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AEA President

From the President

When Good Shows Go Bad

AEA President Nick Wyman

President Nick Wyman
photo credit: newhartphoto.com

By Nick Wyman

"Stranded again!" I well remember Chuck Rule's glorious basso rolling out across the St. James Theatre at the top of On the Twentieth Century in 1979. He was bemoaning the abandonment in Chicago by Oscar Jaffe (John Cullum) of a failed pre-Broadway production, leaving the actors with no income and no way to get home.

This was a common plight for actors 100 years ago, and it led to one of the core protections offered to actors and stage managers by AEA: the Equity bond. Actors' Equity requires every "single-unit" (individual rather than seasonal) production to post a bond equivalent to two weeks' contractual salary and benefits for all AEA employees.

The value - both figurative and literal - of the Equity bond was brought home to me in the last couple weeks by the spectacular and mysterious unraveling of the Broadway production of Rebecca: The Musical. For those of you who are devotees neither of the Broadway season nor the death spiral that is the Wyman career, Rebecca: The Musical was initially scheduled for rehearsal in late January, then September 10, then October 1 before being terminated September 30. Each postponement was in response to the loss of a significant investor. Beyond those simple facts, the story is murky, bizarre and the subject of an FBI investigation.

Theatre is a precarious way to a make a living. Because this is true for producers and theatre companies as well as actors and stage managers, Equity has frequently ridden to the defense of actors out of town. When the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami was going under in 2006, first-time AEA deputy Matthew Dellapina found the entire cost of his hotel stay had been charged to the credit card he had submitted for incidentals and then came to the theatre to find the locks changed and a notice on the door. Thanks to AEA (Matt: "I was awed at the sensitivity of staff; they were true defenders."), the actors were paid out of the bond and the hotel bills were taken care of.

Laura Hodos was in the cast of the final production at the Caldwell Playhouse in Boca Raton in 2010. She saw the theatre staff fighting like mad to keep the theatre afloat; but in the end, the last two weeks of salary were paid out of the bond. Laura says, "Having the bond in place, I never worried that I might be stranded. It's one of the wonderful things about being a member of Equity. It takes some of the 'business' out of show business and allows performers the freedom to concentrate on creating a great show."

I don't know if Rebecca is a great show or not, but the show's success in Europe, an impressive cast and a stellar creative team led me to believe that Rebecca might just pay the Wyman bills for a year or more. Even if it didn't find its audience, it would be good for four months or so. The loss of those prospective tens of thousands of dollars hit me hard. My Union, however, took a bit of the sting out of that blow because thanks to the AEA-required bond, I got a check for two weeks' contractual salary and one week's rehearsal salary.

In terms of the "Five Cs," the Union can't restore the Creative loss of Karen Mason playing Mrs. Danvers, the Career loss of Analisa Leaming making her Broadway debut and of Holland Grossman doing her first Equity role, or of the loss of the time with this wonderful Community. (We've really bonded through this debacle.) Thanks to the Equity bond, however, AEA can and did give us a little help with Cash and credit toward health Coverage.

Of course, this all depends on your actually signing an Equity contract and not being like that foolish fellow in my column "The Fall of the Twin Tiers." And, if John Cullum offers you a show, make sure he has Judy Kaye under contract.


Contact President Nick Wyman at president@actorsequity.org.

 

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From the President Archives:

To Join or Not to Join? My Rejoinder

Wait ’Til This Year!

Attention Must Be Paid

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One Voice: 50,058 Strong

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Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

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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.

Mentor Up. Mentor Down.

Work Art and "Work"

CashCowasaurus vs. CatchMeasaurus

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Touring 101 or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

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Exit, Gracefully, a Champion

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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

Back to Presidents Page

 
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