Actors' Equity Launches Emergency Fund to Aid Members

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A view of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre featuring 'Tina,' as all Broadway shows have been suspended in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak on March 20 in New York City.

The union will contribute $500,000 and match another $250,000 in contributions, to support members at risk due to work cancellations in the effort to contain COVID-19.

Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theater, on Tuesday announced the creation of the Actors’ Equity Emergency Curtain Up Fund, and issued a grant to The Actors Fund, a nonprofit assistance organization, to provide support for members at risk due to work cancellations resulting from COVID-19.

Equity is contributing $500,000 to launch the fund and will match another $250,000 of contributions from other donors, dollar for dollar. Individuals can make a tax-deductible donation to support the Curtain Up Fund here.

“Everyone who works in theater has had their shows postponed and are worried about how they will make rent next month, to say nothing of other essentials like groceries and health care,” said Mary McColl, the union’s executive director. “It is imperative that we do our part by creating the emergency Curtain Up Fund and we hope that everyone, from theater lovers to audience members, actors and producers, will contribute right away to support Actors Fund’s vital social services and financial aid programs.”

Broadway theaters have been shuttered since March 12, with venues in California and many other states now dark as well under orders that severely limit public gatherings. Equity, with 51,000 members, called that day for emergency government relief for arts and entertainment workers. The union has also partnered with Hollywood guilds in that effort, and with the Coalition of Broadway Unions (COBUG) to seek relief for members in New York State.

In addition, Equity was part of a COBUG deal reached with Broadway producers for short-term continuation of wages and other benefits for a range of stage workers, and has issued new streaming agreements allowing producers to breach the wall between live and electronically mediated performance. Those agreements bring continuing income to a small number of actors.

In a separate move, more than 20 Broadway producers announced a $1 million challenge grant to double the impact of a coronavirus assistance fund set up by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Meanwhile, in Hollywood, over a half-dozen showrunners and screenwriters have contributed to a fund for entertainment support staff, and the guilds and nonprofits including The Actors Fund have tapped emergency funds as well.