Response to Linda Bukhosini’s Press Release Regarding the Mayville Workshops

By: Steven Stead
Executive Director: KickstArt

Ms Bukhosini alleges that I (as an individual) “continuously refuses” to align myself with “reasonable business opportunities that are available to him and other arts practitioners who do business with The Playhouse Company”
Since this is the first time that I have publicly questioned her decisions or judgement, I cannot understand how my ‘recalcitrance’ is “continuous”. Unless she is referring to the opera programme, Bravissimo where she employed me as director and then insisted that I accept the production team that she had selected for me, against standard international theatre practise, leaving me no choice but to resign from the job. Or when I refused to allow her to censor a few topical political references from our family pantomime Aladdin, which she found offensive. Or most recently when she tried to remount my successful production of My Fair Lady without crediting me or consulting me, again in disregard of standard international theatre practise. In all these cases, I agree that reasonable business practise was flouted. But not by me. Could the fact that I am one of the only people in the city who stands up to her have ANYTHING to do with the bullying we continuously face?
The Playhouse does have a mandate from the Department of Arts and Culture to be supporting grass-roots artistic activity in the province. She doesn’t mention this in her press release.
If The Playhouse is “continuously committed to equitable distribution of available resources to address the varying artistic and cultural needs of our society and to maximize on possible income streams”, then why make an already unproductive workshop more redundant by denying access to the paying public?
I am not an individual in this case. I represent a company. My company employs dozens of actors and artisans every year, and serves a public of over 40 000. Her decision to make our work difficult doesn’t just affect me. It affects everyone who enjoys our work.
There are several businesses including a magician’s workshop, a rope factory and a martial arts studio run from the premises. Again, she fails to address this issue in her press release.
The amounts of money we have directly paid the Playhouse for hire and refurbishment Jan 2009-Jan 2010 are: Cinderella R22 0000, Little Shop of Horrors R19 837.50, Winnie the Pooh R19 340.39, Noises Off R33 845, and Peter Pan R20 105. TOTAL: R115 127.89. A remaining R60 000 was spent on workmen in the workshops for their labour, and for materials.
Where her figure of R36 812 comes from is curious.
She doesn’t address the fact that we have received top advice from a risk management consultant regarding indemnity, which is standard national working practise. Doubtless the various businesses currently renting space at Mayville have such documents in order, as does anyone hiring any of the theatres in the complex.
She also doesn’t address the fact that there is no skilled scenic artist or painter at Mayville, and that any production that has had any success, whether it is KickstArt’s, or The Playhouse’s My Fair Lady (2006) or Sound of Music (2007) has not only required Greg King’s expert design and ability to reuse old, unused stock pieces, but his hands on ability to paint backcloth’s and do all set dressing. Her recent production of My Fair Lady largely had to be built in Johannesburg because the workshops were not capable of producing the cloths required.
We believe that Ms Bukhosini’s actions are motivated by professional jealousy and personal spite, and we have nothing to lose in fighting this battle. We will continue to create art and entertain Durban, with or without her support.

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Being Replaced

Post by : Anne-Marie Clulow

Here is the gist without names. I have been playing a gig replacing someone who was sick. The venue was so happy with me they approached me privately to take over. I refused, saying I would play until the other performer was well enough to play again. Naledi time came around, and I was invited to present. This is a huge, although unpaid event, and the exposure is great. I informed the venue and asked them to contact the agent to find an act for the date I couldn’t be there. With a full weeks notice. They found an act and the act played the gig. the following week I am told by the venue that the agent is pushing for the other act to go in for a contracted month, but they said they’ll choose who they want at their venue. Today, after trying to find out all week what’s happening this weekend, I am informed that the act that replaced me is in this weekend, and I am not needed. On all occasions when I have been personally approached, even without a contract from the agent I have paid commission and said I will still go through the agency. Lovely loyalty huh? She has now booked the other act in.

I am so sick of being screwed over by people. The agent still gets comm, the venue still has an act and I have no work now because everyone else was quite happy to do what suited them.

I guess i should have insisted on a contract, but the last one I got from the agent had a date on where the venue had a benefit concert so I lost out on the money. Wasn’t unhappy to give it to a good cause, but the contract I received was also still not worth the paper it was written on.

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Creative Workers Union S.A.

THIS POST HAS BEEN REMOVED AT THE REQUEST OF THE PERSON WHO SENT ME THE OVERVIEW OF THE CAPE TOWN MEETING. IT APPEARS THAT I WAS IN ERROR TO  MAKE IT PUBLIC AND FOR THAT I APOLOGISE.

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Equity SA ??

A Facebook group has been created to try and assess how many people employed in the entertainment industry in South Africa would be interested in joining an Equity UK type union. We believe that we must create an all encompassing union – actors, dancers, musicians, technicians, designers, circus artists, stunt people …….etc – rather than a specific union for each category. The more people we can bring in under one umbrella the more powerful we will become and apart form contracts, working conditions and so on we would, if the numbers are large enough, be able to investigate things like medical plans and pension funds.
This is more a market research exercise than anything else with no operational specifics and details applied. It would be interesting to get suggestions from all as to how you see it could operate. The one thing for sure is that it would take payment of a monthly or annual subscription so we would have to be serious about forming such a union and making sure that the benefits are real. Again the higher the numbers the lower we could keep that subscription.

Some of you will know that there has been some success in recent months in exposing some of the malpractices that are rife in the entertainment industry. We need to stop and prevent these things happening in a more proactive way and having a strong union is the only way to go.

