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Actors' Equity 2008 "Hollywood, here we come !"

January 1

Bonne Année! Prost Neujahr! Felice Anno Nuovo! Unyaka Omusha Omuhle! Happy New Year! 2008 is the International Year of Languages!

Lots in the works as the New Year begins. Preparations are underway to move Equity's Los Angeles office to downtown Hollywood, and the negotiating team is gearing up for upcoming Production Contract talks with the Broadway League.

February 5-February 6

The deadliest tornado outbreak in 23 years kills 58 people in the Southern United States.

The Western Region Equal Opportunity Committee observes Black History Month with "A Heritage Worth Remembering: Stories of Black Theatre from the Early 20th Century until Today." The event, held at the California African American Museum, features Tonya Pinkins, Obba Babtunde, Keith David, John Wesley, Art James, and University of Southern California Professor of Theatre, Anita Dashiell-Sparks.

February 14

Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of In The Heights
Photo: Walter McBride

It's a happy Valentine's Day for Lin-Manuel Miranda as his musical In The Heights starts previews tonight at the Richard Rodgers Theatre (it will open on March 9) The show explores three days in the life of the Dominican American neighborhood of Washington Heights in NYC.

April 30

Equity's new headquarters at 6755 Hollywood Blvd
Photo: Equity News

Equity's Western staff opens the doors of its new offices at 6755 Hollywood Boulevard in downtown Hollywood. Mary Lou Westerfield, National Director of Policy, says, "Best of all, we will be back in a theatre neighborhood, close to our members and many of our producers."

With the current contract expiring on June 29th, negotiations are underway! Executive Director John P. Connolly is Equity's chief negotiator.

George Lee Andrews, The Phantom of the Opera's Monsieur André since the show's opening, is acknowledged in the Guinness Book of World Records for the "longest time in the same show on Broadway."

April 1

After a two year organizing effort, Equity achieves a contract with the American Girl Place Theatre on Fifth Avenue.

May 3

Cyclone Nargis kills over 133,000 in Burma/Myanmar.


Production Contract talks are on hold until after the Tony® Awards; the tone so far has been "cordial and thoughtful." Discussion points have included publicity, safety, swings, touring and costume calls. John P. Connolly says, "our negotiating team is chock full of members running between negotiating session, rehearsals, childcare, performances and auditions - an impressive feat of tireless commitment from people who - because they are clear stakeholders in this contract - present a solid front of authority to the employers across the table..."

The Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, "America's oldest continuously operating repertory theatre" (it was founded in 1923), now has another distinction: it is finally under Equity contract.

Hedgerow Theatre
Hedgerow Theatre
Photo: Hedgerow Theatre

"A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same." - Elbert Hubbard. Equity launches its Facebook page.

June 15

Two new categories at the Tony® Awards this year: Best Sound Design of a Musical and Best Sound Design of a Play. Whoopi Goldberg hosts. Best musical goes to In The Heights, and the Best play is August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. Regional Theatre honors this year go to The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.

July 29

Council recommends ratification for a new 39-month Production Contract covering Broadway and National Tours. Highlights include an over 11 ¼ percent increase in the overall compensation package over the life of the contract, an increase in salary caps in the sick leave rule, and for the first time, a provision that the increment for both swings and dance captains will be a percentage of actor minimum rather than a flat dollar increment. Producers are allowed more flexibility in publicity and promotion using both digital and traditional means, while actors will be provided with monetary payment in new media in recognition of their participation and rights.

The AEA San Francisco Office closes its doors, to some anger among Bay Area members. John P. Connolly responds, "The decision to close the San Francisco/Bay Area office was a difficult administrative decision based on a number of factors, including a very low number of member visits to the office," and a great difficulty in retaining a consistent two-person office staff. Connolly believes that the new Business Representative in the Los Angeles office will ensure proper coverage of the San Francisco/Bay Area.

August 16

Okay, it's bending the rules a little, but come on; it's for a good cause! Seven year old Rio Popper has been given a bad hand in life: cancer of the eyes which resulted in blindness. Her one wish was to play Ginny Weasly in a play based on the Harry Potter series. Collaborating with the Make A Wish Foundation and San Francisco's El Gato Family Theatre, several Equity actors (playing with the permission of both AEA and author J.K. Rowling), work with Rio in a one night play adaptation of the final book in the series titled Harry Potter and the Sword of Gryffindor. Although the evening is a success, there is no word of a Broadway transfer.

August 17

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps wins eight gold medals at the Beijing Summer Games, surpassing Mark Spitz in the most Gold Medals won at a single Olympics.

Global financial crisis: On September 15, Lehman Brothers files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, lighting the spark for the Global financial crisis. On September 29th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbles 777 points, the biggest one-day point decline ever. On October 3, President Bush signs the revised Emergency Economic Stabilization Act into law, creating a 700 billion dollar Treasury fund to purchase failing bank assets.

November 4

Barack Obama

Barack Obama is elected the 44th President of the United States, becoming the first African-American to hold that office.

Based on the DreamWorks animated film, Shrek the Musical opens at the Broadway Theatre with Brian d'Arcy James and Sutton Foster in the lead roles.

December 23

Michael Kidd

Director and choreographer Michael Kidd passes away at the age of 92. He won five Tony® Awards for choreography and in 1996 won an honorary Academy Award for "services to the art of dance in the art of the screen."

  Next 2009......

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