Stage starving

MIREIA RUIZ SERAPIO
CARLES FERNÀNDEZ FIGUERAS

Llegeix aquest contingut en català aquí
Translated by Álvaro Rodríguez Huguet

Persistence is the only thing that allows actors and actresses of Barcelona to try surviving in the precariousness without giving up on their profession

The new generations of actors arrive at the sector with way few chances to start their career. Víctor Navarro.

Anyone can imagine what is to overcome a casting to work in a play all about: the continuous training of actors and actresses; searching auditions and getting ready for them thoroughly; having a few minutes to draw the director’s attention, that gives you the chance between 500 people competing for the same role.

However, to those privileged that achieve to work, Catalunya does not offer them a more encouraging panorama. Once they live the joy of obtaining a role, it comes the moment of knowing the working conditions and signing the contract – if that exists.

Barcelona, as all the big cities with theatre activity, has an agreement signed by the Association of Professional Actors and Directors of Cataluña (AADPC) about the working conditions of the actors. That sets how the contracts have to be, the minimum wage of rehearsals and performances, and the working relationships for the actors and actresses.

Despite that, in the praxis, the agreement applies to large productions only and the salary is not fixed, but established by box office. In this case, the production company offers its show to a hall to be scheduled and the conditions are agreed: the gains percentage of the performance received by the hall is established and the rest is divided according to the company’s criteria.

A significant part of the actors works for a paltry salary: the bigger the troupe is and the lesser the seating capacity is, the lesser they get paid. Moreover, they often have to turn into freelancers to have access to productions, rehearsing without getting paid or not being insured. All of this in a legal nebula bordering on illegality. Adrià Andreu was part of a production in the Greek Theatre, but it did not figure: “Economically speaking they paid me a sandwich; legally, it didn’t exist.”

In spite of the precariousness that surrounds the theatre world, the most part of artists accept to work in bad conditions, being aware that they are unfair. Between actors and actresses, that put on with a really high level of unemployment, is repeated the same statement: “If I don’t accept it, there is a large row of people willing to do it in worse conditions.” On the other hand, any option of stepping on a stage is felt as a working opportunity, especially for the youth that has little professional experience. Elia Solé, one of the Catalan actresses that suffers these conditions, explains it: “I’ve accepted to step on the stage for the very reason of stepping on it.”

In short, the reality of the performing arts of Barcelona bumps into a collective little united when fighting for their working rights. Unlike Broadway, where it would be unthinkable that an actor works without the working conditions reunited in an agreement, in Barcelona individuality reigns. Although the existence of trade unions – that offer legal advice or labour exchange, among others – these are not strong and have a low interest and participation from the actors and actresses.

As a result of this, actors are often forced to emigrate, do teaching for a living or have another source of income to be able to survive. They can only live for the theatre famous artists contracted by agreement that link jobs, always of a short term.

Considering this situation, many actors decide to take a chance in writing, setting and offering their own performances. Even though the result can be artistically interesting, economically is not profitable. Adrià Andreu decided to drive their own performances: “The panorama is even worse. You get more paid babysitting four evenings.”

Wreck of Barcelona
The precariousness of the artists is framed in a sector with a delicate health. As a result of the economic crisis, numerous theatres have shut down in Barcelona, whereas more and more little halls appeared. All of this, to the detriment of professional conditions of the actors, since the halls receive good part of the public subsidies and they use to keep a high percentage of the collecting.

On the other hand, companies and production agencies also find themselves in a difficult situation: Barcelona has an irregular stream of audience and a little theatre culture. On numerous times, they go ahead with low cost productions in little halls that are not profitable or great performances are stopped because they have not much success.

Although production agencies often know that they will lose profit, the actress Júlia Bonjoch claims that cannot go in prejudice of the troupe. “If you can bring 10.000 euros out to pay the rights of a play, you have to be able to bring out 10.000 more to pay to whom will make it possible.”
Most of the actors and actresses of Barcelona work for the love of it. And if the current trend is chronicled, there is the risk that they live off nothing in aeternum. And that the theatre of Barcelona loses quality more and more.

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