Touring Productions of Broadway Musicals Stir Union Debate Over Actor Salaries

By Robert Simonson
13 Jan 2014

In a letter posted on Equity's website a couple years ago, Wyman, mapping out the issue, said, "Over the years, the economics of split weeks and one-nighters with their near-constant load-ins, load-outs, and travel gradually killed off bus-and-truck tours. Despite all sorts of concessions granted by the Production Contract Committee and special rules for 'Low-Guarantee Tours' and 'One-Night Tours,' more and more shows were going out non-Equity. So in 2004, AEA took the bold step of instituting a tiered system of compensation based upon the level of a producer's guarantee and a few other factors. Health contributions were subsidized and minimum salaries were significantly reduced in exchange for actors' participation in the producer's share of the 'overage' should the show be successful. In 2008, we spun off the lower end of the Production Contract tiers to create a new contract called the Short Engagement Touring Agreement-SETA."

According to Wyman, writing in the same letter, "These measures have been significantly productive. We had lost 40% of the road by 2004, but touring workweeks rose by 25% in the first four years on the tiers and rose by another 20% in the first two years that SETA was available.

"These Tier tours and SETA jobs are not taking the place of full Production Contract jobs;" he wrote, "they are taking the place of non-Equity jobs."

Since Equity's touring contract with producers does not expire until 2015, it's unclear what union members expect can be done about tiered contracts between now and then.

"That's part of what I'm looking to find out on the 27th," said Wyman. "I look forward to it. It's like crowd sourcing negotiation proposals."