Touring Productions of Broadway Musicals Stir Union Debate Over Actor Salaries

By Robert Simonson
13 Jan 2014

Nick Wyman
Nick Wyman
Photo by Matthew Blank

Actors' Equity president Nick Wyman talks with Playbill.com about the recent controversy regarding the salaries of touring productions. 

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The first big challenge for the Actors' Equity Association in 2014, it seems, will be settling the matter of touring production salaries to the satisfaction of both union members and producers.

The issue in question is the use, by producers of touring production of Broadway musicals, of what are called tiered contracts. These pacts offer significantly lower salaries to performers. According to an article the New York Times, pay ranges from $700 to $1,100 a week, whereas a full production contract rewards actors with a far beefier sum of $1,800. Upcoming tours of Kinky Boots and Newsies are seeking to use tiered contracts. A casting notice posted in December 2013 by Kinky Boots advertised a $976 weekly salary.



To address the hot-button issue, Actors' Equity has scheduled a town hall meeting with members for Jan. 27. However, the topic was also discussed at a Jan. 10 membership meeting that attracted more than 350 union members.

According to Equity president Nick Wyman, the current conversation over touring productions was spurred by "some social media outcry in response to auditions for Kinky Boots and Newsies." This led to the above-average attendance of the membership meeting and the scheduling of a town hall meeting, which Wyman noted was "unusual."

Membership meeting are so structured, Wyman explained, that "you can't really get into a full, in-depth discussion on one topic."

How to finance touring productions of Broadway shows has long been a subject of contention. In the early 2000s, Equity offered considerable concessions to a tour of 42nd Street owing to the large cast size. When other shows requested similar consideration, the union leadership declared there would be no further special contracts for national tours. Tiered contract were introduced in 2004, largely in response to the increasing occurrence of non-Equity road productions.

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