This could be the issue that divides Off Broadway.
As the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, there is a bit of a brouhaha brewing Off Broadway.
See, the contract between the Off-Broadway League and Actors Equity Association expires on November 6th.
The main point of contention between the two parties? A pay increase. #Shocking.
Speaking of hashtags, Equity members started a hashtag last week (#fairwageonstage) with the hopes of shining a spotlight on the issue.
The current agreement for 100-199 seat theaters starts at $593/week and gets all the way up to $1,057/week. The actors argument? Who can afford to live in New York City at those salaries (especially the lower ones)? How can they have a career as an actor if they can’t earn a reasonable living?
And you know what? I agree with them.
But here’s the problem (and the reason for the impasse).
In the current climate, Commercial Off Broadway Producers can’t make a living either. Go ahead. Try and come up with a list of a few names who make their living solely from producing Off Broadway shows. Got any? Anyone that produces Off Broadway is either doing it as a second or third job, or is also involved with a handful of other things to try and scrape together a living (just like actors who work Off Broadway have to do).
The minuscule amounts that Off Broadway shows pay to Producers certainly isn’t enough to live on in New York City either, especially if those Producers have to have an office, an assistant, etc. And, unfortunately, these days, most of those amounts get waived as soon as the show gets in trouble. We all know that when Producers make a living (and can make a good one) is when a show recoups . . . and shows just aren’t doing that Off Broadway often enough anymore.
So ironically, the two sides here are at odds because they are in exactly the same position.
Except there’s one thing that I think is confusing the issue.
If you notice above, I mentioned the plight of the actor is similar to the plight of the Commercial Off Broadway Producer. The interesting thing about this negotiation is that the League represents Commercial Off Broadway Producers and some Non-Profit theaters.
The Non-Profits have their own struggles, and I don’t claim to know the first thing about them. I just know that they are different. They raise money differently. They market differently. Their missions are different.
So perhaps, one of the reasons that this contract has been tough to get finalized this year, is because it’s time that we have separate agreements for these two different subsets of the Off Broadway industry.
No one is happy with the current state of Off Broadway. And hopefully as things get closer to the Nov. 6th deadline, we’ll all remember that we’re in this position together.
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