calling the show - is there really any violation at all?  Or am I only feeling jealousy toward my fellow Equity member who has learned to buck the system by earning a coveted contract and 52 health weeks a year but not actually doing any work?

We can go over what's in the rulebooks all we want and bemoan how unfair it is, but unless we see it in action and speak up about it, i.e. actually go to Equity and let them know what is happening, then nothing can change.  I quoted merely a fraction of each of the rulebooks above.  If you go through the entire Stage Manager section of the rulebooks you will most likely find enough other clauses that would indeed warrant Equity taking action on these "phantom" contracts, provided of course that there is somebody brave enough to actually alert the union to what is going on.

BayAreaSM

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #13 on: Apr 25, 2011, 11:15 pm »
Quote
If you go through the entire Stage Manager section of the rulebooks you will most likely find enough other clauses that would indeed warrant Equity taking action on these "phantom" contracts, provided of course that there is somebody brave enough to actually alert the union to what is going on.

Sort-of off topic: Don't be afraid to go to Equity with these issues. I just went to them today with an issue, and we are working together to resolve it. My name is being withheld from the theater in question - so you need not be afraid of retaliation. Though if you are the only SM for that theatre, they may figure it out it was you who blew the whistle, but we must stand up for ourselves. I know some of us who work for the same company for years feel for the theatre and wish to help them out - but you're not helping yourself either, and you're hurting your fellow union members. If you see this happening - speak up! Call your closest AEA office, or if you're afraid, ask a fellow AEA SM to relay the issue for you.

juliz1106

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Re: AEA ASM?
« Reply #14 on: Apr 26, 2011, 06:42 pm »
I don't mean to come across as uninformed.  I do know the rulebook in question (specific to this theatre, of course), have read it backwards and forwards, and have seen nothing in it that suggests that this situation is in fact a violation.  From my reading it seems that having an ASM under an Equity contract is the primary rule, and that rule is not being broken.  The spirit of the rule may be being misused, but that does not make it a violation.

For me it is a matter of professional pride, that an Equity contract can be used as job security for someone who is not actually doing the job of an ASM.  I wanted to bring this issue up in this forum to see if any of my fellow SM's would feel the same way as I do about this, especially seeing Matthew's comment that this may be regular practice in other theatres in the country.

This thread started out asking the question as to whether Equity ASM's were necessary under certain contracts.  It seemed therefore a safe place to broach the question as to whether or not I can legitimately approach the union about my concerns that this clause is being used improperly.  It seems clear that if the ASM is employed on the show by title only, it negates what we fought for in getting this provision into the contracts.  But in contractual terms, is improperly using the ASM contract actually a violation?  To me it feels like it should be, but that it in fact, it is not.

I feel comfortable going to the union when there is a clear violation, but in this case, it seems more like my personal and professional distaste of this practice is overshadowing my objectivity. 

It is apparently difficult to bring the issue up as a hypothetical that doesn't result in answers like "call Equity," and "read the rulebook."  Some situations are just not that simple, and before I consider going to the union, I want to make sure I temper my frustration with fellow SMNet opinions about this.  I will not risk my job - which would absolutely happen if I went to Equity - without a bit more encouragement from people I trust.

 

riotous