Sometimes, on some nights, the value of what we do — and why we do it — manifests itself in a clear and affirming way. Last night, happening simultaneously in two sections of town, was one of those evenings.
Last night at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in downtown LA, hundreds of members of the LA theatre community held a town hall meeting to discuss the damaging (and, according to lawsuits filed, potentially illegal) plan by Actors Equity Association to eliminate the 99-Seat Plan, a blow that would cripple dozens of intimate theatres in Los Angeles and could cause several to close.
Meanwhile, at the very same moment on Fountain Avenue, a full house of theatre-goers were enjoying a performance of our acclaimed west coast premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll. And, like every Monday night at the Fountain Theatre, the public ticket price was Pay What You Can.
Our ongoing Pay What You Can performances on Monday nights have blossomed into a popular LA theatre institution. Every Monday night at the Fountain, patrons choose to pay whatever they can afford. And because it is typically the night off for theatre folk, Monday nights at the Fountain provide many actors in LA with the opportunity to see a performance they wouldn’t normally be available to attend — and see it at whatever price they choose.
“It’s all about being of service,” says Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “We instituted Monday night performances as Pay What You Can shows months ago and it’s really caught on. Not only does it keep theatre affordable and accessible for all, it creates community.”
“It’s insane when you think about it,” he continued.”Creating non-profit theatre in an intimate venue with only 78 seats is a money-losing venture anyway. There’s a reason why it’s called ‘not-for-profit’ theatre. And to be offering valuable tickets every week on Monday nights on a Pay What You Can basis? It makes no sense. Can you imagine walking into Best Buy every Monday night and buying a new laptop by paying whatever you can? Or a new dishwasher at Sears and pay only what you can afford?”
“Look, there’s nothing wrong with being financially sound and responsible,”says Sachs. “But as a charitable non-profit organization, the core reason for our existence, the very heart of our purpose, is not about making money. We are here to create art and to be of service to the community and enhance the lives of the people of Los Angeles.”
Last night in two sections of town, the fundamental philosophical difference between what Actors Equity wants to take away versus the public service LA intimate theatre provides to audiences and artists was on display. One was being debated. The other was actually happening.
The Fountain Theatre will forge ahead with its mission to create theatre of the highest quality possible, to engage diverse artists and audiences in the meaningful and life-enhancing shared experience of intimate theatre, and make it accessible and affordable to as many as we can.
It’s what we do. And why.