Arts Council chief defends move to hire extras for free


THE CHAIRWOMAN of the Arts Council has defended her theatre company’s move to seek people to appear in its new production for no pay.

Pat Moylan, co-founder of Lane Productions, said it would be “very difficult” to get out-of-work actors to do walk-on parts in its new show, The Shawshank Redemption, which opens at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin next month. The roles were non-speaking, non-acting roles and those doing them would be extras who would get expenses only, she said.

The actors’ union Irish Equity has described the move as “appalling”.

Des Courtney, Equity group organiser, said yesterday he had been inundated with calls since the middle of the week from members angry that they were being invited to work for free.

This follows the posting of an advertisement on an actors’ forum website inviting applications for the roles as extras.

It says: “Extras will be unpaid, however this is an opportunity for any to be directed by Peter Sheridan and perform amongst very internationally acclaimed actors including Reg E Cathey from The Wireand Kevin Anderson.”

Mr Courtney said he did not know of any other group in society “that would have to sit down and listen to a discussion about whether their skills, for which they have trained for three or four years to acquire, should be paid for or not”.

Ms Moylan, who was appointed as chair of the Arts Council last December by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Martin Cullen, disputed the contention that extras would be engaged in “work”.

She said they would be in the background in prison scenes and there “to add bulk”.

She agreed, however, that this added “bulk” was “absolutely” a vital part of the look of the show.

The advertisement on the website specifies extras must be available “for the full duration for the show”, which will run from May 14th until June 20th for six evening performances per week and a matinee on Saturdays.

Ms Moylan said applicants for the parts as extras don’t need to be trained actors. “We will pay travel and meal expenses and that is quite normal. We are only looking for a few.

“We have been inundated with people saying they’d love to be a part of this.

“It would be very difficult if we went to an agency to get out-of-work actors for these roles, whereas for some people who are not in this business it might be one of the most exciting things they ever do.”

There would be 17 paid actors employed in the production, she added.

Tickets for The Shawshank Redemptionare on sale priced €25 to €55.