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AEA President Patrick Quinn, former President Ron Silver

Local 802 President David Lennon, AGMA President Linda Mays, AEA Exec. Dir. Alan Eisenberg

Shawn Elliott, Michele Pawk, John Dossett, Donna Murphy

IA President Thomas Short, AEA Executive Director Alan Eisenberg, IA VP DePaulo

Robert Lupone and Swoosie Kurtz

Dee Hoty and Peter Bartlett

All Photos by
Anita and Steve Shevett
20 East 17th Street
New York City, 10003

March 30, 2004

Actors’ Equity Toasts Founders, Fellow Unions and Friends At 90th Anniversary Gala at The Players

Click to see:
Patrick Quinn Speech
Photos of the Gala
AEA 90th Anniversary Timeline Supplement
THE SECRET HISTORY: the Place Where (shhhhhh!) It All Began.

Over 250 actors, stage managers, labor leaders, and elected officials saluted the 90th Anniversary of the founding of Actors’ Equity at a celebrity-studded gala at The Players in New York City on Monday, March 29, 2004.

Current AEA President Patrick Quinn was joined by former Presidents Theodore Bikel and Ron Silver at the gala, which brought out dozens of stars to mark the occasion. Among the guests were important international and local labor leaders, including AGMA President Linda Mays, AFTRA NY Local President Roberta Reardon, American Federation of Musicians Local 802 President David Lennon, Australian AEA President Susan Lyons, SAG NY Branch President Eileen Henry, and SSDC President Pam Berlin.

Equity 1st VP Mark S. Zimmerman, 3rd VP Ira Mont, Secretary/Treasurer Conard Fowkes, Eastern Regional VP Arne Gundersen, Central Regional VP Dev Kennedy, and Western Regional VP Doug Carfrae also attended, in addition to numerous Deputies and members of Equity's Council.

Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg was joined by Eastern Regional Director Carol Waaser, Central Regional Director Kathryn V. Lamkey, and Western Regional Director John Holly, as well as SSDC Executive Director Barbara Hauptman and AGMA Executive Director Alan Gordon.

The contingent of IATSE international and local officials included: International President Thomas C. Short, IA Theatre Rep Brian Lawlor and Vice President Tony DePaulo; President Marty Unger, Joel Dietch, and Susan Martin (Local 306 Ushers); President Patricia White (Local 764 Wardrobe); Michael McBride (USA Local 829) and Thomas Walsh (ATPAM Local 18032).

NYC Commissioner Katherine Oliver, Mayor’s Office of Film Theatre and Broadcasting was especially acknowledged by President Quinn in his remarks, in addition to City Council members Lew Fidler and Jose Serrano, who Chairs the Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee.

Special Proclamations were proudly displayed from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; US Congressman Jerrold Nadler; NY State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, and City Council President Gifford Miller.

The Shubert Organization’s Gerald Schoenfeld and Philip Smith attended, as did the League of American Theatres and Producers President, Jed Bernstein.

Among the numerous celebrities were: F. Murray Abraham, Maureen Anderman, Peter Bartlett, Danny Burstein, Liz Callaway, Kathleen Chalfant, Frank Converse, Ruby Dee, Andre DeShields, John Dossett, Gregg Edelman, Penny Fuller, Julie Halston, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Dee Hoty, Swoosie Kurtz, Rebecca Luker, Robert Lupone, David Margulies, former SAG President Richard Masur, Jefferson Mays, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Donna Murphy, Estelle Parsons, Michele Pawk, Jane Powell, Frances Sternhagen, and Richard Thomas.


Patrick Quinn

Patrick Quinn Good evening, everyone. On behalf of my fellow officers, councilors, and Alan Eisenberg, our Executive Director, I welcome you.

If you go upstairs to what was once Edwin Booth’s personal library, you will see a plaque affixed to the door. It reads:

“In this room, during the first three months of 1913, there met without permission, the small committee of 4 or 5 which ultimately led to the formation of the Actors’ Equity Association.”

I would like to toast those brave individuals who selflessly laid the groundwork for what today has become a strong national union of 46,000 proud actors and stage managers.

But I also toast the thousands of actors, who, during the last 90 years, made many sacrifices so that the current membership of Equity could reap the countless benefits that we enjoy today.

I toast our former leaders, some of who are with us tonight, including former Equity Presidents Theo Bikel and Ron Silver, for their valued contributions.

I toast the leaders of our fellow unions here in New York City and across the nation, many of whom are also here to celebrate with us tonight.

I toast those elected officials who have honored us not only with the many proclamations on display, but with their presence here tonight. Many thanks to:

For Mayor Michael BloombergKatherine Oliver, Commissioner Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting

For Speaker of City Council Gifford Miller – Councilperson Christine Quinn

For Jerrold Nadler of the US House of Representatives – Leida Snow

And Councilman Jose Serrano, the Chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, Councilman Lew Fidler, and Councilman Tom Duane.

