Actors' Equity Puts Future Development Contracts on Pause Amid Stalled Negotiations With Broadway League | Playbill

Industry News Actors' Equity Puts Future Development Contracts on Pause Amid Stalled Negotiations With Broadway League

The move is the latest in a long struggle over payment structures for plays and musicals in active development.

Updated at 6:26 PM ET to include a response from The Broadway League.

Actor and stage manager union Actors' Equity Association has put all future development contracts on pause amid stalled negotiations for a new contract with The Broadway League, the union announced June 17. Effective immediately, the move has the potential to affect any plays and musicals currently in development without issued Development Agreement contracts.

“We never wanted it to come to this, but the wage package put across the table by The Broadway League was just plain unacceptable," reads a statement from Equity Negotiating Team Chair Stephen Bogardus. "Our members cannot afford to work on this contract at the proposed compensation levels over the next five years. Five years ago, we ceased development work to get The Broadway League to acknowledge the work our members provide in the development of new work for the Broadway arena. Five years later, we are forced to do it again. We look forward to the day we can return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair wage on this agreement that meets our stage managers’ and actors’ needs. We are ready whenever The League is.”

Reached for comment, The Broadway League provided the following statement: "The Broadway League and our bargaining partners have engaged in good faith negotiations with Actors’ Equity on new terms for our development work contract, including agreeing to the Union’s request to utilize the federal mediation services to help facilitate this process. Our Development Agreement is specific to developing new works, and these negotiations have no impact on current Broadway and touring productions or those opening this season. We remain hopeful that ultimately we can reach a deal that works for all parties."

Established in 2019, the Development Agreement was a solution to an earlier brouhaha involving workshop and lab development contracts. The workshop model, in which actors who help in a piece's development collectively share 1% of future profits when and if the production becomes profitable to a certain amount, had been prevalent for decades. Actors working on workshop contracts agreed to lower pay during the workshop in exchange for that profit share agreement. However, the vast majority of plays and musicals do not end up becoming profitable.

Thus entered the lab model, in which producers would pay actors a higher fee with no profit sharing scheme. In 2019, actors became disillusioned with this model and went on strike, a move that ultimately ended with the creation of the Development Agreement that provided both adequate pay during the development process and a share in the project's ultimate potential profits.

The union began negotiating on a new agreement in January, with the scheme officially expiring February 11. The agreement was extended beyond that expiration as negotiations continued, but the union announced in April that it would let it expire and pause further Development Agreement contracts as of June 17.

In the last season on Broadway, productions that have used the Development Agreement during their process included Days of Wine and Roses, The Great Gatsby, Gutenberg! The Musical!, Harmony, The Heart of Rock and Roll, How to Dance in Ohio, Lempicka, The Notebook, Once Upon a One More Time, The Outsiders, Suffs, Water for Elephants, and The Wiz.

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