Actors’ Equity Executive Director Mary McColl Announces Planned Departure

Actors' Equity

Mary McColl, the current executive director of Actors’ Equity Association, has announced that she will not seek a new contract when her current agreement expires in January 2022.

McColl made the announcement to staff and officers of the union today.

“When I took this job in 2011, I was the first woman to be hired as executive director of the union,” McColl said in a statement. “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.

“While the search is ongoing, there is much work left to do,” she continued. “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.”

In announcing the departure, Equity credited McColl with helping to modernize the union’s operations and leading the union “to engage more directly with the labor movement by overseeing the receipt of a direct charter from the AFL-CIO and implementing changes to the union’s constitution that created the first-ever national convention.”

McColl, Equity said, “stabilized the union’s finances after years of deficits by modernizing their business systems and working with union leaders on a successful referendum to change the union’s dues structure.” In addition, it said, she “stabilized and expanded Equity’s EDI initiatives, hiring dedicated staff and creating training for all staff, as well as overseeing soon-to-be implemented training for members. She also created new tools for members to report harassment, bullying and discrimination.”

As chief negotiator, McColl has led negotiations that have resulted in what the Equity called “historic gains” for members. “She led the show development negotiations with the Broadway League that — following a 33-day strike — led to profit participation for members who create new commercial work. She has negotiated all of the union’s major national contracts,” Equity said.

Under her leadership, a record number of Equity members were working prior to the pandemic, earning a record $424 million. Work weeks for stage managers also steadily increased, according to Equity.

McColl will continue to serve as executive director until her contract concludes in January of 2022.

In addition to her Equity role, McColl has served as 3rd vice president of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, as well as on the board of The Actors Fund and on the Tony Awards Administration Committee. She is a vice president on the board of the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO.

“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.” said Actors’ Equity President Kate Shindle. “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.”

“Mary is a fierce and talented negotiator and has been a strong advocate for stage managers everywhere,” said Ira Mont, 3rd Vice President and Chair of the Production Contract Committee. “It has been my distinct privilege and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Mary McColl as our executive director for the last decade. The improvements and advancements she has overseen for the members individually and the union institutionally will continue to redound to the benefit of current and future members for years to come.”

In keeping with union bylaws, Equity’s national council will create a search committee to seek a replacement executive director.

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