Irish Actor Rea Won't Premiere Henry With Pittsburgh Troupe; Equity Contract Is Firm

News   Irish Actor Rea Won't Premiere Henry With Pittsburgh Troupe; Equity Contract Is Firm
 
Actors' Equity Association has said Irish actor Stephen Rea cannot appear in the world premiere of Thomas Kilroy's Henry at Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre, leaving the company to scramble to make the show happen.

The production by the Small Professional Theatre (SPT) Equity company was to have started Aug. 25. The start date has been changed to Aug. 31, with the fresh casting of Canadian actor Richard McMillan (a Stratford Festival veteran who will play Saruman in The Lord of the Rings in Toronto in 2006). But PICT artistic director Andrew Paul still feels frustration at the situation.

"We have run into an insurmountable snag with the union over Stephen Rea's proposed appearance in PICT's world premiere," Paul, who is directing the production, said in an email to Playbill.com. "Evidently, there is a clause prohibiting small professional theatres (actually all regional theatres) from hiring non-resident aliens… Stephen is a member of the American union and has worked here on stage and in film on many occasions, so I figured we would be okay."

Rea is the actor known for the film "The Crying Game" and Broadway's Someone Who'll Watch Over Me.

Paul said "Equity declared that they would support Stephen's involvement if and only if we produced the play (an experimental, noncommercial work) under a Broadway Production Contract. Needless to say, we can't afford this and it is out of the question."

American Equity's ruling would not prevent Stephen Rea from taking on the part in any proposed Irish engagement of the piece in 2006. A future in Ireland with a company Rea is associated with has been discussed. "Our other Irish collaborators, playwright Thomas Kilroy and designers Frank Conway and Ciara Moore, remain on board for Pittsburgh," Paul said. "I am hoping that our problems with the Union and Immigration warn small-scale American producers and artists of significant obstacles to international collaborations of this kind and hope this case works in some way to effect change. What does it say for the future of American theatre if international stars cannot work in American regional theatres? The Union is saying you can perform in the U.S. only if you do Broadway... If American theatre is going to compete in world theatre, a protectionist policy can only prove detrimental."

With the casting of McMillan, apparently Canadian non-resident aliens are not prohibited due to a special agreement between American and Canadian Equity, "although the clause in the contract does not state this," Paul said.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that in an effort to find a middle ground between the SPT and (Broadway-level) Production Contract, Equity offered a special version of the SPT contract that Paul said might have cost PICT $50,000 more than planned, a staggering number for a small company given short notice.

Equity's Flora Stamatiades, the director of organizing and special projects who oversees nonresident aliens, told the Post-Gazette the ban on non-resident aliens is to protect U.S. workers. "The committee that supervises contracts believes this prohibition best secures the opportunities of our members," she told the paper. "It's very simple: They [PICT] have a contract and they went forward not in compliance with their contract. We offered concessions, an enhanced SPT — the staff was trying very hard to come up with an accommodation, subject to committee approval. We were really trying to be responsive…"

Rehearsals now start Aug. 2 toward an Aug. 31 first preview. Opening is re-scheduled for Sept. 3. Performances continue to Sept. 24.

Here's how PICT characterizes Henry: "An Irish playwright updates an Italian master! PICT has commissioned Thomas Kilroy to freely adapt Luigi Pirandello's Enrico IV and drag his mad king kicking and screaming into the 21st century. In 'a form of privileged conversation with the author,' Kilroy has retained the central essence and theatricality of the original while infusing it with a thoroughly contemporary sensibility. [McMillan] is Henry, a man of enormous wealth and privilege who believes he is the 11th century German King Henry IV. A fortress is built and actors are hired to carry out his fantasy. But is he mad, or are we?"

For more information about Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre, visit www.picttheatre.org.

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