Actors' Equity Fires Back at Dancers' Union Over Come Fly Away

News   Actors' Equity Fires Back at Dancers' Union Over Come Fly Away
Actors' Equity Association takes issue with American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) executive director Alan Gordon's comments about union representation for the Twyla Tharp musical Come Fly Away.

On April 12, the Associated Actors and Artists of America, the trade organization that determines performing arts union jurisdiction, ruled that AGMA (which represents U.S. opera performers, dancers and concert musicians) would preside over the Broadway production contracts for Come Fly Away.

Gordon stated to that AGMA was more participatory in negotiations than its sister union, AEA, and that its policy is to "ask the cast what it would like to accomplish, rather than just telling the cast what we've done. Our members participate actively in both negotiation and administration."

Equity responded in an April 15 statement, calling Gordon's comments "inaccurate and a misleading representation of the facts. His claim that AGMA is better equipped to represent dancers on Broadway is nothing more than empty rhetoric designed to make a good sound bite."

Initially AGMA represented Come Fly Away when it premiered at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta last September under the title Come Fly With Me. After negotiations fell through between producers and the union for the Broadway production, AEA was approached to represent the cast. AGMA, in turn, filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the producers with the Associated Actors and Artists of America. "Four A's" sides with AGMA and AEA relinquished its hold on Come Fly Away as of April 11. 

Read our earlier story here. AEA also states that it offered to meet with AGMA in order to keep Come Fly Away under the Equity production contract, with the understanding that AGMA would preside over the show (similar instances occurred with Movin' Out and The Times They Are A Changin'). When AGMA refused, AEA "had to disclaim interest" in the production, so that the cast would no longer be represented under the actors' contract.

According to AEA, "despite Mr. Gordon’s claim, the performers are not working under Equity’s production contract. It is Equity’s understanding that AGMA intends to offer the producers essentially the same terms and conditions found in Equity’s production contract. However, it will be an AGMA contract specific to Come Fly Away and not the Equity production contract as asserted by Mr. Gordon in media reports."

Gordon informed April 12 that the previous AEA production contract remained in effect, but AGMA would oversee it until the union could officially meet with producers to discuss improvements based on the specific needs of dancers. Gordon also stated that he looked forward to working towards an "inter-union understanding about such shows" once Equity elected a permanent executive director.


Previous sticking points between AGMA and Come Fly Away producers were that the union sought creative royalty compensation for characters created by each cast member, as well as salary raises for the cast if Come Fly Away earned the Best Musical Tony Award. In addition, the contract provided for pay increases for any cast member who earned a Tony Award or nomination. (Salary increases for Tony honors are typically negotiated between a performer's agent and the producers). AGMA also stated that the terms of their agreement were tailored to the specific health, safety and career longevity of dancers.

Disputes between AGMA and AEA previously arose for Tharp's Billy Joel musical Movin' Out. The "Four A's" ultimately awarded AGMA jurisdiction over Movin' Out and AEA handled the production contracts, with both parties sharing union dues. Tharp's short-lived The Times They Are A Changin' was represented by AEA initially and later came under AGMA jurisdiction.

Keith Roberts, Karine Plantadit and Alexander Brady in <i>Come Fly Away.</i>
Keith Roberts, Karine Plantadit and Alexander Brady in Come Fly Away. Photo by Greg Mooney
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