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January 29, 2004

Equity Council Bans Members From Working For Big League Theatricals, NETworks and Troika In Any Capacity

In response to the escalating crisis on the road, the Council of Actors’ Equity passed a resolution at its meeting on January 20, 2004:

Resolved that Equity members shall not accept employment in any capacity in non-Equity productions produced by Big League Theatricals, NETworks, and Troika.

The Council decision means that AEA members (who have always been restricted from seeking non-union employment as actors and stage managers) can no longer accept employment as directors, choreographers, production supervisors, dance captains or production department jobs, in any non-Equity shows produced by Big League Theatricals, NETworks and Troika.

The resolution is immediately binding upon all members of the Association. Members may be expelled, suspended, fined or otherwise disciplined for violating Council’s directive.

Council passed the resolution after meeting with representatives of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SSD&C), who pledged to “stand behind Actors’ Equity efforts to stop non-Equity tours.” At the same meeting, the SSD&C announced that it would refuse to execute contracts for two pending non-Equity tours, AIDA and 42nd Street, both produced by Big League Theatricals.

“This historic demonstration of solidarity between Actors’ Equity and the SSD&C justifies our decision, that members must reject employment as directors, choreographers, production supervisors, dance captains or production department jobs,” said Equity President Patrick Quinn. “Our members cannot take these positions without serious consequences. This show of unified strength and support for each other will make the difference as we reverse the erosion of our respective jurisdictions.”

SSD&C President Pamela Berlin said “SSD&C and Actors’ Equity share a commitment to ensure that our members have a chance to make a living in the theatre…working together on this and other fronts is the most effective way to achieve this common goal.”

Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg emphasized that the prohibition would be “vigorously enforced.” “The ban is an important step in our battle with non-Equity producers, who claim to present a ‘Broadway’ production, without paying their actors a decent living wage or adequate benefits. To that, we say, “If it’s not Equity, it’s not Broadway.”

Union officials have long been frustrated that non-Equity tours were using Equity talent – not as actors or stage managers, but as production supervisors or other personnel - to recreate the original Broadway staging. “This is a very important step – one that the Council considered very carefully,” said Eisenberg. He predicted that the prohibition would impact a “very small” percentage of the total membership.

“The fact is that we are losing hundreds of jobs to non-Equity tours, which are being “enabled” by a few members. It is morally intolerable and contrary to the goals of the Association,” he added.

In 1993, approximately 10% of all road tours were non-Equity. Today, more than 40% of all road tours are non-Equity, including productions of OLIVER! OKLAHOMA! and MISS SAIGON, which are playing in major markets that were once exclusively in Equity jurisdiction.

Quinn and Eisenberg urged members to stand together: “Although we are sympathetic to those members who will be affected by this resolution, it is a sacrifice that has to be made in order to achieve our ultimate goals.”


 

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