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November 5, 2003

HAIRSPRAY Pays Recoupment Bonus To Actors, Stage Managers under new Equity Production Contract Rule

$31,000 Goes to Original Cast Members For Pre-Broadway Production at 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle

For the first time ever, Actors and Stage Managers in a Broadway production have been compensated under a Equity rule, negotiated during the 2000 Production Contract negotiations, which requires a Broadway producer to pay a recoupment bonus to the original cast members from a prior production. The bonus, a one-time payment of $1000.00, was recently paid to 31 cast members (including stage managers) from HAIRSPRAY, who performed in the original production at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle under a WCLO (Western Civic Light Opera) contract.

Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg, who was Chief Negotiator during the negotiations, said "the rule reflects Equity's strong belief that original cast members, who contribute to the artistic and economic success of a long-running Broadway show, deserve recognition - in real dollars and cents - for their indelible contribution to the creative process." Equity Senior Business Representative Ken Greenwood added, "The rule was achieved despite significant opposition at the bargaining table, but ultimately, Equity prevailed and established this valuable bonus for our members."

In general terms, Rule 72, Transfer to Production Contract, states that in the event a production, which is produced under any Equity contract, is transferred to Broadway by a producer who has a financial interest in the first production, the actors and stage managers shall receive a $1000 bonus when the show is certified to have recouped 125% of its capitalization. According to Greenwood, the rule carefully defines financial interest as well as other criteria for bonus payments including a time limit.

HAIRSPRAY opened at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle on May 30, 2002, and subsequently opened on Broadway on August 15th. The musical was budgeted at $10.5 million, and recently reached the 125% recoupment threshold under the rule. Equity Business Representative Louise Foisy oversaw the claim. "Payments were made promptly in accordance with the contract," she said. Equity recognizes the creative contributions from original cast members in a variety of ways. For example, actors who appear in an original showcase code, 99-seat plan or other Equity code production of a new work, are entitled to a bona fide offer to appear in the first subsequent contract production of the play (within three years), or a receive a buy-out in lieu of the offer. Under other contracts (e.g., Off Broadway, Stock, Small Professional Theatre and various Letters of Agreement), actors are entitled to an offer or buy-out if the producer has a financial interest in directly transferring, or upgrading a production. Equity also negotiates Workshop Contracts for commercial projects with salaries, buy-outs and/or royalties.

Eisenberg emphasized that Equity has recognized the synergetic relationship of regional theatres and Broadway for many years: "When non-profit and commercial producing interests co-mingle, we have to protect the interests of the actors and stage managers as well. Equity achieved this important bonus in the last Production Contract negotiations, and will revisit this provision in 2004."

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