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Mary McColl, the first female executive director of the Actors’ Equity Association, is stepping down.
McColl announced her decision not to seek renewal of her contract, which expires in January 2022, on Tuesday. She will continue in the position until the start of 2022. The national council of Actors Equity, which represents live theater actors and stage managers, is set to create a search committee to seek her replacement.
“When I took this job in 2011, I was the first woman to be hired as executive director of the union. My hope is that Equity will cast a wide net for their next executive director so that historically marginalized members will see themselves reflected in staff leadership,” McColl said in a statement. “While the search is ongoing, there is much work left to do. The staff and I are committed to working through re-opening to make sure that members return to a workplace where they not only feel safe, but that the culture begins to change so everyone feels they belong.”
During her tenure as executive director, McColl helped steward the organization as it received a direct charter from the AFL-CIO, the largest national federation of unions, and amended Actors’ Equity’s constitution to create its first national convention. Actors’ Equity credits her with helping to improve union finances by revamping its dues structure and bringing its business systems up to date, as well as with augmenting equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives at the union and creating new tools to combat harassment, bullying and discrimination in the live theater industry.
As a lead negotiator, McColl oversaw all significant national contracts as well as the unions’ negotiations with the Broadway League over profit sharing during show development after a 33-day strike. (Actors’ Equity members who “create new commercial work” now have profit participation.)
Recently, on behalf of Actors’ Equity, McColl additionally urged producer Scott Rudin to release employees from non-disclosure agreements and called on the Broadway League to make a statement following The Hollywood Reporter‘s cover story about the mega-producer and allegations of workplace abuse against him.
“Mary is not just an extremely tenacious and strategic contract negotiator. She is also deeply committed to the principle that theatrical professionals are both artists and workers, and deserve the dignity and protections of employment as compensation for our work,” Actors’ Equity president Kate Shindle said in a statement. “Over the last year, Mary has literally worked around the clock on our extremely challenging efforts to keep actors and stage managers safe during the pandemic, and that work has continued as we now reopen the industry more broadly. On a personal note, I deeply appreciate that Mary has worked her way up a professional ladder, in a business that is not always kind to women, to become one of its leading voices. Equity is grateful for her years of work, and may well seek out her unique skill set for future projects.”
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