Theater News

Equity Announces Pay Cuts in Wake of World Trade Center Tragedy

The post-performance scene atThe Phantom of the Opera last weekend(Photo: Michael Portantiere)
The post-performance scene at
The Phantom of the Opera last weekend
(Photo: Michael Portantiere)

At a press conference yesterday where the participating officials almost outnumbered the reporters, Alan Eisenberg, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association, announced what had already been unofficially reported by various media: In order to deal with the crisis affecting Broadway as a result of the World Trade Center disaster, 25% pay cuts will go into effect next week for five long-running musicals.

The shows involved are Chicago, The Full Monty, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera and Rent. Salary trims will be across the board from producers to vendors, and will include all royalty payments to playwrights, directors, choreographers, etc. The cuts are to continue to four weeks, at which time the situation will be re-examined. Jed Bernstein, executive director of the League of American Theatres and Producers, said the move was the first stage of a two-parter, with the second part to be announced today. He hinted that the follow-up announcement would include news of scaled-down ticket prices. Bernstein also expressed hope that the coalition’s harmony under stress would eventually extend beyond current troubles and help solve longstanding industry problems.

Kevin McCollum, one of the producers of Rent, pointed out that all of the shows participating in the pay cut initiative are musicals that count on tourists for the greater part of their weekly nut; he added that reduced salaries and royalty payments will provide some breathing room for he and his fellow producers during a time when they are prepared to “lose significant amounts of money” while waiting for the New York theater industry to bounce back. Mike Sullivan, vice president of IATSE (the stagehands’ union), emphasized that union president Thomas C. Short had announced a 25 percent cut on Wednesday because IATSE members regard themselves as “rescue workers.”

Apparently, the shows that have signed on for these cost-cutting measures approached the unions and guilds as a group. The Music Man, 42nd Street and other productions are absent from the aggregate because their producers haven’t yet asked for relief, but they will be accommodated if they choose to make bids in the coming days. The closing-notice waiver was also clarified at the press conference: For the time being, producers will be able to close shows with only 48 hours’ notice, rather than the usual one week.

The mood in the AEA conference room was serious but friendly. The only hint of rancor came when the Disney organization was mentioned and Bernstein reminded those in attendance that Disney is not represented by the League.