A Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike rally is being set up in Bryant Park at this hour and will get underway at noon. The celebrity-packed rally is aimed at fostering unity with striking union members and maintaining momentum in a six-week-old strike with the producers of commercials.
The timing of the meeting is critical. Yesterday, federal mediation was begun between the actors' union and the producers of commercials, but SAG sources said no progress was made and that the remainder of the scheduled mediation meetings were canceled summarily.
Several big names are expected at Bryant Park at noon, including several Broadway show stars, as well as union president William Daniels. Also scheduled are actors Lauren Bacall, Susan Sarandon, Judd Hirsch, Linda Fiorentino, Oliver Platt, John Turturro, Jerry Orbach, Ana Gasteyer, Tony Roberts, Cherry Jones, Skip Sudduth, Michelle Hurd, Bobby Cannavale, Cynthia Harris, Lili Taylor, Joe Bologna, Boyd Gaines, Renee Taylor, and Al Lewis. Jay Thomas will emcee the event.
The strike affects 135,000 professional members of SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Though commercial actors still have limited work available during the strike, doing "promos and movie trailers," actors are not doing commercial work unless producers have signed a stipulation agreement with the union. While the major players on the commercial side are said to be holding out, as many as half the overall number of commercial producers have signed the stipulation. As reported earlier, the strike has special meaning to both sides because the future structure of actors' residual payments in radio, television and the Internet is at stake.
When the strike was called on May 1, actor Matthew Arkin told Playbill On- Line why the strike was important to him.
"People come to see a play like the one I'm doing now," Arkin said, "and they seem to think you're making a living doing that play and you're supporting a family, and you're not. And if they want actors pursuing careers in the arts, if they want to go see theatre at night, this [commercial work] is what supports that. This is one of the things that makes it possible for an actor in this town to support his family and pursue an artistic career. In all fits together like the pieces of a big puzzle. I leave the house at 9 AM every morning and get home at midnight, and I'm making an okay living, but without commercial work I wouldn't be doing this play now. I couldn't afford to do this play. People don't understand; they think we work for a couple of hours doing a voice over and we make this big chunk of money. But I don't work for a couple of hours doing a voice over. I work all day, every day trying to get that one job, trying to do a play, trying to do all these things and out of all these pieces over the course of a year, yeah, I put together a living. But, you take away any piece of that pie and nobody's going to pursue this anymore and you're not going to watch television and you're not going to see theatre anymore."
-- By Murdoch McBride