Writers on the Line

On the Line
Song, Dance, and School Credit on the Line
Plus, Schmigadoon! meets Rachel Bloom on Musical Monday and the Big Chassé dancers jazz up WB
Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Honks Equal School Credit

Christy Stratton and her son, Johnny Mann, at Disney Studios.
At a recent picket at Disney Studios, Christy Stratton brought reinforcements: her son, Johnny Mann, who was learning about solidarity and the WGA struggle for its future while simultaneously picking up some school credit.

Carrying a strike sign urging passing motorists to HONK in support of writers, as he looped the Disney Studios, Mann learned the finer points of getting cars to sound off.

“You point at them and encourage them,” said Mann, a who will be in eighth grade at Chaminade Middle School in Chatsworth, “try to make them feel special.”

Stratton had wondered whether walking the WGA picket line could qualify as volunteer hour requirements for Mann. The school said yes, and Stratton and Mann joined the lines at the recent Native American & Indigenous Writers Committee picket.  After a two-hour hitch on the picket line, WGAW staff signed Mann’s form.

“I love him getting involved and learning what mommy does, and about the importance of our fight.”

Stratton is a 23-year Guild member, a writer-producer whose credits include Freeridge and Modern Family.

“The last few years have been financially the most difficult and challenging, and so I feel like the changes need to be made systematically so that we don’t have to go from gig to gig,” said Stratton. “That’s what this is all about. We don’t want to be gig workers as writers, and we want to maintain a level of being able to have a life.”

See Photos from Monday's Picket Lines

When Schmigadoon! Met Rachel Bloom

WGAW members Cinco Paul and Rachel Bloom at Musical Monday picket at Universal.

The 2023 Tony Awards were handed out Sunday in New York, but out in L.A., a couple of musically-minded WGAW members – each a creative force behind a musical TV series–did their parts Monday to make sure the Broadway melody lingered on for at least one more day.

With writers and cast members from their series in tow, Rachel Bloom (the star and co-creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Schmigadoon!’s Co-Creator Cinco Paul led the Musical Monday-themed picket at Universal. The late-morning drew dozens of fans of musical theater, both live and on screen, along with signs bearing theatrically-themed messages from Hamilton, Les Miserables, Into The Woods, and many others.

“Anything you can do to get people excited and keep it fresh,” said Bloom. “I’m a WGAW member and I wrote a musical show. I’m just happy to be here to keep people coming and picketing.”

Perhaps fated to make beautiful music together, Bloom and Paul also led the picketers through karaoke rendition of showtunes. The two shared the microphone for a duet of “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors.

But for those who think that music at the picket lines is all about levity, Universal Lot Coordinator Erin Conley insists that is decidedly not the case.

“This is really just our way of making this very scary time more bearable,” said Conley who helped organize the musical picket with Daphne Miles. “I think it’s so great that people can have an hour of joy today and sing along to one of their favorite songs with some people from other favorite shows. That helps boost our turnout, and it helps send the message we want to send to the studios. Hopefully it also brings a smile to people’s faces at a very uncertain time.”

Bloom considered the gains made by the WGA following the 2007-08 strike when writers were fighting for jurisdiction over the internet. Had the Guild not been victorious in that strike, she noted, no streaming shows would fall under WGA jurisdiction.

“The issues of this strike are not theoretical, and that’s why I think every union is so galvanized,” Bloom said. “The middle class of writing is disappearing. Jobs are already disappearing. So this is wildly important.”

As he looks at ominous trends within the industry, Paul said he has noticed that budgets for shows are increasing, along with the salaries of studio executives, but writer pay is going in the opposite direction.

“That’s just fundamentally unfair,” Paul said. “We are so responsible for the money that is being made from all these streamers and all these shows. We just want a fair piece of the pie.”

Musical Monday organizers Erin Conley and Daphne Miles.

A Jazzy Start to the Week

The dancers of Big Chassé at the Warner Bros. picket line.
If Fosse calls, steps must be taken.

To help jazz up the picket line on an otherwise dreary Monday, Jeanne Simpson grabbed her bowler hat, her strike sign, and a few equally enthusiastic company members from Big Chassé, the dance class that she runs at Evolution Studios in North Hollywood. Collectively, they brought the steam heat to Warner Bros.

Simpson is married to WGAW member Adam Felber, and fellow dancer Sara du Bouchet is married to WGAW member Andres du Bouchet. Between them, the four Big Chassé dancers who visited the Warner Bros picket line Monday are members of multiple unions, including SAG-AFTRA and Actors Equity Association.

“We’re all here to support the writers,” said Simpson. “We love the writers, and we’re with them 100 percent.”

Simpson said the ghost of legendary director-choreographer-screenwriter (and WGAE member) Bob Fosse urged the Big Chassé hoofers to perform a number on the picket line befitting the occasion. Hence, the dancers learned the choreography to “Steam Heat,” a well-known Fosse number that takes during a union rally in the 1954 Broadway musical, (and 1957 film), The Pajama Game.

“We’re doing that original chorography today to support everybody and to try to get energy going on a Monday morning,” Simpson said.

During the strike, WGA members or their family of all dancing abilities can attend the class for free. Click here for more information.