Guy Yedwab and I were invited to talk about the League of Independent Theater at Articulate Theatre Company‘s event at the The Theater Center to honor the impact and many contributions made by Circle Rep. and its members. So many incredible people were there. It was a real honor getting to share with them what the League does. Our complete speech is below the picture. I was happy with how we could earn so many laughs and applause breaks talking about arts advocacy!
Big thanks to Cat Parker for having us there with Jeff Daniels, William Mastrosimone, William Hoffman, A.R. Gurney, Marshall W. Mason, Lou Liberatore, Glenn Alterman, Dennis Parichy, John Lee Beatty, Chuck London, Jennifer von Mayrhauser, Tanya Berezin, Setphanie Gordon, Burke Pearson, Shay Gines, Cyndi Coyne, Jeffrey Sweet, William Carden, Robert Askins, Leonard Jacobs, Richard Frankel and many others.
Chris: Our thanks to Cat Parker for having us be part of this incredible night.
Guy: One of the lasting legacies of Circle Rep was defining the Off Off Broadway scene. Out of that legacy, the League of Independent Theater grew out of a gathering of theater artists in 2008 in response to a crisis created by the significant loss of Off Off Broadway spaces and the constraints of the Equity showcase code. We wanted to give a voice to that collection of artists that the Circle Rep brought together.
Chris: From this, a 501c6 non-profit was born. 501c6 because this allows us to endorse in political races.
Guy: In 2013, we created a Performing Arts Platform, which you can read about on our website litny.org, and endorsed in 18 city-wide races and over 50% percent made it into office. We also made a beautiful voting guide of arts-friendly candidates.
Chris: And we got a candidate for Mayor to use the term “independent theater” on TV!
Guy: This process let us tell the story of the cultural and economic impact of independent theater in New York City. We transform neighborhoods because we make more than 3,000 productions a year in all of the 5 boroughs.
Chris: To those in politics and business who do not think arts are important, we simply ask if they are for small business. Usually they will say, “well, of course, I’m for small business.” “Then you should be for independent theater because we are an important economic driver of the city, to the tune of several million dollars annually.”
Guy: We’re now a part of the conversation; we’ve seen new tracts of affordable housing for artists, increases to the cultural budget, and other gains — because we have a voice, stay engaged and active, and bring our independent passion to city politics.
Chris: Since LIT started, we’ve lost 72 performance spaces. To counteract this trend, we developed a heavily subsidized rehearsal space program that has helped over 20 companies be able to take residence in unused commercial spaces to rehearse for long stretches of time without interruption or having to lug their props and costumes on the subway. More about this can also be found on our website, litny.org.
Guy: As codes and agreements began changing at Actors’ Equity, LIT has worked to establish communications with Equity to find common ground in treating actors well but also allowing independent theater to be developed and not have such a huge financial leap between levels of production.
Chris: We also are bringing artists together with our Green Practices working group and other initiatives to come. We continue to seek creative ways of addressing issues facing the independent territory, and we do everything on less than $200 a year.
Guy: If you want to get involved, please join us at litny.org.
Chris: Membership is free.
Guy: Long live Circle Rep.
Chris: And long live independent theater in New York!