Great, Now Magneto Wants To Wipe Out Professional Theater…

Magneto McKellen

Maybe he should run for Vice-President on a ticket with Elizabeth Warren.

Quoth revered British actor Ian McKellen, Magneto (and Gandalf ) in the flesh:

“The one thing you can ask, I think, is that actors get paid a living wage. I would like it if all the repertory theaters that currently exist could do that. It would make a huge difference.”

It sure would. It would put most small professional theaters out of business, make theater unaffordable for any but rich theater-lovers, and eliminate a huge number of acting jobs. It is an idiotic, ignorant, irresponsible, but very, very nice, liberal, compassionate, well-intentioned and Elizabeth Warrenish suggestion that willfully ignores reality and basic economics—in other words, it is consistent with progressive mythology. We owe the Magster a debt of gratitude for illustrating exactly what is wrong with blanket endorsements of minimum wage increases and “living wages.”

The fact is, and it is a fact, that most theaters cannot afford to pay actors what they do now, unless they are heavily subsidized by government grants and philanthropy. The audiences for live theater are dwindling, and each rise in costs results in higher ticket prices, which restricts the audiences further, and worse, by making it unaffordable to take children to productions, strangles interest in and appreciation of live theater among future generations.

As Magneto once knew but perhaps has forgotten now that his alter ego is paid obscene amounts to do very little acting, as in the last X-Men film, art doesn’t pay and never has, except for elite exceptions Few good artists are in it for the money, and in most cases, once art is produced for the money, the integrity of the art and the artist is defenestrated. Pass a law that requires a living wage for actors, and there will be fewer theaters, smaller casts, fewer jobs, fewer audience members, higher ticket prices, fewer playwrights, fewer plays produced, less theater and a less healthy and literate culture. Naturally, this would require the government to add more theater costs to its budget, unless those culturally astute lawmakers decided that funding services for the poor, the aged,and the disabled, fixing roads, bridges, sewage systems and airports, maintaining the military and not letting the national indebtedness put us on the slow boat to Athens were less crucial than underwriting productions of “The Odd Couple.”

What a great plan!

But then Magneto is evil, isn’t he?

And apparently none too bright.

25 thoughts on “Great, Now Magneto Wants To Wipe Out Professional Theater…

  1. I will go along with his plan if he agrees that the living wage is the price ceiling as well as the floor and that royalties for theatrical productions were paid at the rate of $1 per performance. I doubt if he would do that.

  2. My guess is that this was not a carefully considered proposal by the Sir, and that he did not expect it to be circulated by the progressive press. He said one could “ask” and that he would “like” it. Me, I would ask that I be made Emperor of North America, and I would like that. I would ask that Bill Gates makes me his heir. I would like that too. I would ask the the Red Sox stop driving me nuts this season, and that my clients would agree to triple my fees. I would like all of this.

  3. I seem to recall, not long ago, that McKellen’s BFF, Patrick Stewart, was lamenting how few families get to go to the theater because of the high cost of admission.

  4. And I’m goin’ to Lufkin (Texas) for the Watermelon Thump and I would very much like to win the seed spittin’ contest. That’s not likely to happen, either.

  5. If government, as a trade off, would get out of the health care, auto, banking, housing and oil business I could wholeheartedly support this proposal.

    • Good luck with that! Asking the gubmint to get out of ANYTHING once they’re in it is an exercise in futility.

  6. I have a similar reaction every few months whenever the ‘if all the actors/live musicians/techs banded together and stopped working for free/cheap, they’d HAVE to pay us!’ makes the rounds. The live musicians around here amuse me, because they alternate it with the ‘too many companies are using canned music – support live musicians!’ calls to action.

  7. Why is it that theatre does so poorly in comparison to music concerts? I suggest that for each Arthur Miller or August Wilson, there are 1000 ‘playwrights’ writing narcissistic junk. Let them get into busking or something else.

    • Because theater takes work, because you have to think, because so many people who have never been to a live performance can’t conceive of why movies aren’t just as good or better, because it has an old fashioned, uncool image, because high school theater is mostly corny and dreadful, because so many people don’t have the attention span, thanks to TV…

      • At the children’s theatre where I volunteer we perform numerous school matinees to very young audiences. We then send the children home with vouchers for discounted tickets if they wish to return with their families. It’s amazing how many parents have returned to the theatre telling us that their child “begged” them to come back and see the show. It’s our hope that if we can instill a love for live theatre when they’re young…. It’s a hope, anyway.

  8. Not evil, but maybe he channeled his dizzy scientist in the Shadow. He’s also hampered because he’s used to a country where the taxes were much higher portion and the safety net is larger.

  9. There are ways it could work.

    If the Screen Actors Guild and its top-10% earners all agreed, as part of their union obligation, to put a significant portion of their industry-related profits into an equity fund for the repertory circuit, it would probably go a long way toward making our good Sir Ian’s wish come true.

    But that would only work if they really cared.

    • I think Actor’s Equity would be the appropriate union for that. Screen actors, while technically involved in the same profession, are represented by a different guild than stage actors.

      There’s some precedent, though. During one of the recent strikes, quite a few high profile actors donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to help their lesser-earning peers weather the strike.

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