Musicians' Union Members to Gather Outside Broadway Theatres Feb. 26

News   Musicians' Union Members to Gather Outside Broadway Theatres Feb. 26 With only a few days remaining until a March 2 contract expiration, members of Local 802 of the Associated Musicians of Greater New York will gather outside Broadway theatres on Feb. 26, with audience consciousness-raising leaflets in hand.

The materials handed out by the Broadway orchestra musicians will include biographies of sorts, or "introductions to the musicians in the pit," as union spokesman Heather Beaudoin told Playbill On-Line.

All the Local 802 members currently working at Broadway's many musicals will gather at Duffy Square at 5 PM Feb. 26 to collect the handouts. They will then post themselves before the theatres they work in and stay there until they must report to work inside.

Both the union and the League of American Theatres and Producers held separate press conference midday Feb. 25. The union press conference occurred at 11:30 AM at 226 W. 47th Street, the offices of the League. The League conference happened in its offices one half hour later. The two bodies then met for another round of talks.

However, the meeting did not go well or last long, according to Beaudoin. The union leadership, concerned about the recent music club fire which claimed many lives in Rhode Island, brought up a long-standing safety issue: pyrotechnics on stage. "We were met with extreme tension" over having introduced the topic, said Beaudoin. The meeting adjourned after 15 minutes. The two sides will next meet on Thursday, Feb. 27.

The League could not confirm this order of events, aside from saying, "we have had many productive sub-committee meetings on this topic. We're always concerned about this." Local 802 called for a strike authorization vote last week in response to producers' decision to hold company rehearsals with virtual orchestras. The vote will be held on Saturday, March 1, the day before the current contract expires.

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Meanwhile, many Broadway musicals are coordinating rehearsals with so called virtual orchestras—the sort of technological accompaniment with which, according to the union, producers intend to replace them. Union spokesman Heather Beaudoin told Playbill On-Line that Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Thoroughly Modern Millie, La Boheme, Chicago and other shows will hold such rehearsals are various times throughout the week. Actors' Equity has informed its members that they may be requested to rehearse with synthesizers and the like.

The main sticking point of the contract talks is the issue of "minimums," a union rule which sometimes obligates producers to have a minimum number of players in the pit, even if not needed. Minimums are seen by the union as a way to prevent producers from dictating orchestral needs, such as using synthesizers or two pianists in lieu of a full orchestra. Producers say minimums make producing more costly.

Local 802 last week issued a statement of support from 35 of Broadway's leading composers, orchestrators, conductors and music directors. Among the signed were John Kander, Jason Robert Brown, David Shire, Jonathan Tunick and Andrew Lippa.

At the press conference, the union announced that such Broadway tunesmiths as Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Bock, Jerry Herman and Cy Coleman have since attached their names to the petition. It also revealed the use of two new radio spots, one featuring Tony-winning actress Audra McDonald, the other "Conan O'Brien" music director Max Weinberg, each extolling the virtues of live music on Broadway. The ads began running on 1010 WINS on Feb. 25.