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    Posted March 2, 2011

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Council Approves Changes to Small Professional Theatre Contract

Members Surveyed to Determine Concerns

At its meeting of January 18, 2011, Council approved the joint recommendation of the Eastern, Central and Western Developing Theatre Committees for changes to the Small Professional Theatre Agreement (SPT) that will run through June 7, 2015. Highlights of the contract include a 3% increase in salaries in each year of the agreement; improvements in housing, including high speed internet access and more required information about the contents of the housing; a 1/6 tech week salary bump for Stage Managers; a minimum number of Chorus contracts in musicals; updates to the overtime rates; and a minimum guarantee of rehearsal for replacement Actors. Additionally, provisions relating to rehearsals, performances, consecutive productions, and the determination of a theatre's category were added, reorganized or clarified to make the Rulebook a more accessible document. There are some expanded parameters in the area of media, too, including an increase in website footage from three minutes to five minutes and the allowance of footage on Equity-approved non-embeddable third-party hosting sites. Health payments increase slightly in the first two years of the agreement, with payments in the following three years to be determined.

The Small Professional Theatre Agreement is a promulgated contract that is utilized by theatres seating 349 or fewer that are not in office cities. Each Producer on an SPT negotiates individually with a Business Representative to establish terms based on the Rulebook.

A survey was conducted in December 2009 in order to determine the needs of the membership working on this contract. More than 4,700 members were emailed, and 1,202 responded. "The large number of responses to the survey was gratifying," said Central Regional Director Kathryn V. Lamkey. "From the results we now have a better picture of our members' current concerns and the areas in which they wish to see improvements."

The largest number of responses to the survey indicated that salary increases were important, but respondents also recognized the recent economic downturn and didn't want to see the theatres "hurt." The second highest number of requests were for more rehearsal time, which was addressed in the new agreement with the addition of a provision that permits a Producer to buy additional rehearsal hours under certain conditions.

For the period January 2007 through December 2009, 12,075 Equity contracts were issued by some 250 SPT theatres. Research by staff indicated that SPT has the third highest number of Equity workweeks (behind LORT and Production), the largest number of open companies per week (61) and the fourth highest earnings (behind Production, LORT and Disney World). SPT theatres' seating ranges from 49 to 349 with 172 as the median; average ticket prices range from free to $50 with $22.50 as the median.

More than 60 Committee members from across the country were involved in the process of drafting these changes, along with more than 20 staff members, led by Chair Jeff Williams and Central Regional Director Kathryn Lamkey.

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