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California Artists Unite For The Passage Of The Performing Arts Relief Act

A coalition of 36 small 99-seat non-profit theaters and freelance performers band together to make theatre accessible to all.

California Artists Unite For The Passage Of The Performing Arts Relief Act

Artists throughout the state of California are uniting for the passage of Senate Bill 805 (SB 805), titled, "The Performing Arts Relief Act," which the Senate Labor Committee will vote on Wednesday, April 19, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in Sacramento, CA. A Coalition of 36 small 99-seat non-profit theaters and freelance performers are banding together to make theater accessible to all.

SB 805 is focused on exploring solutions to help create and preserve opportunities for emerging artists, performers and people in the performing arts sector - particularly for workers from marginalized communities who are struggling to find work. Many small budget, culturally rooted community performing arts organizations are often the onramp and incubator for new works and opportunities for emerging performers and people entering the creative performing arts industries.

Today small performing arts organizations are reducing the number of people they hire and the number of programs they can offer due to the increased costs of complying with California Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), the gig work law that makes it harder for companies to classify their workers as independent contractors instead of employees. Community based arts organizations are historically undercapitalized. This is a cause of concern for the survival of this critical aspect of the arts ecosystem that SB 805 is trying to solve.

Authored by State Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) representing the 22nd District, and co-authored by State Senator Bill Allen (D-Santa Monica) representing the 26th District, SB 805 will support 501(c)(3) non-profits and small performing arts organizations which exist for charitable purposes to bring the arts and educational and cultural activities to the general public at reasonable costs.

Luis Valdez, Founding Artistic Director of El Teatro Campesino and Writer/Director of Zoot Suit and La Bamba, said: "Fifty-six years ago El Teatro Campesino was born on the picket lines of the Great Delano Grape Strike, led by César Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Originally formed of striking farm workers, our company has survived over the last six decades by working from the rural fringes of our society, serving the underserved by giving voice to the voiceless. Before 1965 there was no Chicano theatre, and precious little Latino theatre, from the fields of California to the Great White Way in New York.

"Working out of our converted packing shed playhouse, we have nonetheless nurtured actors, playwrights, designers and stage technicians who would have otherwise never had this foundational opportunity to develop their skills as teachers and artists in the professional theatre. Included among these artists are the late Diane Rodriguez, a beloved core company member in the 70s who went on to become an Associate Artistic Director of the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles; Edward James Olmos and Daniel Valdez, stars of my play and film Zoot Suit, the first Chicano play to make it to Broadway; Octavio Solis and Josefina López, renowned playwrights who saw their first works produced on our stage; Cultural Clash - Richard Montoya, Rick Salinas and Herbert Sigüenza - who initiated their group career in our playhouse; and a long list of other Latino and Asian actors who have graced our boards over the years.

"The fact is that for over half a century El Teatro Campesino has played a foundational role in the evolution of the American theatre by working out of a 99-seat house in one of the poorest rural areas in the country. It is for this crucial reason that I appeal to your sense of justice and fair play in support of SB 805. The effort to curtail and stifle the spirit of creation at the very grass roots of the American theatre can only impoverish independent working artists and our multicultural society as a whole."

Small 99-Seat Non-Profit Theaters and Freelance Performers who are part of the Coalition for the passage of SB 805 include:


  • Theater Producer's League Los Angeles, Martha Demson, President
  • Theatre Bay Area, Brad Erikson, Executive Director
  • California for the Arts/California Arts Advocates, Julie Baker, Executive Director
  • San José Arts Advocates, Peter Allen, Former San José Arts Commission Chair


  • 24th Street Theatre, Jay McAdams, Executive Director
  • CASA 0101 Theater, Josefina López, Founding Artistic Director and Emmanuel Deleage, Executive Director
  • Celebration Theatre, Michael A. Sheppard, Artistic Director
  • Chance Theater, Oanh Nguyen, Executive Artistic Director
  • Coin & Ghost, Zach Reeve Davidson, Founding Artistic Director
  • Company of Angels, Armando Molina, Artistic Director
  • Dezart Performs, Clark Dugger, President, Board of Directors
  • El Teatro Campesino, Luis Valdez, Founding Artistic Director, Christy Sandoval, Managing Director
  • Fountain Theatre, Simon Levy, Producing Director
  • IAMA Theatre Company, Stephanie Black, Co-Artistic Director
  • The Inkwell Theater, Daniel Shoenman, Artistic Director
  • Interact Theatre Company, Barry Heins, President and Artistic Director
  • Macha Theatre Company/Films, Odalys Nanin, Producing Artistic Director/President
  • New American Theatre, Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin, Managing Director
  • Open Fist Theatre Company, Martha Demson, Artistic Director
  • Ophelia's Jump, Beatrice Casagran, Producing Artistic Director
  • Playwrights' Arena, Jon Lawrence Rivera, Founding Artistic Director
  • Rogues Artists Ensemble, Sean Calwelti, Artistic Director
  • Rogue Machine Theatre, John Perrin Flynn, Producing Artistic Director and Elina De Santos, Co-Artistic Director
  • Sacred Fools Theatre Company at the Broadwater, Marc Antonio Pritchett and Vanessa Stewart, Artistic Directors
  • Santa Cruz Actors' Theatre, Andrew Ceglio, Associate Artistic Director
  • Sierra Madre Playhouse, Christian Lebano, Producing Artistic Director
  • The Victory Theatre Center, Tom Ormeny and Maria Gobetti, Co-Founding Artistic Directors
  • Theatre of NOTE, Elinor Gunn, Member of the Artistic Management Committee
  • Teatro Visión, Leigh Henderson, Managing Director
  • Teatro Máscara Mágica, William Virchis, Producing Artistic Director
  • Theatre West, Michael Van Duzer, Chairperson of Artistic Board

Independent Artists:

  • Cristal Gonzalez, Actress, Teatro Visión and El Teatro Campesino
  • Robert Fancy, Actor, Performer in Los Angeles


  • Felipe Agredano, Producer, Teatro Nuevas Horizontes/TNH Productions

Josefina López, creator of the play and co-screenwriter of the film, Real Women Have Curves, as well as Founding Artistic Director of CASA 0101 Theater, a 99-seat performance venue in Boyle Heights, CA said: "Small community theaters tell the stories that mainstream theater won't because they often consider the stories of BIPOC like me not commercial enough to merit productions on their stages. We are the voice of those left out of the mainstream narrative that puts a white man's experience as the universal experience. I created my theater to provide opportunities for those who might not otherwise have them, and to serve my local community, and beyond. Over our 20-year history we have created new works and festivals like 'Brown & Out' telling LGBTQI+ stories, and 'Chicanas, Cholas y Chisme,' telling Latina women's stories."

On Monday, April 19, 2021 SB 805 will go before the Senate Committee on Labor for a vote at 3:00 p.m. If you want small 99-theatres to survive in California, please call and E-mail the offices of the senators mentioned below prior to April 19, 2021 to ask them to pass SB 805.

The Senate Labor Committee consists of:

  • State Senator Dave Cortese (Chair) (D-San José) representing the 15th Senate District:; Sacramento Capitol Office Phone: 916.651.4015; Campbell Office District Phone: 408.558.1296; E-mail:; @dave.cortese, @DaveCortese, @senatordavecortese
  • State Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) representing Senate District 17;; Sacramento Capitol Office Phone: 916.651.4017; Monterey District Office Phone: 831.657.6315; San Luis Obispo District Office: 805.549.3784; Santa Clara County Satellite Office Phone: 408.847.6101; Santa Cruz District Office Phone: 831.425.0401; E-mail:; @john.laird.184; @Laird4CASenate

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