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Actors' Equity 1990s               “Our Own Colors” 
 
Jared Crawford and Savion Glover in BRING IN 'DA NOISE, BRING IN 'DA FUNK, 1995
Michal Daniel

1990

February 26

The first National Conference on Performers with Disabilities is held in New York City.

May 3

Performers at Disney World in Florida vote to be represented by Equity in talks with Disney management. Equity’s new office in Orlando is opened.

July - September

“We cannot even begin to fight for non-traditional casting if audiences are not given permission to accept us enacting characters of our own colors,” writes actor B.D. Wong as issues of non-traditional casting and discrimination that Equity had been dealing with for decades are suddenly played out on the world stage. Intense criticism and media scrutiny follow the decision by Equity to at first reject the producer’s application for a British Caucasian actor to take the role of a Eurasian character in the Broadway production of Miss Saigon. Council reverses its decision, stating that it "had applied an honest and moral principle in an inappropriate manner," after severe recriminations from the media and within the union itself. Although powerfully emotional, this dispute draws the world’s attention to the ideas of non-traditional casting, and results in greater sensitivity to the problems of minority actors.

August 2

Iraq invades Kuwait, seizing its oil fields. The U.N. demands Iraq withdraw.

December 17

The United Nations sets January 15th deadline for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

1991

January 17

With Iraq ignoring warnings from the U.N. and the U.S., Operation Desert Storm begins at 3 AM Baghdad time. The Persian Gulf War lasts for 43 days; on February 27th, Coalition forces enter Kuwait City, and President Bush declares Kuwait liberated.

February 19

Fire rages through the 15th floor headquarters of Actors’ Equity. There are no injuries.

April 11

Miss Saigon opens at the Broadway Theatre.

October 9

Equity President Ron Silver testifies on Capitol Hill on National Health Care Reform.

1992

March 9

Equity Council approves the merger of Broadway Cares and Equity Fights AIDS.

NATIONAL REPRESENTATION
After 25 years of discussions and tinkering, Equity’s governance system is decentralized, allowing for national representation. Under the new plan, the National Council will be charged with “national policy making, goal setting and oversight, not with day-to-day administration.” But Boards representing the East, West and Central areas will be “empowered to handle the regular business of each Region, with communication among the Regions handled by paid staff.” With a stroke, Equity becomes a truly nationwide force. As AEA President Ron Silver writes, “Onetime dreams of a ‘National Theatre’ have for many been satisfied by the wonderful network of regional and small theatres throughout the country. Actors are living and working in cities that didn’t have resident theatres 25 years ago.”




April

The Kentucky Cycle by Robert Schenkkan, playing at the Mark Taper Forum after debuting in Seattle, wins the Pulitzer Prize, the first time this prize has been won by a show that did not start its run in New York City.

April 26

The life of Jelly Roll Morton comes to life in Jelly’s Last Jam, directed by George C. Wolfe, opening tonight at the Virginia.

In 1965, when creating the National Endowment for the Arts, Lyndon Johnson said, “Freedom is an essential condition for the artist, and in proportion as freedom is diminished so is the prospect of artistic achievement.” Now with the NEA under attack by conservative critics, Kelly McGillis, Sam Waterston and Gail Grate represent Equity at a House Subcommittee hearing considering funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Grate says, “The artistic impulse is unique and must not be regulated.”

William Jefferson Clinton is elected President.

1993

 

Use of the Artist Files of the Non-Traditional Casting Project by producers, directors and casting agents has increased 135% in the past two seasons. The Files, containing nearly 3,700 pictures and resumes, were created to increase accessibility of actors of color and actors with disabilities for producers, directors and casting agents.

February 26

An explosion rocks the World Trade Center: a van full of explosives has been detonated in the building’s underground garage. Six people are killed and 1,000 are injured. Osama bin Laden is believed to have given money and haven to the man behind the plot, Ramzi Yousef.

May 4

Angels in America: Millennium Approaches by Tony Kushner opens at the Walter Kerr. The second half of the epic play, Perestroika, will open in November.

President Clinton nominates Jane Alexander as the new head of the embattled National Endowment for the Arts.

1994

February 2

State and local governments and the Disney Company have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the restoration and reopening of the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street in New York. In June of 1995, with great pomp and ceremony, the restoration of the New Amsterdam will finally begin.

February 13

Edward Albee returns to prominence with his play Three Tall Women at the Vineyard Theatre.

April 17

Anna Deveare Smith investigates the Los Angeles riots in Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.

April 18

Disney brings Beauty and the Beast to life on the Palace stage.

November 17

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black's musical version of Sunset Boulevard comes to Broadway with Glenn Close as Norma Desmond.

It’s the first year for the Barrymore Awards, Philadelphia’s first theatre awards program.

1995

 
The New 42nd Street reopens The New Victory as a theatre for children’s shows after decades of porn and kung-fu movies. The New Victory is now the oldest working theatre in New York City.

October 27

Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, opening tonight at the Public, uses tap dancing to tell the African-American story.

Equity signs first NEAT (New England Area Theatre) contract with Boston-area theatres.




1996

February 13

The opening of Rent at the New York Theatre Workshop tonight is bittersweet: the show’s creator, Jonathan Larson, died suddenly on January 25th. The New York Times says the show “shimmers with hope for the future of the American musical.”

RENT, 1996

September 17

Shelby Scott, President of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and Richard Masur, President of the Screen Actors Guild, are guests of Equity Council as they discuss the possibility of a prospective merger of SAG and AFTRA.

Bill Clinton is reelected President of the United States.

1997

January 27

Producer/theatre critic Robert Brustein and playwright August Wilson debate the place of race in the theatre at Town Hall in New York.

May

Council votes strongly in favor of creating an Organizing Department to deal with the growing numbers of non-Equity Tours.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS produces the first annual “Stars in the Alley” program for the League of American Theatres and Producers.

May 18

The newly refurbished New Amsterdam Theatre reopens with a short run of King David. In November, director Julie Taymor will bring The Lion King to life on the New Amsterdam stage. The Amsterdam's rebirth, along with the renovated New Victory across the street, will mark the beginning of 42nd Street's comeback after years of decline.

December

Equity's Western Regional Office moves into new space at 5757 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, sharing Museum Square with the headquarters of SAG and AFTRA.

Mt. Sinai Hospital and Environ begin a comprehensive three-year medical study, funded by the Equity-League Trust Funds, to determine the health effects of theatrical "smoke and fog" on actors in 16 Broadway musicals.

1998

 

Actors’ Equity launches its web site: www.actorsequity.org

April

Jekyll & Hyde Clubs are the first theme restaurants to be organized by Equity.

November

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is the only arts organization awarded a 1998 National Medal of Arts, presented by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in a White House ceremony. Clinton says, “Through a miraculous mix of talent and vision, Steppenwolf has reconciled the contradictions of modern theater.”

1999

January 26

The proposed merger of SAG and AFTRA fails to get the 60% vote necessary for approval.

February

In a decision hailed by membership, Council denies permission for the British company of Oklahoma! to come to Broadway.

Raise a glass! Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Windy City's professional theatre dedicated to the works of the Bard, moves into its new home on Navy Pier. The seven-story facility features a theatre, teacher resource center, an events room with a view of Chicago's skyline, and, aptly, an English pub.



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