Update, with Broadway League response Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin tells Deadline that producers will submit new proposals to Actors’ Equity for another round of talks next week as the two sides resume negotiations over the sticky topic of profit sharing for cast members who contribute to show development.
“We absolutely believe we will end up with a deal that’s good for everybody,” St. Martin said, responding to the union’s announcement today of a strike against new Broadway development.
St. Martin would not disclose the new proposals the League will offer.
Earlier this afternoon, Actors’ Equity declared a strike against members of the Broadway League – the producers’ trade organization – on new Broadway show development. Specifically, Equity is barring its members from taking part in the lab sessions that have become an increasingly popular way for writers and performers to develop new productions, especially musicals. The strike also covers workshops and staged readings.
According to Equity, weekly salaries under the lab agreement have been “frozen since 2007.”
Among the productions that were planning development labs is Almost Famous, the new musical based on Cameron Crowe’s 2000 movie. Director Jeremy Herrin, according to Playbill, was set to direct a month-long lab from April 29-May 25 in New York. Deadline has contacted a spokesperson for the production, which will feature a book by Crowe, music by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and lyrics by Kitt and Crowe.
In addition to a pay raise over the current weekly $1,000, Equity reportedly is seeking a 1% share of any profit after recoupment.
The strike, Equity reports, was authorized by the union’s National Council and “follows media reports that 2018 was Broadway’s highest-ever grossing year on record.”
Deadline reported on the record-setting grosses last week.
The strike precludes Equity members from accepting work on any development agreement with Broadway League member producers, which covers virtually all Broadway producers. On the DO NOT WORK list are the Lab Agreement, Workshop Agreement and Staged Reading Contract and Stage Reading Guidelines.
In other words, Equity members are barred from participating in commercial Broadway development work including the monthlong labs that have become increasingly common over the last decade.
“It’s unconscionable that Equity members who go to work developing some of the biggest hits on Broadway have gone more than a decade without a raise, especially when we regularly read about many of those same shows smashing box office records and generating billions of dollars in revenue,” said Kate Shindle, President of Actors’ Equity Association.
“An unprecedented number of Equity members have already volunteered to support our campaign for a better Lab agreement,” said Mary McColl, Executive Director of Actors’ Equity Association. “We will continue our fight to make sure that Equity members can share in the success when a show becomes a hit and recoups.”
St. Martin said the producers’ League was advised late last week by Equity that action could be taken today, “but we were surprised that it was going to this level.”
“Negotiations are negotiations,” St. Martin said, “and each side comes to the meetings with things they want to achieve and there’s usually give and take. [But] we were unaware that they had come to this impasse.”
Equity notes that some individual Broadway productions, including Frozen and Mean Girls, already offer to share profits with Equity members who participated in labs. The Broadway League, however, has not included such profit sharing as part of a new contract.
The lab issue came to prominent public notice in 2016 when producers of Hamilton agreed to demands from more than 20 original actors and dancers for a slice of the megahit’s profits.
Now, according to the union, one in four Broadway shows have used a Lab Agreement prior to opening, or about 75 times in all since 2016. Of those productions, 51% “went on to further production.”
In a recent New York Times story, such productions as Almost Famous, August Rush and jukebox musicals featuring songs by Michael Jackson and Huey Lewis are – or were – planning lab sessions. The story reported that both Lempicka and Jagged Little Pill recently used the method.
This past November, Equity tweeted a statement noting, “It’s been 11 years since the Developmental Lab agreement with the @BroadwayLeague was created. No one should be earning the same salary they were 11 years ago. Help us show them you’re #NotALabRat.”
As part of the “Not A Lab Rat” social media campaign, various Broadway performers pledged their support for the cause: