SMASH Fact or Fiction? Season 2, Episodes 13 and 14 ("The Producers" and "The Phenomenon")"

SMASH Fact or Fiction? Season 2, Episodes 13 and 14 ("The Producers" and "The Phenomenon")"

SMASH's second season is winding down and we all wonder if it might be the last.  No matter, actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work, hopeful for a third and I'm delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow.  We'd better play while we can because as we all know, SMASH is much more fun when you play Fact or Fiction.

Everyone, get your buzzers out.  We have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your week studying up on theater facts and fictions. Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.

I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact, a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary. Right? Right. Good. Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______. We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world. Based on the success of A Chorus Line and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway. Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog. Right? Right. If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place, tough guy, and maybe you should go here instead.  Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number seven and is probably a wrapped copy of The Great Gatsby.

My name is Sharon Wheatley, I've done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that's where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun.  Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.

Cell phones off.  Game buzzers on.

Here we go. Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”. You play along. Get your buzzers ready.  We will cover two episodes in this blog post, but they were pretty skimpy, so no need for snacks today.

1) Press is part of the actors contract.  Fact or Fiction?

Fact.  I thought this might be a good time to talk a little bit about how much press is expected of actors during the run of a show and whether or not they are paid to do it.

The answer, you do a lot of press and you are only paid for it if the press you are doing pays.  What does that mean?  For example they mention that Ivy is booked for The Tonight Show.  Since The Tonight Show is filmed on the west coast and Broadway is in New York, it is fairly rare for a Broadway actor to appear on that show.  Jimmy Fallon?  David Letterman?  Yes.  But now I am just nit picking.  THE POINT IS, you get paid to be a guest on that show, so the actor would be paid whatever the union rate is.  Same is true for all major TV shows and things like The Macy's Day Parade and The Tony Awards.  But basic press like personal appearances and interviews (non-filmed) are un-paid.  There is an interesting rule that I didn't know about that mandates you must be paid if you appear in costume.  It reads as follows from the Actors Equity web site:

(1) In Costume. When Actors participate in live publicity appearances in costume, the Actors shall be paid not less than one-eighth of the weekly minimum salary;

(2) No Costume. When Actors participate in live publicity appearances without costumes, no payments shall be required. T-shirts, caps and show jackets shall not be considered a costume for purposes of this provision. However, any clothing purchased by the Producer to be worn by Actor(s) in promotional events, other than T-shirts, caps or show jackets, shall be considered a costume for purposes of this provision. Producer may reasonably request that an Actor appear in Actor’s own clothing, excluding “black tie,” without incurring a payment under this provision; 

Interesting, huh?  No wonder we always do press in show t-shirts!

My friend Jimmy who is on Actors' Equity Council would kill me if I didn't mention the media payment, so let me make sure I explain how Equity figured out how to charge for all the new social media stuff.  It is a long rule, rule #39, and can be found HERE.  Basically (and I mean basically) actors get 2% of the minimum salary and that covers a boat load of media.  You get the pay weekly and you get it whether you ever appear on camera or not.

"This payment is in addition to contractual salary and shall be paid for Actor’s entire employment period whether or not the Actor appears in any captured material. The payment is subject to pension and dues."

2)  Regarding Jimmy arriving at the theater at 10 minutes before curtain it was said, "You're late.  If we were on Broadway you'd be fined."  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  (This is a correction that came in from a former stage manager of mine.)

There is a monetary fining system for being late to a Broadway show, but more often it you will be "written up" and it will be placed in your file.  A paper trail of write ups can lead to your termination.  In addition there is a protocol for allowing an actor to appear onstage if late, but I can't find official paperwork on it.  Here's what I think it is, please weigh in if you know the exact rules.

I *think* that after half hour it is the stage manager's call as to whether or not the late actor will do the show or be sent home.  After being 15 minutes late the understudy is put on automatically.  Even as I type that I can think of exceptions where stars were put on right up to curtain.

Here is the rule book guidelines from Actors' Equity, brought to you by the excellent stage manager, Tom Taylor.  I'd written you could not be fined, but I was (in fact) wrong!  

According to the Production Contract - Rule 50 (G)

(G) Lateness. If Actor is late for "half-hour" more than twice within any six month period, Actor will be fined the following amounts for each lateness
commencing with Actor’s third lateness: 
(a) $75 for Actors earning $2,500 per week or less; 
(b) $150 for Actors earning more than $2,500. 
All fines will be remitted by the Producer to the Actors’ Equity Foundation and will
be deducted from Actor’s salary on a pre-tax basis. An official and accurate clock
will be designated. Written notice of lateness will be given to both Actor and Equity. This rule shall apply uniformly. If it is determined in grievance or arbitration
that the rule has not been applied uniformly, Producer must remit all fines assessed
within the six months prior to the fine that is challenged. 
It is understood that this will not affect Producer's right to send Actor home and
reduce salary accordingly. However, if Producer does send Actor home, Producer
cannot also fine Actor. The foregoing does not waive or alter the Producer's right to
terminate Actor for just cause in the event of chronic lateness, including any
lateness for half-hour or rehearsal. 
(H) Where practicable, Producer shall endeavor to provide advance notice to
Actors of their required attendance at a rehearsal to be conducted during a

3)  They dim the lights on Broadway after the death of a Broadway veteran.  Fact or Fiction?


Robert Simonson just wrote a terrific piece about this on, so I will link to the article here.

So that's it.  I didn't have a lot to write about in these two episodes, but I wanted to talk about a few things, so here you go.  I still haven't heard SMASH got its notice, but I am assuming it has?  Anyone know for sure?

I can give my cancellation notice for sure.  Even if there is a SMASH next year, there will be no SMASH Fact or Fiction.  Even so, I'll finish out this season,  and maybe we'll talk a little about what caused the show's demise (in my opinion).

See you next week!