We are all aware of Equity’s many accomplishments over these last nine decades, but I would be remiss in not mentioning that: we were among the first to denounce the immoral blacklist of the 1950’s; we fought to save our cherished and historic theaters from demolition; and in 1985 a small group of concerned councilors established Equity Fights Aids, later merging with Broadway Cares. To this date, an astonishing 86 million dollars has been raised by the theatrical industry in its caring response to the deadly disease that took so many of our brightest talents…and now BC/EFA has been able to spread its net of assistance to other health issues and services as well.

I toast our present staff and volunteers for all of their hard work and dedication in making tonight’s celebration such a success, as well as those who contributed some of the lovely “parting gifts” that you’ll be leaving with this evening, and the Players Club itself for once again allowing “the use of the hall” 90 years later.

I toast those Equity members who honor us with their presence here tonight and the high level of professionalism that they bring to their art, and in turn to their union.

And I toast the future members of Equity, who will carry the torch that those original players lit in this building 90 years ago.

Finally, I toast Actors' Equity Association itself: the heart and soul of the American theater.

May we prosper and fight the good fight for decades to come.

So, please raise a glass with me, enjoy yourselves for the rest of the evening ...and I’ll see you at the 100th!

Thank you.



Photos by Anita and Steve Shevett

Ron Silver, Theodore Bikel

Local 802 President David Lennon, AGMA President Linda Mays

Shawn Elliott, Michele Pawk, John Dossett, Donna Murphy

SAG Executive John McGuire, IA President Thomas Short

AEA Exec.Dir. Alan Eisenberg, AGMA Exec Dir. Alan Gordon

IA VP Tony DePaulo, IA Rep Brian Lawlor

Robert Lupone and Swoosie Kurtz

Patrick Quinn, NY City Councilman Jose Serrano, Brian Stokes Mitchell

Councillors Larry Cahn, Rebecca Kim Jordan, Joanne Borts, VP Mark S. Zimmerman

Dee Hoty and Peter Bartlett

P.J. Benjamin and Louisa Flaningam

Equity Sec/Treasurer Conard Fowkes, AFTRA NY President Roberta Reardon, Mary Lou Westerfield, Equity VP Ira Mont

Jefferson Mays, Australian Equity President Susan Lyons, Danny Burstein

Rebecca Luker and Patrick Quinn

Councillor Jeanne Lehman, Jane Powell, Thom Christopher, Ruby Dee

David Margulies and Lois Smith

Councillor Nick Wyman, SSDC Pres. Pam Berlin, Councillor Tom Joyce

Alan Eisenberg, F. Murray Abraham

Equity Western Regional Director John Holly, Asst. Exec. Dir. Guy Pace, Central Regional VP Dev Kennedy

Richard Thomas, Andre DeShields

Willie Boston, Councillors Julia Breanetta Simpson and Gil Rogers

Eastern Regional Director Carol Waaser, P.J. Benjamin, Louisa Flaningam, Western Regional VP Doug Carfrae, Mary Lou Westerfield

Brian Stokes Mitchell, Frank Harts (Deputy, RAISIN IN THE SUN), Andre DeShields

Joe DeMichele, Virginia Louloudes, Executive Director, ART/NY, NY City Councilman Jose Serrano

Councillor Judy Rice, Equity Deputy Jordan Gelber (AVENUE Q)

Former SAG President Richard Masur, SAG NY Branch President Eileen Henry, Pres. Patrick Quinn

Pres. Patrick Quinn, Commissioner Katherine Oliver, Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting

Western Regional VP Doug Carfrae, Pres. Patrick Quinn, Central Regional VP Dev Kennedy

Equity VP Mark Zimmerman, Councillor Jeanne Lehman

Frank Converse, Frances Sternhagen, Councillor Marjorie Horne, Equity Eastern Regional VP Arne Gundersen

Wally Dunn, IA 764 President Patricia White, Dan Foster, Liz Callaway

Equity VP Ira Mont, Pres. Patrick Quinn, Gregg Edelman


AEA 90th Anniversary Timeline
Supplement Special “Players” Edition
Compiled by Paul V. Ames

Scroll right
December 31, 1888
Edwin Booth Actor/Manager Edwin Booth, perhaps the foremost tragedian of the 19th century, founds The Players with the intent of raising the status of his profession through “The promotion of social intercourse between representative members of the Dramatic profession and the kindred professions of Literature, Painting, Sculpture, and Music, and Patrons of the Arts.”

