Negotiations that were due to come to a head this weekend, between Actors’ Equity Association and the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers, will now continue through November 20. In the lead up to the four-year contract's expiration on November 6, New York’s professional actors and stage managers have argued that they cannot continue to earn a “decent living wage” under the current stipulations.
A new contract is now expected to be finalized November 20, according to an Equity release. No further details were included.
#FairWageOnStage, a grassroots movement founded earlier this year by actors who work on the Off-Broadway contract, has been publicly campaigning for the pay increase. Olympia Dukakis, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Estelle Parsons, Jonathan Groff, and Patrick Page are among the actors who signed the open letter penned by the initiative seeking a “historic” pay increase.
“The two sides are still talking,” Robert Stanton, a spokesperson for #FairWageOnStage told Playbill.com on November 6. “We’re very encouraged by this and I hope this will lead to a resolution where Off-Broadway actors and stage managers can work in the city where they live without constant insecurity about how they’re going to pay their rent, feed themselves, and pay their expenses.”
At the small end (100-199 seats), the current AEA contract requires a weekly minimum salary of $593; at the large end (351-499 seats), the contract requires a weekly minimum salary of $1,057. Some not-for-profit Off-Broadway theatres are on a separate contract that can pay as little as $361 a week, and according to Actors’ Equity, 63 percent of Off-Broadway theatres pay at the lowest rate of $593 a week. According to an AEA survey, actors say they require a minimum weekly take home of $815 (after taxes and commission) to cover basic living expenses in New York City.
Lupita Nyong’o, who starred in Eclipsed Off-Broadway and returned to the role for the Broadway transfer, took to Instagram November 5 to also show her support for #FairWageOnStage. “More often than not, the most exciting, the most modern, diverse, and original stories come out of Off-Broadway theatres. It is those stories and those artists that have fed my creative soul. And it is there that I go again and again to get inspired. These are artists who give their time, their heart and their soul to their craft but unfortunately the wages are anaemic and quite frankly unstainable as a living wage in New York City. It is so vital the New York theatre community can provide our actors with a sustainable living wage,” says Nyong’o in the Instagram post. “Let’s value their gift,” she continues. Watch the video message below.
#FairWageOnStage has gathered more than 100 videos of testimonials and support from notable members of the theatre community including Eve Ensler, Tracee Chimo, David Cromer, Dana Ivey, Brandon Dirden, Judy Kuhn, Maddie Corman, Tonya Pinkins, Theresa Rebeck, Jessica Hecht, and Dominique Morriseau. In addition to Stanton, Diane Davis, Kellie Overbey, and Nick Westrate serve as spokespeople for the campaign.