Tyler Perry, who ran afoul of Actors’ Equity and SAG-AFTRA three years ago for casting non-union actors in his stage play Madea on the Run, now is casting non-union actors for Madea’s Farewell Play Tour – the eleventh show in the franchise, in which Perry once again will reprise his role as the title character.
The latest play, which is preparing for a national tour, put out a casting notice recently for a “New nationwide non-union talent search.” According to the notice, the show is “casting five non-union roles.” The deadline for submissions is today, and rehearsals will start next week at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. The tour will kick off January 18 in Oakland and run for four months in cities across the country. Actors’ Equity, however, asks theatergoers to “Ask if it’s Equity” before buying tickets.
Perry landed on Equity’s “Do Not Work” list in 2015 after he failed to sign a union contract for Madea on the Run. “He remains on the ‘Do Not Work’ list,” a spokesman for the union told Deadline.
“Unions work on a foundation of solidarity,” Equity has told its members. “Equity’s ability to negotiate favorably with employers relies on our members’ collective agreement to only work for those employers who agree to negotiate with the union. As an Equity member, you may not perform or stage manage without an Equity contract. That’s rule number one on the back of your Equity card. Under no circumstances may you rehearse or perform in any company without a properly executed and signed Equity contract.” Members who work non-union “may face union discipline and risk losing your membership for any violation of this membership rule.”
Actors working on non-Equity productions can also get in trouble with SAG-AFTRA, which doesn’t represent stage actors but has a reciprocal agreement with Equity – known as Rule 9 – that prohibits SAG-AFTRA members from working on stage productions that appear on Equity’s “Do Not Work” list.
According to SAG-AFTRA, “It shall be conduct considered an action antagonistic to the interests and integrity of the union if the member of the union accepts employment with an employer in the jurisdiction of another branch” – such as Equity – that “has declared the employer unfair or has otherwise directed its members not to work for the employer.” Members who are found in violation of this rule, SAG-AFTRA says, “Are subject to serious fines and discipline by a panel of union peers.”
It’s not clear whether SAG-AFTRA ever disciplined Perry or any of the other actors who worked on Madea on the Run — or if it will discipline him or members of the cast who work on Madea’s Farewell Play Tour. A spokesman for the union could not be reached for comment.