Matthew Lickona 10:37 a.m., May 24
San Diego has a national reputation for theater. So do Chicago, Seattle, and Minneapolis, among others. But what do they have that San Diego doesn't?
At least twice as many Equity houses. These hire professional actors, stage managers, and technicians and pay salaries and full benefits. If necessary, Actor's Equity Association (AEA) also assists with administrative items (payroll, labor disputes) , houses out of town actors, and helps open doors for funding and grants. As a result: directors, crews, and producers can focus more on the creative side of the work.
Maybe most important, they give a theater legitimacy.
San Diego has some Equity houses. And owing to a generosity we can't praise enough, donors often sponsor individual actors at non-Equity companies like Moxie and Cygnet. But compared to the other cities, San Diego lags behind.
Local actors, in fact, must make a choice: don't join Equity and stay in town (and play the occasional juicy part); or join AEA, knowing that to make anything like a living you will have to leave the area.
"Actors go for Equity, and that's a good thing," says Jonathan McMurtry, who has been a successful Equity actor for over 50 years. "But we lose a community that way. What can we do to have it happen here?"
The North Coast Repertory Theatre has made a move in that direction. On Tuesday, February 5, it will honor McMurtry and stage a benefit for the recently established Jonathan McMurtry Actor's Fund, ""Championing the Professional Actor in San Diego."
A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, McMurtry has performed over 200 productions at the Old Globe (including all 37 of Shakespeare's plays), appeared in leading roles across the country, and given a Craig Noel Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Diego Theater Critics Circle.
The fund will be ongoing, all proceeds "earmarked to pay the salaries of professional actors" at North Coast Rep.
"I'm honored - and humbled - that the fund bears my name," says McMurtry. "It will help provide employment and dignity to our professional stage actors in San Diego.'"
The ceremony takes place at the North Coast Rep on Tuesday, February 5 at 6:30 p.m.