EL TEATRO CAMPESINO

March 18, 2021

Statement in support of SB 805

To the California Legislature:

Fifty-six years ago El Teatro Campesino was born on the picket lines of the Great Delano Grape Strike, led by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta. Originally formed of striking farm workers, our company has survived over the last six decades by working from the rural fringes of our society, serving the underserved by giving voice to the voiceless. Before 1965 there was no Chicano theatre, and precious little Latino theatre, from the fields of California to the Great White Way in New York. Since 1971 from our home base in the historic Mission town of San Juan Bautista, El Teatro Campesino has served the crucible of new American theatre works and artists, despite its bare existence in one of the most financially impoverished but historically rich counties in the state. Working out of our converted packing shed playhouse, we have nonetheless nurtured actors, playwrights, designers and stage technicians who would have otherwise never had this foundational opportunity to develop their skills as teachers and artists in the professional theatre.

Included among these artists are the late Diane Rodrigues, a beloved core company member in the 70’s who went on to become an Associate Artistic Director of the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles; Edward James Olmos and Daniel Valdez, stars of my plan and film Zoot Suit, the first Chicano play to make it to Broadway; Octavio Solis and Josefina López, renowned playwrights who saw their first works produced on our stage; Cultural Clash — Richard Montoya, Rick Salinas and Herbert Siguenza — who initiated their group career in our playhouse; and a long list of other Latino and Asian actors who have graced our boards over the years.

The fact is that for over half a century El Teatro Campesino has played a foundational role in the evolution of the American theatre by working out of a 99-seat house in one of the poorest rural areas in the country. It is for this crucial reason that I appeal to your sense of justice and fair play in support of SB 805. The effort to curtail and stifle the spirit of creation at the very grass roots of the American theatre can only impoverish independent working artists and our multicultural society as a whole.

Respectfully,

Luis Valdez
Founding Artistic Director of El Teatro Campesino.
Writer/Director of Zoot Suit and La Bamba

 

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Steve Moyer
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WHAT IS SB 805?

SB 805 will create a critical funding infrastructure to help assist our SMALL NONPROFIT PERFORMING ARTS COMPANIES (SNPACs), known as the PERFORMING ARTS EQUITABLE PAYROLL FUND, which will allocate matching funds to pay all workers minimum wage.

In addition, the bill also directs the California Arts Council to establish the CALIFORNIA NONPROFIT PERFORMING ARTS PAYMASTER, which will provide low-cost payroll and paymaster services to SNPACs.

READ THE BILL

 

CLICK HERE

 

Testimonials

“Over The last several years our organization, California Arts Advocates has worked with the legislature to investigate exemptions for small budget arts organizations that due to systemic undercapitalization of the arts and culture sector and the companion desire to keep arts affordable and accessible for all, simply cannot afford compliance with AB 5. Our deep concern now is that the one two punch of AB 5 and COVID may result in a loss of small budget arts organizations across California that are critical to offering community and educational based programs that employ emerging performers. That is why we support SB 805 and look forward to working with labor and the legislature to see its passage.”

Julie Baker
Executive Director of California for the Arts

“The world of intimate theatre provides the only access many artists, especially artists of color, have to hone their craft, network with others and ultimately achieve the kind of upward mobility that would otherwise be locked behind a paywall. This vital, grassroots pipeline will be the victim of collateral damage if we don’t find a way to make our voices heard to the powers that be.”

Marc Antonio Pritchett
Co-Artistic Director of Sacred Fools Theater Company

“Without SB 805, we will be leaving behind – and shutting out – countless local artists and stories, as well as a significant amount of representation on and off our stages.”

Oanh Nguyen
Executive Artistic Director of Chance Theater

“I’m surely not against paying actors. The Victory Theatre Center has always paid its actors. But the unintended consequences of AB 5 are that the majority of little theaters with budgets under $250,000 per year will be unable to function. The Victory will not be able to do its usual four productions per year. It’s even questionable we could do one. We could not continue our outreach to schools. The closure of the majority of small theaters would be a loss to our communities.”

Maria Gobetti
Co-Founding Artistic Director of The Victory Theatre Center

“Small professional arts organizations are immensely important because they are often the only arts incubators available for emerging talent. Without these organizations many writers, actors, directors, and designers simply would not have an opportunity to refine and show their work and be discovered. Each year, Rogue Machine offers 50 to 100 artists that opportunity to work and refine. Rogue Machine is proud that Kemp Powers, screenwriter of One Night in Miami… and Soul, and John Pollono, screenwriter of Stronger and Small Engine Repair, were able to start their careers through productions at Rogue Machine.”

John Perrin Flynn
Founding Artistic Director of Rogue Machine Theatre

“With the passage of SB 805, this bill will have a positive impact on BIPOC theaters that are doing work that benefits the public good, especially in low-income and underrepresented communities.”

Armando Molino
Artistic Director for Company of Angeles

“Small theaters don’t have development departments with a staff who focus exclusively on grant writing and donor development, nor marketing department or even a technical department. In small theaters, a very small number of people wear an inordinate number of hats to make the arts come alive. Comparing small non-profits arts organizations to other sectors of the economy is like comparing apples to oranges. There is very little money that is generated in the small performing arts world, yet we provide valuable services in terms access, representation and community building.”

Emmanuel Deleage
Executive Director of CASA 0101 Theater

“The 99-seat theater is a haven where new voices of writers and performers are nurtured in a safe environment. It allows the non-commercial stories to be developed and produced for low-income audiences who lack the financial means to experience live theater in larger houses. It is in the small 99-seat theater where we have achieved: Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility.”

Odalys Nanin
Producing Artistic Director/President of Macha Theatre Company/Films

“SB 805 will be the beacon light of hope to diverse voices and communities of color whose platforms have been and will continue to be the small non-profit theatres and visual arts organizations. It is the bridge of dreams and job opportunities to major profit theatres and arts organizations. It is the educational artistic platform for millions of young actors, artists, playwrights, designers, technicians, directors and producers whose dreams are to contribute to the artistic and social landscape. It is the foundation of the large profit theatres for their future artists and audiences. It is a step to the economic engine of this country.”

William Virchis
Producing Artistic Director of Teatro Máscara Mágica

“As an Independent Artist SB 805 which will allow me to nourish future generations with artistic tools and alternative ways to express, heal and tell their narratives of their families.”

Cristal Gonzalez
Freelance Artist