Australia Sets New Guidelines on Use of Overseas Performers

News   Australia Sets New Guidelines on Use of Overseas Performers
A groundbreaking first for Australian theatre, which has seen local actors routinely miss out on big roles in favor of international stars.
The cast of the Australian production of <i>Kinky Boots</i>
The cast of the Australian production of Kinky Boots Matthew Murphy

Michael Cassel Group, the Australian production company behind shows like Kinky Boots and Les Misérables, has reached a formal agreement with The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance’s Equity section on the use of overseas performers for the next three years—a groundbreaking first for the Australian theatre community, which has seen local actors routinely miss out on big roles in favor of international stars.

The news was announced by MEAA December 1, with the new guidelines coming into force immediately. Under the new guidelines, Michael Cassel Group will seek to maximize employment of Australian performers and consult MEAA over all potential casting of imports. MEAA will also remain mindful of the fact that it may not be possible to engage an all-Australian cast.

At the outset of a production, Michael Cassel Group will send a copy of the casting brief to MEAA at the same time as to agents. If it appears that a role may not be able to be cast locally, Michael Cassel Group is dedicated to furthering the dialogue with MEAA and taking on any constructive suggestions the organization may have.

MEAA Equity president Chloe Dallimore said in a statement that the agreement was an opportunity for a “fresh start” and Michael Cassel Group should be commended for leading the way on an issue that has been controversial in recent months—with more international shows landing on Australian shores. The group is calling on other theatrical producers to follow in their example and help nurture Australia’s burgeoning musical theatre industry.

“We commend Michael Cassel Group for being a best practice employer and for its desire, where possible, to engage all-Australian casts,” Dallimore said. “For Australian performers, playing a lead or major supporting role—particularly in a touring production—is a career-defining opportunity that can lead to international exposure.

“Our performer members have a legitimate expectation that wherever possible, Australians shall be engaged. By the same token, MEAA fully appreciates that producers sometimes have other pressures, including the necessity to maximize box office takings, and that creative decisions ultimately rest with the producer. The agreement announced today provides the opportunity for a fresh start to this vexed issue.”

Of the new guidelines, producer Cassel commented: “I am very proud of the relationship we enjoy with MEAA and appreciate the organization’s positive and professional approach as we have crafted these guidelines together, which highlight the importance we all place on securing opportunities for Australian actors. The guidelines also preserve the integrity and independence of the creative and casting process, which we all acknowledge is of paramount importance.”

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