Equity spokesperson David Lotz reports that the theatre union’s informational picket, staged at Troika Production's The Sound of Music in Pittsburgh, was a success. Approximately 50 actors turned out for the demonstration and distributed fliers to patrons and passersby.
Speaking from the airport on his return to New York City, Lotz said the union had achieved its goal of raising public awareness: the Pittsburgh Tribune ran a front page story on the demonstration.
“It went great,” Lotz said, “It was never intended as a work stoppage, but rather a public awareness effort.”
As reported earlier, Troika’s The Sound of Music is the single non- union presentation in the SFX "Broadway Series" this season. Actors Equity’s informational picket against the show coincided with the production’s Pittsburgh's Benedum Theatre opening on Nov. 21.
In Florida, SFX faces a possible strike on Nov. 27 by musicians from AFM Local 655 (see separate story). The non-union Troika show recently made headlines in association with its lead, former "Brady Brunch" star Barry Williams. Williams' controversial relationship with the show began when he replaced Corbin Bernsen as Captain Von Trapp. Bernsen dropped out of the show when he discovered that the production was non-Equity. After a back and forth struggle with Equity, Williams eventually elected for a diminished "financial core" status and was eventually cut loose from the union. Charges against Williams, which were dropped after he had reportedly left the show, have been reinstated and a hearing is scheduled for Oct. 20. Also featured in the Sound of Music cast are Jessica Murphy, Amy Ross, Emily Herring, Gaelen Gilliland, Jennifer Avery, Fred Armstrong, Stefani Miller, Erin Braithwaite, Jason Slattery, Michaela Tomchow, Nicholas Druzbanski, AJ Luca, Caset McIntyre, Alexa Campbell, Warren Freeman, Sasha Wexler, Brittany Pixton, Joe Dodd, Tim Carroll, Leslie Forell, Richard Ercole, Amy Ross, Sasha Wexler, Don Adkins, Shawn Pennington, Melissa Calabrese, Chris Carfizzi, Sean McIntyre and Danielle Campbell.
An Equity spokesperson said the union has "a large membership base in Pittsburgh and an area liaison there as well." The Sound of Music played in Ft. Myers' Barbara Mann Theatre , Memphis' Orpheum Theatre, Jacksonville's Moran Theatre and New Orleans' Saenger Theatre prior to the Pittsburgh picket on Nov. 21.
A recent Pittsburgh Tribune Review article by Alice Carter pointed to the fact that audiences are buying Sound of Music tickets as part of a Broadway Series and paying prices equivalent to those being charged for union shows.
"The theatregoer is buying a quote Broadway package end quote," explained the Equity source, "but the show they're seeing, except for Barry Williams, features talent that has probably never been on Broadway before. We see this as a marketing and quality issue."