Off-Broad­way avoids strike with a 5-year con­tract

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - STATE NEWS - By Mark Kennedy

Off-Broad­way ac­tors and pro­duc­ers agreed Fri­day on a new la­bor con­tract that boosts per­form­ers’ wages in a deal that en­sures dozens of New York shows stay open as the hol­i­days ap­proach, from “Shear Mad­ness” to “The Fan­ta­sticks.”

The agree­ment be­tween Ac­tors’ Eq­uity As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents ac­tors and stage man­agers, and the League of Off-Broad­way The­atres and Pro­duc­ers came af­ter six months of negotiations, which re­sulted in a salary bump that was de­scribed as “his­toric and ground­break­ing,” but no de­tails were re­vealed. The cur­rent fouryear con­tract ex­pired Nov. 6, but it was ex­tended as both sides agreed to keep talk­ing.

The new five-year deal ap­plies only to off-Broad­way the­aters, which are de­fined as venues with a seat­ing ca­pac­ity be­tween 100 and 499 and in­cludes such high-pro­file non­prof­its as The Pub­lic Theater, Sec­ond Stage Theater and the At­lantic Theater Com­pany, as well as more than 100 com­mer­cial pro­duc­ers.

“The wage in­creases will al­low ac­tors and stage man­agers to con­tinue to do the work that we love of­fBroad­way, while be­ing able to sup­port our­selves fi­nan­cially. We are thrilled at the re­sult and over­joyed to be able to con­tinue creat­ing some of the most dy­namic, ex­cit­ing and cre­ative the­atre in the world, in part­ner­ship with our friends and pro­duc­ers Off-Broad­way,” Ac­tors’ Eq­uity Pres­i­dent Kate Shin­dle said in a state­ment.

Ac­tors and stage man­agers work­ing in off-Broad­way the­aters had been push­ing for wages to rise to match the high costs of liv­ing in New York. Pro­duc­ers claimed a big in­crease would be pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive and crip­ple the cre­ation of new work.

Ac­tors and stage man­agers have pointed out that many shows in re­cent years that be­gan off-Broad­way have be­come Broad­way hits, in­clud­ing “Hamil­ton,” ‘’Fun Home,” “Eclipsed,” “The 25th An­nual Put­nam Val­ley Spell­ing Bee” and “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet Of 1812.”

Ac­tors in­clud­ing Lupita Ny­ong’o, Martha Plimp­ton, Olympia Dukakis, Renée Elise Golds­berry, Estelle Par­sons, Kath­leen Chal­fant, F. Mur­ray Ab­bra­ham, Jonathan Groff and Pa­trick Page backed a pay in­crease, with Ny­ong’o com­plain­ing on Instagram that cur­rent wages “are ane­mic and quite frankly un­stain­able as a liv­ing wage in New York City.”

Pay min­i­mums for per­form­ers who toil in the shadow of Broad­way are linked to the theater’s size. The cur­rent con­tract calls for ac­tors to be paid a min­i­mum of $593 a week if they per­form in av­enues that have be­tween 100-199 seats, and $1,057 a week for the­aters that seat be­tween 351 and 499 pa­trons. Most work off-Broad­way — 63 per­cent — hap­pens in the­aters with up to 199 seats.

Ac­tors com­plain the min­i­mums — which don’t take into ac­count taxes, union dues and com­mis­sions, such as for agents and man­agers — don’t rep­re­sent a fair wage. The av­er­age salary that 190 theater pro­fes­sion­als said in a sur­vey they needed for base­line ex­penses was $815.

Eq­uity mem­bers haven’t gone on strike since 1960.

“Off-Broad­way has al­ways been a fair and pro­gres­sive leader in the theater com­mu­nity,” said Adam Hess, pres­i­dent of the League of Off-Broad­way The­atres and Pro­duc­ers. “We cham­pion new voices, we have been at the fore­front of di­ver­sity on our stages, and we are proud to also sup­port our ac­tors and stage man­agers with a fair wage.”

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