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Off-Broadway League and Actors' Equity Reach New Collective Bargaining Agreement

A major hurdle to the smooth reopening of off-Broadway has been overcome.

Playwrights Horizons is one of the major off-Broadway theaters represented by the Off-Broadway League.
(© Zachary Stewart)

The Off-Broadway League and Actors' Equity Association have announced a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the previous contract, which expired July 31. The new agreement begins retroactively on August 1, 2021 and expires on July 28, 2024. It will govern employment practices between the League (a group representing some of the biggest off-Broadway theaters, including New York Theatre Workshop, Atlantic Theater Company, Playwrights Horizons, Signature Theater, and Ars Nova) and members of Actors' Equity (the union representing 51,000 actors and stage managers nationwide).

The agreement comes at a time when off-Broadway theaters are struggling to relaunch following the prolonged Covid shutdown. Similarly, members of Equity have been underemployed or fully unemployed for the duration of the pandemic. Amid this instability, new questions have been raised about racial equity in the American theater and the outsize power wielded by some producers. So there was a lot to discuss at the negotiating table.

According to a joint statement put out by the Off-Broadway League and Actors' Equity, key provisions of the new agreement include:

-Pay increases for actors and stage managers that provide long-term financial security
-Updated language around diverse and inclusive casting and hiring policies and practices
-Creation of new work schedules during rehearsal workweeks and tech time that provide actors, stage managers and producers with continued flexibility
-Removal of gender binary-based distinctions wherever possible in audition, hiring, rehearsal and production processes
-Enhanced language and policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment, along with clarified procedures to address complaints
-An option for producers to make their off-Broadway productions available to a broader audience base through streaming platforms

Stephen Bogardus chairs the off-Broadway negotiating team for Actors' Equity.
(© Tricia Baron)

"When Off-Broadway fully reopens, it will be safer and fairer for the stage managers and actors who bring in audiences," said Stephen Bogardus (Bright Star), Equity principal councilor and chair of the off-Broadway negotiating team.

"This agreement puts everyone on the path to recovery after an unprecedented period of uncertainty for our industry," said Casey York, president of the Off-Broadway League and General Manager of Ars Nova. "Our goal heading into these sessions was always to secure a long-term deal that would provide members with clarity and stability coming out of the pandemic, and we have achieved that with a new three-year agreement."