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Profit-Sharing For Stage Performers Could Be Coming To Broadway

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The original cast of “Hamilton” prompted that blockbuster show’s producers to agree to a new formula for distributing its proceeds. Photo Credit: Pinterest

The idea of profit-sharing has been around for decades and was once even spoken about fondly by Ronald Reagan, and now the idea may be coming to Broadway. The New York Times reports that performers and stage managers want to get a cut of the profits that the shows make, and these demands led to a labor dispute that could cause problems in the future for anyone hoping to spend a matinee afternoon or lovely evening watching a hit Broadway show.

The New York Times reports that “Actors’ Equity, a national labor union, and the Broadway League, a trade association representing producers, are at odds over the issue two years after public pressure from the original cast of “Hamilton” prompted that blockbuster show’s producers to agree to a new formula for distributing its proceeds.”

According to Actors’ Equity, negotiations aren’t getting either side anywhere, leading the group to ponder the possibility of striking to a limited extent. Members of the union would strike by not doing any developmental work with commercial producers, according to The New York Times. The reason for the specific focus on developmental work is because Actors’ Equity believes workers are not paid properly when they work in developmental labs. The New York Times describes these labs as sessions lasting about a month that allow actors and writers to give material for shows already in progress a test ride. The practice is far from uncommon, with shows like “The Cher Show,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “Waitress” using them.

“After two years of wrangling and negotiating we are just at a standstill,” Mary McColl, the union’s executive director said.

The Broadway League argues that negotiations are in fact moving along fine and that producers are optimistic.

“Negotiations have been going on for some time, with lots of back and forth, and we have additional proposals we’re trying to make,” the Broadway League’s president, Charlotte St. Martin, said. “We believe there will be a deal that will be beneficial for both sides.”

The Jewish Voice has reported on Broadway before and especially the remarkable extent to which Jewish and Yiddish culture influenced mainstream American popular culture. Without continued funding for shows and contract agreements with performers, this important cultural icon that’s been touched by so many Jewish influences could be in jeopardy.

Judaism and its influences on Broadway received its first mass-audience television exploration when Thirteen’s Great Performances on PBS aired “Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy.”

Narrated by Joel Grey, this 90-minute documentary is directed by Michael Kantor, whose 2005 “Broadway: The American Musical” series was originally viewed by an estimated 15 million people on PBS, winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series.

“What is remarkable about Broadway,” Kantor starts to say, “is that the artists by and large did not set out to express their Jewish-ness. Many were non-observant, and the whole phenomenon was part of the assimilation process.”

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