As previously reported, Actors’ Equity Association, the union that represents actors and stage managers across the U.S., is currently negotiating a salary increase for Off-Broadway production contracts.
By contract, Off-Broadway is defined by the seating size of theatres, ranging from 100-499 seats. At the low end, 100-199 seats, pay currently starts at $593 a week. At the high end, minimum salary is $1,057 a week for theatres with 351-499 seats. (Some not-for-profit Off-Broadway theatres are on a separate contract that has different rates.)
Additional actors have lent their voices to the social media campaign, titled #FairWageOnStage, which is lobbying for a pay increase. Actors Marsha Stephanie Blake, Bobby Steggert, Reed Birney, Francis Jue and Nick Westrate — who are all well known for their work at Off-Broadway’s premiere theatres —are among the actors who have created videos encouraging Off-Broadway theatres to begin paying actors a “livable” wage.
“I’m tired of counting on being thousands of dollars poorer at the end of an Off-Broadway run than I was at the beginning of rehearsal,” Jue said. “My savings have subsidized Off-Broadway companies since my very first Equity contract in 1984. It’s time for Off-Broadway to step up and prioritize actor and stage manager salaries.”
Westrate, who received a Drama Desk Award for being a Highlight of the Season (in which he performed in four Off-Broadway shows in a row), revealed that he was forced to declare bankruptcy that same year because he was not paid a living wage. Even though he worked day jobs in addition to his acting work, he was unable to make ends meet, he says.
Steggert added, “The people working at the top of their game, the best people in their field, are sometimes not even paid a livable wage.”
Equity is also working to increase actor salaries in Los Angeles as part of the 99-Seat Plan, which many have seen as a litmus test for the union’s Off-Broadway contract, which expires November 6.