Thoughts from a Los Angeles Theater Producer

Building Legitimacy

Posted in Uncategorized by Rick Culbertson on May 18, 2012

Since my last blog two weeks ago things seem to be moving on the right track regarding the formation of a Los Angeles Producers League.  At each meeting it seemed that the general consensus was that a league should be formed to represent the interests of producers. However, there is still a lot of work to be done: namely, actually forming the group in a legitimate fashion.  My personal hope is that this process can proceed slowly enough to allow for the maximum amount of transparency and accountability. Since there has not yet been a public agenda for the upcoming meeting on the 20th, I thought I might outline a few of my thoughts on how to proceed.

The formation of a Producers League is paramount to fostering the growth of LA Theater in a responsible way.  We all know that it is important to solve the gap that currently exists between the current 99-seat plan and the HAT contract. But other problems persist in our community, making it imperative that we work together to share information, market the concept of live theater, brand our work, solve the goldstar problem, and tackle the many other issues we face every day as producers.  Solving these problems will not be easy, and it will take time.  But if we don’t work together, if there isn’t a critical mass buy-in for the Producers League, then solving these problems will be impossible.  Now is not the time to focus on our differences.  Now is the time to work together to get this league off the ground.

But how do we form the league in a responsible manner that allows for everyone to feel included?  How do we allow for all opinions to be heard without drowning in endless meetings?  How do we make sure that this process is open, transparent, inclusive and unifying?

I believe that we can accomplish this in the following way:

1)    We must allow for all producers to be a part of the league.  Over time, the group may find that it needs to set levels of membership, or restrictions on what constitutes the role of a producer.  But now is not the time to set these parameters. If we start excluding people now, we risk alienating other producers who are important members of our community. For better or worse, the only option for legitimacy is for us to foster an environment of true participation, allowing for everyone’s voice to be heard.

2)    We must act democratically.  This means that ALL decisions, especially those made in the beginning, must be voted on by the group, with notice of the vote and any supporting material on the vote being shared with the entire group.

3)    We must set up a mechanism for information to freely flow between all members.  Perhaps there is a way to create a news group similar the Big Cheap where we can become members.

4)    We need to elect a transitional committee whose sole function is to certify the voting in the early period of the League, before we set up a structure and elected a leadership. Perhaps a group of 7-13 people would be sufficient.  This group must understand that its purpose is not to become the leadership. Their role is merely to count the votes (because someone has to).

5)    We need to agree on some type of process that gives shape to how we will determine the structure and the leadership.

  1. I recommend that we start the process of voting for a League to form at the meeting on the 20th.  First we need to agree to abide by the majority vote of all votes taken by the group.  Then we need to first elect the 7-11 members to the transitional committee. Beginning on the 20th, and continuing for a period of 6 weeks, the transitional committee should collect votes in favor of and against the forming the league (thus acquiring members).  At the end of six weeks the transitional committee should email all those who have voted to create the league a list of all those that have voted yes.  These are the original members of the League.
  2. At this point we should allow another 6 weeks for the members to share their ideas as to how to structure the group.  Anyone and everyone should be allowed to submit a proposal to the group (using our message board yahoo group).  After 6 weeks of discussion, we should request that all members who want to submit a final proposal to the group for a vote to do so.  The proposals should include a structure, and leadership positions and the process to elect our leaders.
  3. I recommend that we use a Caucus format for voting on the proposals.  At a meeting to vote on the proposals the authors should be allowed 5 minutes to address the members to discuss their proposal.  After all proposals have been heard from we vote.  The proposal that has the lowest votes is removed, at which point we vote again.  We continue this process until we have two proposals left and the one with the majority vote becomes the structure.
  4. At this point the winning proposal will guide us as to next steps.

I recognize that this is but one way to launch our Producer’s League. There are, no doubt, many other ways as well.  Some might be better, some might be worse.  But so far, we have not had a process that has allowed for full proposals of this kind to be shared. Before we vote on any proposal, we deserve to know who wrote it.  We need to be able to challenge it.  And we need to make sure that it does not set out to exclude producers, but rather, follow the following equation:

Transparency + Accountability + Inclusiveness = Legitimacy.


One Response

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  1. finiweisz said, on May 18, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    The establishment of a producers league, is essential for the betterment of Los Angeles Theatre. For too long we have run around the block with the question of, “Is LA a theatre town?” Well we all no it is, but no one else does. and therein lies the great trap of doing theatre here. “Build it and they will come,” may work in the movies, but it doesn’t fair so well in real life. Audiences have to know that a show is up, and that it meets reasonable standards of production and preparation.

    A producers League would accomplish all of that and more. Through a cooperative effort, community advertising could be developed, right now the choices for cross market promotion are post cards in Lobbys, great for the printer, not so much for the shows, or ads in the Times, LA Weekly or Footlights. With Footlights, you know your message is at least getting in front of theatre goers, with the other two, well, we can only speculate.

    Resource management, collective bargaining, clear paths to grow or places to find answers, these are just a few of the benefits of a producers league. Better management of discount tickets, controlling comps, vetting bloggers and reviewers, creating media buzz, the functions of a league are endless, but none of it can be done by one person, or even a representative group, it must be done by the collective sweat of the producers.

    For more that 35 years, LA has essentially languished in the eyes of the theatre world. It’s time to raise our voice and shout out, We are here, we are strong, and we create some of the best theatre to be found anywhere. Let’s tell the world we’re here, this time, if we do build it, they will come.

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