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    Posted February 27, 2007

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Western Membership Education Committee Sponsors Town Hall Meeting

Members new and old gathered at Theatre West, Los Angeles' oldest continually operating theatre company, on Monday evening, Jan. 29, 2007, to socialize and discuss current issues affecting Actors Equity and individual Members' work lives.

In addition to local Councillors and Committee Chairs, on hand to speak with Members were National President Mark Zimmerman, National Executive Team members Steve DiPaola and Mary Lou Westerfield, and Western Region Senior Staff Members Joe Garber, Timothy Smith and Michael Van Duzer. The discussion was moderated by Membership Education Committee Chair Ned Schmidtke, and WRB First Vice Chair Vernon Willet.

The meeting opened with a greeting by Equity Member and Theatre West Executive Director John Gallogly. Mark Zimmerman added his welcome and spoke briefly to the recent upheavals in Equity's leadership and to the great strength the Association has shown in moving through them to maintain a promising, if challenging, future.

"Equity Is You" was the first segment of the evening's discussion - a reminder that the strength of the Union ultimately lies with us, the Members, and that Union policy and direction is affected by individual members communicating our needs and suggestions to our representatives and actively participating in committees. Reminders of the current election process and upcoming Production and LORT contract negotiations were also broached .

Western Region Senior Business Representative Joe Garber introduced the theme of the evening, "Hey, Equity, What Have You Done For Me Lately?", by giving a summary of recent improvements in contracts and services. The information that Members in the Western Region had earned a total $43,000,000 in the most recent fiscal year was received with enthusiastic applause. A lively and positive discussion followed, garnering valuable insights into shared concerns about life and work as well as specific suggestions for future projects and discussion.

Membership Education Committee Member Pat Loeb announced a just-initiated Committee project to compile a directory of "Hot Tips" for the Los Angeles area - including things like fun and little-known places to visit, freebies, and great theatre library resources - and invited the audience to contribute their tidbits as well.

The evening was capped with a raffle, with prizes ranging from Equity T-shirts, Samuel French caps and a year's subscription to Back Stage West to dinner for two at The Grill on Hollywood, an elegant local restaurant.

Membership Education Committee Chair Ned Schmidtke reports that feedback from the evening reveal an appreciation for future Town Hall-style events as well as workshops and seminars on various subjects and purely social events. "Looks like we have our work cut out for us. Good!" Mr. Schmidtke said.

Also contributing substantially to the event were Staff Members Michael Ankney and Richard Ostlund, and Western Region Membership Education Committee members Vernon Willett, Nancy Daly, Kathlyn Miles, Helen Geller, Ivy Bethune, Barbara Roberts, Glenda Chisholm-Tamblyn, Marcia Rodd and Pat Loeb. Ned Schmidtke and Pat Loeb co-chaired the event.

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