Brian Myers Cooper

Trusted leadership + Radical thinking

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"Because listening is the key to understanding, understanding leads to empathy, and empathy makes me a better leader."

For a decade and a half, I have served on committees, Council, the Eastern Regional Board, and as a trustee of the Equity-League Pension & Heath Funds and the Equity staff pension fund.

My experience with the finances of these massive funds (totaling well over $1.8 billion in assets) is based on a foundation of continuing education in investments, portfolio construction, asset allocation, and various asset classes including emerging markets, real estate, private equity, and hedge funds. I take my fiduciary responsibility very seriously. I am that odd bird – an actor with an aptitude for numbers – and I have proven myself a worthy and dedicated steward of your resources.

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In 2010 I ran for president of Actors’ Equity. 

The union was coming out of a difficult time. Our Executive Director left the Association in November of 2009, and our President resigned about a month later. There was a lot of confusion about these events, and the confidence of the leadership, staff, and the membership was understandably shaken. For many years, the office of the President was filled through an uncontested election. As the new-ish chair of the Election Procedures committee, I saw uncontested elections as a sign of disfunction, and healthy debate and robust choices as the hallmarks of a strong organization. I felt strongly that an uncontested race to fill this office vacated so abruptly would be a disastrous message to the members: that whatever went down on the floors overlooking 46th street, nothing’s gonna change and the members aren’t going to have a real say about it.

So I announced my candidacy in early January, followed closely by Christine Toy Johnson and Nick Wyman. I have to admit that I had serious doubts about my chances against such established and formidable leaders. But I knew in my heart that the members I knew best didn’t feel represented, and I was thrilled that the members would have a real choice that April!

My strategy was simple: talk to members, listen to their truth, and bring that back to the Council room.  I woke up early, bought the party-container of coffee at Starbucks and headed out to the NYC audition lines at 6:00 am. I looked people in their sometimes wary eyes, shook hands, introduced myself, passed out coffee to sleepy, yawning faces, and asked them what was on their minds.

I spoke with over a thousand actors in those wee hours lines. Seriously. A THOUSAND actors. One at a time. Face to face.

They were stunned that a sitting Councillor would do such a thing—talk to the members down on the streets, in the cold, dark mornings of winter. I met men and women on those lines with whom I am still friends today, people who’s opinions I highly value and seek out. In those days before social media became so super-charged and ubiquitous, talking face-to-face was the only way to have a real exchange of ideas.  Christine did her own version of this, seeking out members as she travelled the country, listening and learning, and Nick stepped up to really campaign, too. It was unheard of: three candidates for president reaching out to listen to the members.
I’m proud of how we ran that race.

Well, I came in third, and I heartily and happily congratulated Nick Wyman. But the die was cast for more member engagement and discourse.  And that is a very good thing. In this era of minute-by-minute postings and Tweets and comments and videos,  I am grateful for many direct lines to thousands of members’ minds. But I’m still more comfortable sitting down with someone and hearing what they think, asking questions, and listening.

Because listening is the key to understanding, understanding leads to empathy, and empathy makes me a better leader.

Residence: New York City

Contracts worked: Production, LORT, Off-Broadway, LOA-COST, Guest Artist, Guest Appearance, Dinner Theatre, Mini. Codes: Showcase (seasonal and NYMTF), 29-hour Reading

Equity Service Experience:

Council/ERB: 12 years: 5 years as Chorus councillor; 7 years as Principal councillor

Councilor Only Committees: Executive Director Review (2016), President’s Planning Committee, House Affairs

Negotiation Teams: Off-Broadway (2002, 2006, 2009-Chair, 2012-Chair, 2016-Chair), ANTC (2002–contract origin, 2005, 2016-Chair)

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)

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)

Experience

The voice of reason,
not afraid of speaking
uncomfortable truth,
equally at home
finding consensus
or fighting tooth & nail
for your interests!