Broadway League, Equity seal deal

Agree on contract for Main Stem shows, national tours

Actors' Equity Assn. and the Broadway League have agreed to terms for a new contract covering shows on the Main Stem and national tours. The talks, which ended Wednesday, concluded two months of quiet negotiations that, nevertheless, required two days beyond the previous deal's expiration date.

Compared to the rancor that defined the 19-day stagehands strike that shuttered most of Broadway in November -- and in marked contrast to the pitched labor battles playing out in Hollywood -- the proceedings were peaceful, and public statements reflected that.

"Together, actors and producers worked tirelessly to craft an agreement that grows our business and takes care of our community and our audiences," John P. Connolly, Equity's executive director said. Charlotte St. Martin, the League's executive director, said: "The collaborative spirit that prevailed throughout the talks allowed both sides to present their issues, understand the others' concerns, and negotiate a new contract that serves the industry and the theater-going public."

The contract runs for 39 months, or "three 13-month years."It has to be reviewed by the ruling Equity Council and voted on by members who have worked under the contract since 2000.

Aside from a news release, there was no comment by both sides. However, Equity and League representatives indicated in April that they were going to fight for what they wanted, but that they were also willing to listen. Proof of equanimity came during the middle of the talks when, a source said, Equity negotiators were unfazed when producers floated the idea of actors doing promotional shorts for the Web without compensation.

As it turns out, actors will receive some sort of pay for increased promotional and publicity work, according to the release. "[There is] more flexibility in publicity and promotion, allowing producers to pursue new avenues of marketing shows to a wider audience through digital and traditional means, while providing actors a monetary acknowledgment of their participation and rights."

It is unclear how much money actors would be paid, and whether it would go to them or to their health and retirement plans. The term "participation" would seem to connote the time and effort spent in making ads; "rights" would seem to connote an individual's image or likeness and how it is used and protected. There is also no indication if Broadway's vast library will be marketed and sold.

As for old media, the two sides have, for the second consecutive contract, revised terms on touring, an issue that almost led to a strike in 2004. The two sides agreed to a scale of compensation depending on how successful a show had been on Broadway. On Tuesday, the two sides announced a "revised touring arrangement ... to promote League touring productions that will provide more employment for Equity members." Equity could have agreed to a wage freeze or wage cut for some classes of tours, while the League might have guaranteed that there would be more union tours (or fewer nonunion ones).