By Matthew Blank
17 Dec 2012
Founded in 1913, Actors Equity became a force to be reckoned with in a historic strike in 1919. Since then, Equity has gone beyond securing the safety, health and rights of stage actors to become a progressive force in theatre.
In "Performance of the Century," according to Applause Books, "Simonson recounts how Equity stared down not only obdurate producers, but also segregation (on and off the stage), the political turmoil of the blacklist years, and the challenge of the AIDS epidemic, when its members formed what would become Equity Fights AIDS. Equity has entertained the troops of several successive American wars in USO Shows and the Stage Door Canteen, and it has fostered the spread of stage culture throughout the land, from the productions of the Depression-era Federal Theatre Project to the Equity Library Theatre, which offered the classics to the public at bargain prices. It witnessed the Little Theater Movement's growth into the regional theater movement and was there when Broadway begat Off-Broadway and then Off-Off-Broadway."
The 240-page book, which features a foreword by AEA president Nick Wyman, is illustrated with historical images and over 200 color and black-and-white photographs.
Simonson, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Time Out New York, The Village Voice, Variety and Playbill.com — where he was editor from 1999 to 2006 — is also the author of the biography "The Gentleman Press Agent" and two collections of theatre profiles, "Role of a Lifetime" and "On Broadway, Men Still Wear Hats." He remains a writer for Playbill.com and Playbill magazine.
To purchase "Performance of the Century," visit the Playbill Store.