Actors’ Equity signals possible strike with ‘Jagged Little Pill’ leafleting

The union representing professional actors and stage managers across the country are calling attention to a possible strike that would affect all Equity Broadway touring productions currently on the road.

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Actors’ Equity Association Councilor Leah Morrow speaks to a theater goer Wednesday night outside the James M. Nederlander Theatre on West Randolph, after handing out fliers about contract negotiations and a possible strike by union members on all Broadway show tours.  

Actors’ Equity Association Councilor Leah Morrow speaks to a theater goer Wednesday night outside the James M. Nederlander Theatre on West Randolph, after handing out fliers about contract negotiations and a possible strike by union members on all Broadway show tours.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Local members of Actors’ Equity, the union representing professional actors and stage managers, were in the Loop on Wednesday evening outside the James M. Nederlander Theatre, handing out informational leaflets — about a possible strike — to theater patrons as they arrived for opening night of “Jagged Little Pill.”

The leafleting, under the banner“#UniteTheRoad, is Equity’s way of calling attention to contract negotiations with The Broadway League, the New York-based national trade association for Broadway theater.

“We are doing everything we can to avoid work stoppage,” said Leah Morrow, a Chicago-based member and elected National Councilor for the union.

“Negotiations have been ongoing for the last couple months and a strike would only happen after we exhaust all our options. So these [leaflets] are letting the public know the status of the negotiations and that all we want is a fair deal. The public can show their support for these very hardworking professionals by using the QR code on the leaflets.”

Representatives of Broadway in Chicago, the local production company that presents touring Broadway productions at the Nederlander (including “Jagged Little Pill”) as well as other theaters in the Loop, declined to discuss the negotiations Wednesday but issued a statement.

“The Broadway League and Actors’ Equity have been negotiating terms for a new agreement for actors involved in League/Equity touring productions. No further information is available at this time,” the statement read.

The strike would only affect personnel who work under the national touring contract for Broadway shows, and not “sit-down” productions on Broadway or local stages.

Key contract issues being negotiated include “increased wages, gaining increases in per diems needed to cover the rising cost of food and housing on the road, as well as adequate job coverage for stage managers and actors who get sick or injured while on the road,” Morrow said.

Patrons arrive at the James M. Nederlander Theatre on West Randolph Street for the opening of “Jagged Little Pill” on Wednesday night. Members of Actors’ Equity, the union representing actors and stage managers, were leafleting theatergoers, informing them of ongoing union contract negotiations and a possible strike. 

Patrons arrive at the James M. Nederlander Theatre on West Randolph Street for the opening of “Jagged Little Pill” on Wednesday night. Members of Actors’ Equity, the union representing actors and stage managers, were leafleting theatergoers, informing them of ongoing union contract negotiations and a possible strike.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“Everyone knows that in the last few years, costs have continued to rise and it’s harder and harder to spend weeks at a time in a hotel paying for food, traveling across the country, being away from home,” said David Kolen, the senior business representative in the Chicago office of Actors’ Equity, who was participating in the leafleting outside the theater. “While it’s important to have a fair contract every place that Equity actors and stage managers work, it’s especially important on the road where you’re waking up in a different city every week.”

Actors and stage managers on the national touring productions have been working without a contract since Feb. 5. (An open letter on Equity’s website explains the details of what union members are seeking). The last contract was negotiated in 2019.

“We don’t want to see stages in Illinois or anywhere else in the country go dark,” Actors’ Equity president Kate Shindle said via statement. “But, if we can’t reach a fair agreement a strike will happen.” The last such strike took place in 1968.

Actor and union member John Carter Brown hands out fliers about a possible strike by Actors’ Equity Association members on Broadway tours outside the James M. Nederlander Theatre in the Loop.

Actor and union member John Carter Brown hands out fliers about a possible strike by Actors’ Equity Association members on Broadway tours outside the James M. Nederlander Theatre in the Loop.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Similar leafleting was happening Wednesday night at theaters in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where touring production performances of “1776” and “Six” were scheduled to take place.

Other road shows that would be affected by a strike include “Hamilton,” “Mean Girls,” “Les Misérables” and “Into the Woods,” the latter scheduled to arrive in Chicago at the Nederlander on April 25.

Contributing: Pat Nabong

These leaflets were being distributed by members of Actors’ Equity outside the Nederlander Theatre on Wednesday night.

These leaflets were being distributed by members of Actors’ Equity outside the Nederlander Theatre on Wednesday night.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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