Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fund Will Subsidize 5 & Dime to Pay Its Actors; by Charlie Patton

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fund Will Subsidize 5 & Dime to Pay Its Actors; by Charlie Patton

Article excerpt

Byline: charlie.patton@jacksonville.com

When Lisa Goodrich saw "Angels in America" at Players by the Sea in March 2014, she was surprised to learn that the actors were working for free.

She was told that by her friend Diane Brunet-Garcia, a Jacksonville advertising executive, who had once been a professional actor. She knew that actors don't get paid at most Jacksonville theaters, which is why she rarely acts anymore.

Goodrich and Brunet-Garcia decided to do something about the fact that at most local theaters -- the Alhambra Theatre & Dining is the most conspicuous exception -- actors don't get paid.

They have created the STAGE Fund (Sustaining Theatre Artists to Grow Excellence), which will begin granting stipends to people working at The 5 & Dime, A Theatre Company, located in downtown Jacksonville.

Beginning next fall, when most theater companies in Jacksonville open their seasons, the STAGE Fund will consider granting stipends to people working at other theaters, Brunet-Garcia said.

"If I go to an art gallery and buy a painting, the artist is compensated," Goodrich said. "If I go to a concert or to an event where a local band is playing, that band is compensated. In most cases local actors work full-time jobs while they spend many, many hours memorizing

lines, developing characters, driving from all over the city, and they are not even paid a stipend for the entertainment they provide and the cultural impact they make."

"We're going to give money to help migrate from a culture of free to a paying culture," Brunet-Garcia said. "I believe the time is right in our city."

Goodrich's nonprofit LMG Cooperative which will award The 5 & Dime a grant of $10,000 to $15,000 to be used to give stipends to actors, directors, stage managers and technicians for the 2018 season (the 5 & Dime, like the Alhambra, starts its season in January).

When the 5 & Dime launched in the fall of 2011, the goal was to "become a semi-professional company," said Lee Hamby, the company's managing director. Most Jacksonville theater companies pay directors, music directors and sometimes costume designers. Until now, the only people who were paid by the 5 & Dime are music directors.

With the support provided by the STAGE Fund, Hamby said he expects everyone working on a 5 & Dime show this year to receive a stipend of between $50 and $100.

"We're not using the word pay," he said. "We're using the word stipend."

Brunet-Garcia said the only theater she has performed at since moving to Jacksonville was Stage Aurora, founded by Darryl Reuben Hall. At the time Hall paid his actors.

Hall said he still tries to pay his actors though he doesn't always have the funds to do so.

Of the STAGE Fund, he said "I think it's a great program. Artists need to be paid I hope they extend it citywide. …

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