February 8, 2019; New York Times
Actors’ Equity, the theatre performers’ union, and the Broadway League, an association of producers, have come to an agreement about how to compensate actors and stage managers who have participated in developmental or lab productions of Broadway shows.
A short time ago, NPQ covered a “stop work” order issued by Equity, halting developmental work on all shows currently heading for Broadway. This new agreement puts those shows back on track.
The New York Times reports that the agreement reached includes a one percent share of a show’s profits to be shared among the actors and stage managers that had participated in the developmental stage of creating a new show. This “profit sharing” will include any touring shows and will last for 10 years.
This issue has been percolating for a number of years. Shows like Hamilton and Wicked rake in billions for producers, directors, and some of the other creators, but performers who were involved in the lab productions before the shows came to Broadway don’t see any of the benefit, with salaries remaining static.
Some producers suggest the performers are already sufficiently compensated, having received $1,000 per week for their work. On the other hand, the actors point out that when another performer is hired to replace them, the instruction to the new person is to capture as much of the originator’s performance as possible. This indicates, the argument goes, how critical that original portrayal is to the success of the show.
Of course, most Broadway productions fail financially, leaving no profits to be shared, and the producers observe that such financial loss is something only they have to face. Still, there are enough monster hits to cause the actors to want to get a piece of the pie—a piece they may well deserve for their help in refining a show and adding to its likelihood of success.—Rob Meiksins