Please click on this link and consider joining.—–>>> Equity SA

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Response to BY Theatre owners letter.

If you want to read what it says then go to the post called “Chris Luke responds to Barnyard article” posted on the 19/02/2010.

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Know Your Rights!!

This was also posted as a comment by Chris Luke.

MPE (My Previous Employer) are reacting to our initiative and making changes: MPE are handing out contracts: They covered themselves nicely for the March run of their South African show in KZN. Everyone in this cast got contracts and only because we encouraged an investigation from their endorsee, which took place in January. MPE got wind of our request on our sites and did something about it in fear of losing that endorsement. None of the performers in that show have had signatures on contracts for the last couple of years and now they have them. I was in that show since 2003 and travelled abroad with it in 2008 and 2009. So, that was an accomplishment.
MPE have taken down all boards and banners at Cresta with my image on it (the outside board was new and it’s been removed hastily) – this is what I wanted, as I am having a media war with MPE in KZN over rights to images and with regard to false advertising. (Please see the links below). Check your new contracts as to your rights regarding this issue; in fact, all of you should be supplied with a model release form to cover yourselves on this issue. KZN are using my image to advertise the show in March. That is called false advertising. MPE CANNOT USE YOUR IMAGE IN PERPETUITY. I personally do not want my image associated with the brand.
Further: The issue of contracts is not solved:
Firstly, please note: This initiative DOES NOT apply to actors who work for MPE with agents (i.e. for the shows R and G etc.). MPE are forced to supply contracts for those shows because actors work with individual agents. And their agents must have contracts. Musicians and singers however, DO NOT work on this system – they fend for themselves when it comes to contractual issues. So when MPE says: ‘we do supply contracts, here they are’ and show investigators piles of contracts from those  shows that is a circumvention of the issue.
Secondly, this is not about pay slips or UIF. All of those MPE can provide and when they get investigated it looks impressive.
Thirdly, this is about contractual rights of performers. This is about (and this is who this initiative is aimed at) all of you at MPE, primarily musicians and singers who have worked for MPE for over two or three consecutive runs i.e. 6 to 8 months and keep getting booked for consecutive runs. They keep you on, and on, and on for years at a time. You think it’s great because (even though you don’t have a contract) you are getting work. 5 years pass and you realize that if MPE had to drop you for the next two runs, you are going to be out of work for 6 months. You are going to lose 6 months salary because trying to get back into the loop (the music industry that that you left 5 years ago) isn’t going to happen in 6 months. So all the assets that you have accrued with your so-called ‘permanent’ salary at MPE can’t be sustained for the next six months.
Permanent employment according to Labour Law is working over 40 hours a month for more than three months. You are working over 70 hours a month and do free rehearsals. In fact, you are permanently at the disposal of MPE. That means you are entitled to permanent employment benefits. i.e paid breaks or holidays (and a whole host of other things)
PLEASE NOTE: If you have worked for MPE for 1 solid year, or 2, 3 , 4 , 5 and in some cases 8 years (and there are many of you) and MPE’s intention is to keep you on for another year in that show, or in another show, and you cannot leave the show and put in a replacement AT ANY TIME OF YOUR CHOOSING – THEN YOU NEED A PERMANENT EMPLOYEE CONTRACT.
Fourthly, if you are doing runs of shows for MPE and they are taking up most of your year, but they are not consecutive runs – YOU ARE ENTITLED TO AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR CONTRACT. This means that you are entitled to work with a dep (replacement) by law and you can sustain your career outside of MPE protecting you from needless loss of income when a show run ends. If MPE took this seriously and changed protocol, you could triple your salary (do all the well paying corporates) and still perform for MPE while you work six to eight months of the year for them.
Fifthly, protocol has to be set by MPE with regard to these issues. If it is not, then double standards occur i.e. some people get to put in replacements but others do not. Some people are fined but others are not. (MPE cannot fine anyone for putting in a replacement).
I URGE ALL SINGERS AND MUSICIANS AT MPE TO LOOK AT YOUR NEW CONTRACTS AND REASSESS THEM IN THE ABOVE TERMS. This system could work perfectly, all of you, including MPE could be happy. It’s time MPE did this by the book. You are entitled to assess your contract and you are entitled to a forum for grievances by law. You are also entitled to paid rehearsals. And you are entitled to be insured when you are on stage or in the building for work. If you are dismissed unfairly, or dropped before a run: If you can prove that you have worked for them for that period of time and they can’t show you a contract with your signature on it then yours is a cut and dried case at the CCMA.
The turn in the tide is now people. Do not let MPE take advantage of you. Change has and will come. The better you are informed and educated the better you can protect yourself.
Chris Luke

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Some Positive Action by B.Y.

The post below was sent in as a comment by Chris Luke but I believe it is important enough to use as a post because it shows that, with passion and belief in what is right, things that have been wrong for years can start to change.
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From Chris Luke.
I’d just like to let you all know that BY Productions are obviously taking this more seriously than the BY franchise owners in KZN having recently removed their very new outside board at Cresta. The Board was very big, about 4 by 5 meters and had recently come up – one of the large images was of myself. This board is gone as well as the banner on the inside of the mall which had hung there for years and years – this had several large images of myself on it. I am glad to see that for once BY are actually listening and taking the awareness we have created seriously.  Was that in anticipation of my settlement on (changed to) Friday  – regardless, things are actually getting done. Fantastic.
We are the first (all support be praised) to give BY the shove they needed toward thinking about their protocol.

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