Actor/Manager Francis Wilson, later to be Equity’s first President, is an Incorporator and a Charter Member of The Players.
July 2, 1890
Congress enacts the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in an effort to curb monopolistic business practices of large corporations. Anti-union employers discover that it is also an effective weapon for attacking union economic activity.
June 7, 1893
Edwin Booth, 59, dies in his bedroom at 16 Gramercy Park.

Edwin Booth Bedroom
August 31, 1896
The Theatrical Syndicate is formed by Producers and Managers. They quickly seize control of the legitimate theatre from the Actor/Managers, Booth’s successors, who have held sway since Colonial times.
The Actors Society of America is also founded in 1896, described not as a labor union but “a social and business organization.” Management largely ignores it.
January 2, 1899
Francis Wilson Francis Wilson, the last holdout along with Minnie Maddern Fiske among the Actor/Managers, announces that he has signed a producing agreement with Nixon & Zimmerman, members of the Theatrical Syndicate. He sells them half interest in his company for $50,000 for period of five years, succeeding only, he says, in “negotiating the terms of my surrender.”
July 25, 1903
The United Hatters of North America call a strike at D.E. Loewe and Co. in Danbury Connecticut, which actually begins on August 20. Loewe’s resistance to the union’s efforts to organize also leads to the Danbury Hatters’ attempt, in collaboration with the AFL, to undertake a nation-wide secondary boycott of Loewe hats.
August 31, 1903
D.E. Loewe and Co. files suit (Loewe v. Lawlor) against the United Hatters of North America, the individual members of the local, and the AFL for damages in state and federal courts.
November 16, 1912
After years of litigation and appeals, judgment is entered against the Danbury Hatters in U.S. District Court in Hartford in Loewe v. Lawlor, finding that the boycott attempt was a restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The Danbury Hatters are individually liable for the treble damages of $240,000, plus costs.

Despite efforts by the AFL to raise funds to help pay those damages, as late as 1917, after a second trip to Supreme Court (Lawlor v. Loewe), members of the Danbury Hatters are having their houses foreclosed and their bank accounts attached to satisfy the Court’s judgment.
December 22, 1912
Members of the Actors’ Society of America, having failed to align themselves either with the Actor/Managers or The Shuberts against the Theatrical Syndicate, vote to dissolve their ineffectual organization. The last item on the agenda is the formation of a Plan & Scope Committee, charged with investigating what sort of actors’ union might succeed where the ASA had failed.

They meet secretly and “without permission” over the next five and a half months at The Players and elsewhere, and 20 of the 21 actors who serve at one time or another on the Plan & Scope Committee, including Francis Wilson, are Players.
March 5, 1913
The New York Times reports: “Actors Organize for Just Contract – 150 Form Equity Association to Correct Features That Benefit Employer Only”
May 26, 1913
Actors’ Equity Association holds its organization meeting at the Pabst Grand Circle Hotel, and Francis Wilson is named its first President. Equity’s innovation, taken for granted today, is that one union can effectively represent the interests of both high profile and rank-and-file members.

Four of Equity’s first five officers, 14 of the first 21 Councillors, and 58 of the first 115 members are also Players.

August 7, 1919
After 6 years of fruitless negotiations with Producers who refuse to widely adopt Equity’s contract, AEA, having supplanted the White Rats in the AFL as the performing artists’ representative union, calls a strike on Broadway. 1,200 new members join that day, and that evening the casts of 12 shows refuse to go on.
August 12, 1919
The Shuberts file suit in U.S. District Court against AEA, its officers, and 184 of its most prominent members. Strike damages of $500,000 are demanded based on the precedent set by the Danbury Hatters case, and 14 of the 21 members of the Plan & Scope Committee are individually named in the Shuberts’ suit. Instead of dividing high profile and rank and file members, however, the suit stiffens the actors’ resolve and the picket line holds
September 6, 1919
The Strike is settled and both Actors’ Equity and its Basic Agreement & Contract, the forerunner of today’s Production Contract, are finally established. A decade-long expansion of theatrical production is halted by the Stock Market Crash of 1929.
October 7, 1935
Having stepped down as Equity’s President in 1920, Francis Wilson dies at his home at 24 Gramercy Park, age 81.
The Equity Plaque appears inside what was called The Conversation Room, which once housed Edwin Booth’s personal library. Later the room serves as the office of the Librarian of the Hampden-Booth Library. Still later the Equity Plaque is moved to its current location on that room’s door:


* The exact origin and date of The Equity Plaque is unknown, but since the typeface on the plaque dates from the 1930’s it is possible that it was fashioned in honor of Francis Wilson’s passing.


Patrick Quinn Speech
Photos of the Gala
AEA 90th Anniversary Timeline Supplement
THE SECRET HISTORY: the Place Where (shhhhhh!) It All Began.

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