As the theatre community is rumbling for change in the wake of NEWSIES and KINKY BOOTS tours being announced as going out on tiered production contracts, let’s not waste time pointing fingers. Truth is…every single person who makes a dollar in the theatre is a fraction of the problem. Presenters, producers, the union, and each and every one of us who are members of the union. I think now is a good time to shed a little light on the root of the problem here.
Our union’s fundamental guiding principle in negotiating with producers is no longer in line with how most of us feel.
“For saving the resulting 48 Equity jobs — more jobs than the average touring show and jobs paying far more than the average Equity job — the union received considerable grief – not so much from the cast as from other members — for having “allowed” the B.E. producers to reduce the actors’ salaries. The truth is that AEA doesn’t allow producers to reduce member salaries, AEA allows producers not to eliminate member jobs. Would you rather have 80 jobs at $2000 a week or 400 jobs at $1000 a week?”
-Nick Wyman (AEA President)
As aspiring actors we arrived in NYC knowing full well the risk we were taking. There has never been a guarantee of employment, but there used to be a CHANCE of earning a living. As Equity continues to “save Equity jobs” by lowering salaries, fewer and fewer actors have that chance. It is a question of quantity or quality.
I, personally, support more aggressive negotiations that could result in fewer union jobs but with the union jobs that remain having appropriate salaries. Ask yourself if you feel the same way. This is the issue at the heart of the matter. Do you want more jobs that pay less or perhaps fewer jobs that pay more? Touring will never be what it was but what legacy do you wish to secure for the future?
As you mull this over, maybe think about the skills you offer as a union actor like a luxury item. Yes, you can go to Old Navy and get the square-shaped khakis with the crooked seams that will unravel in a few months but wouldn’t you rather have the slim-cut chinos from J. Crew that feel so fucking nice. I am not likening non-union actors to Old Navy khakis. CALM DOWN. But I am saying that with the union brand what you are paying for is a guarantee of quality. If we don’t believe that we are the best…why should producers?
*You can read the full letter by Nick Wyman here.