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From the President

Touring 101 or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

AEA President Nick Wyman

President Nick Wyman
photo credit: newhartphoto.com

By Nick Wyman

All summer long as I helped negotiate the Production Contract, people approached me with one question: "Nick, will the Presidency interfere with managing your fantasy baseball team?" Well, that and "How come Equity is allowing all these national tours to go out on such low salaries?" So let's start a conversation about touring. Touring has changed a lot since I joined this Union over 35 years ago on a national tour contract. At the time, there were LORT tours and stock tours, but all Production Contract tours had the same pay scale. My national tour was a nine-week bus-and-truck tour with split weeks and one-nighters.

Over the years, the economics of split weeks and one-nighters with their near-constant load-ins, load-outs, and travel gradually killed off bus-and-truck tours. Despite all sorts of concessions granted by the Production Contract Committee and special rules for "Low-Guarantee Tours" and "One-Night Tours," more and more shows were going out non-Equity.

So in 2004, AEA took the bold step of instituting a tiered system of compensation based upon the level of a producer's guarantee and a few other factors. Health contributions were subsidized and minimum salaries were significantly reduced in exchange for actors' participation in the producer's share of the "overage" should the show be successful. In 2008, we spun off the lower end of the Production Contract tiers to create a new contract called the Short Engagement Touring Agreement -SETA - for those under 5'6". (No, not really - just seeing if you were paying attention.)

These measures have been significantly productive. We had lost 40% of the road by 2004, but touring workweeks rose by 25% in the first four years on the tiers and rose by another 20% in the first two years that SETA was available. Although we have gained a sizeable number of touring workweeks, the number of touring workweeks on the full Production Contract has declined precipitously. To help understand why, I have posted a look at the business model of touring on our website, Touring 102," complete with enough numbers and charts to make Ross Perot happy. (You can understand why my fantasy baseball team is called The Rain Men.)

In today's recession economy, the presenters - often local arts foundations - have fewer subscribers, a lot fewer donors and no local government funding. They usually can't afford to pay the guarantees that a producer needs in order to do a show on a full Production Contract. People gripe, "Why does our Union let them do these shows on the SETA or the Tiers?" The answer is because if we insisted the Producers use the Production Contract, they would not produce the show: they couldn't afford to. They would instead license it to a non-Equity producer. These Tier tours and SETA jobs are not taking the place of full Production Contract jobs; they are taking the place of non-Equity jobs.

When you are cast in a "National Tour" and your head is filled with visions of a nice four-figure weekly after-tax salary, it is more than a little dispiriting to realize your salary is $800 before taxes. Believe me: We want as many full Production Contract jobs as possible; but if a producer can't afford the full Production Contract - and can demonstrate that - we have created two models that allow him to use our members and allow our members to make more money when the show makes money. These models are responsible for a significant increase in touring workweeks - and that's a good thing.

Oh, and my fantasy baseball team won our league championship.


Contact President Nick Wyman at president@actorsequity.org.

 

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From the President Archives:

Resource-Full

Keeping the Faith

Substantive Work

At the Big Table

What in the Heck am I Doing?

Telling Our Story

Why I Do Theatre

You Have a Dream

Abundance and Gratitude

When Good Shows Go Bad

Make Your Own Luck

Mentor Up. Mentor Down.

Work Art and "Work"

CashCowasaurus vs. CatchMeasaurus

Can I Get Some Service Here?

Touring 101 or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Touring 102 - A Look at the Business Model of Touring

Exit, Gracefully, a Champion

Happy 100th Birthday

The Five C's

Love and Boundaries

Plenary Panoply

Which Side Are You On?

March 24, 2011
Marching in Madison

March 1, 2011
A Vision for All of Us

February 2, 2011
Three Requests

December 16, 2010
Earn Your "MBA"

November 4, 2010
Deputize Yourself

September 1, 2010
The Fall of the Twin Tiers

July 27, 2010
Mosaic

June 21, 2010
Thank You

Long-time Councillor Nick Wyman is elected the President of Actors' Equity Association

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