Brian Myers Cooper
Committees: Online Signup Working Group, Election Procedures (Chair, 2009-2016), Off-Broadway (1st Vice Chair, 2009-2016), Media & New Tech (1st Vice Chair, 2008-2016), Production, ACCA (Vice Chair 2008-2011), EPA, Equal Employment Opportunity, Nominating Committee (2002-member, 2009 & 2012-Chair); Joint Officers Nominating Committee (2009 & 2012-Chair)
Negotiation Teams: Off-Broadway (2002, 2006, 2009-Chair, 2012-Chair, 2016-Leader, Strategist, and co-Chair), ANTC (2002–contract origin, 2005, 2016-Chair)
Council/ERB: 12 years: 5 years as Chorus councilor; 7 years as Principal councilor
Councilor Only Committees: Executive Director Review (2016), President’s Planning Committee, House Affairs
Equity Staff Pension Fund (Trustee, 2011-Present)
** Equity-League Pension & Health Funds: Trustee (2010-Present) – Committees: Investments, Benefits, Pension Approval Sub-committee
Ongoing Investment Committee education: Wharton School Executive Education – Portfolio Concepts and Management (2014); Alternative Investment Strategies (2015); and International & Emerging Market Investing (2016)
I’ve heard members say they’re worried the industry will be unrecognizable when this is over. That may be, but we absolutely will have a say in what it looks like. After a tragedy, often we have to invent a new world, to imagine something that doesn’t exist and then dig in, creating and demanding space for our future.
Yes, we may emerge into a changed theatre industry, but there also will be many new opportunities. Equity needs to nurture and reimagine parts of our industry, and in doing so we must make sure that stage managers and actors are at the center of those new frontiers. I promise that as we rebuild, YOU are my priority… wherever you live, whatever your job.
Over my two decades of service [more at www.theactorrevolution.com], I’ve developed a set of simple rules that guide my service:
Members come first.
Always move forward.
There is no perfect, but there is always better. Find it.
Everyone has their truth. Listen until I hear it.
Along the way, I reimagined and strategized the 2016 Off Broadway contract putting stage managers and actors first, giving birth to the #FairWage movement in the process. I’ve served on eight negotiating teams, leading four of them; served as chair or vice chair on eight committees, and as member of seven others. I always remember that people—YOU—are behind every statistic in every report I see.
I hear you, and ask for your vote.
I grew up on a small family farm in Ohio. We raised beef cattle. I rode horses. I was active in 4-H, and was crowned the Harrison County Jr. Fair King my senior year. Good times!
I live in NYC with my husband of 21 years, Orville Mendoza, and we happily attempt to raise our cat/child, Cleo. From her not-infrequent protestations, our parenting skills are marginal at best.
Speaking of parenting skills, I recently decamped back to Ohio, this time Columbus to move in with my sister who is a nurse and a single mother of a 2 1/2 year old toddler, Emerson. When the coronavirus struck, her child caregivers all quit to social distance. Faced with no other options, I am now regularly babysitting Emerson so she can go to the hospital to risk her life to help people. If this is my COVID-Contribution, it’s a delightful one where I get to spend my days with the smartest, most curious little furniture-climbing-tornado ever.
My Equity Card: Back in the day, Equity had a status called “Equity Eligible” to denote non-Equity performers who had earned a certain amount over a period of time. A non-union tour of Oklahoma in ’93 gave me this coveted status which allowed the holders to actually attend EPAs and ECCs just like members at the time. In 1997, there were rumors that Equity was abandoning this program, shunting those performers to the non-union list. BUT, I had been collecting my EMC points, and had over 40 which allowed me to TAKE A TEST TO JOIN THE UNION EARLY! Yes. You heard that right. Equity sent me the constitution, a history of the union, and a brief test. Despite the fact that this was essentially an open-book test, I still had to read the materials to fill in the answers, and I learned all kinds of fascinating facts, like how the union started and how it is governed. Well, I passed, and got my Equity Card and never looked back.
How/Why is Equity and this work important to you?
The wages of most Equity work is simply not commensurate with our contribution to the business model. This isn’t unique in any industry, but it is particularly prevalent in an industry with such a deep talent pool where producers use that fact to suppress wages. They know we are often too scared we will be passed over if we ask for what we need to live, and so every offer is a low-ball. A career in this industry leaves its mark in insidious ways: low wages lead to higher credit card debt, non-existent savings, lower unemployment benefits, lower Social Security benefits, missed IRA contributions which lead to lost investment income for retirement… the list of financial insecurities is seemingly endless.
When theatres can afford to pay, based on their broad financial picture, I will hold their feet to the fire every time.
Is there anything else do you do in the world (volunteerism, side hustle, civic work) that informs your worldview and the experience you will bring to the Council room?
I mentor young performers and I teach every chance I get. Whether it’s a Biz of The Biz workshop for college students, or a scene study class, or a sonnet workshop, I love to help people reach their goals.
What is a Fun Fact or something most people don’t know about you?
Back on the farm, I was secretly an extremely accomplished baton twirler. Also, I’ve learned about half of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. And I used to have a food blog— you can still enjoy my recipes at www.mytinykitchen.us !
Where/What is your happy place?
Holding my niece. Or snapping pix of her (I am an avid amateur photographer), though that’s kind of like trying to photograph a house fly!
What is your Superpower, or what do you wish your Superpower could be?
You have a large scale math problem? I will make you a color coded spreadsheet to solve it.
What was your first ever stage production?
Probably a Nativity Pageant at church, but my first real stage production was playing the alcoholic womanizing down-on-his-luck writer male lead in Bell Are Ringing. Imagine if Dean Martin were a ginger, 128lb, 6’ tall, freckled, awkward, slightly effeminate, virgin, farm boy.