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Actors’ Equity Association halts future development contracts in wake of stalled negotiations

Equity has ceased issuing contracts for work on its Development Agreement.

(bottom row, L-R) Erika Henningsen, Josh Daniel, TyNia Rene Brandon, Kamille Upshaw and Stephen Bogardus; (top row, L-R) Stephanie Bissonnette, Barrett Wilbert Weed, Grey Henson, Kyle Selig and Andréa Burns after Actors’ Equity Association announced a strike for all development work in 2019 (Credit: Getty Images)

Actors’ Equity Association, the labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theater, has followed through on a notice it had given to cease issuing contracts for work on its Development Agreement, effective immediately.

“We never wanted it to come to this, but the wage package put across the table by the Broadway League was just plain unacceptable. Our members cannot afford to work on this contract at the proposed compensation levels over the next five years,” said Equity’s negotiating-team chair Stephen Bogardus, in a statement. “Five years ago, we ceased development work to get the Broadway League to acknowledge the work our members provide in the development of new work for the Broadway arena. Five years later, we are forced to do it again. We look forward to the day we can return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair wage on this agreement that meets our stage managers’ and actors’ needs. We are ready whenever the League is.”

The Development Agreement is used for the development of new works by Broadway League producers, usually prior to an intended Production Contract engagement. This past season alone, shows that relied on the Development Agreement on the path to Broadway include “Days of Wine and Roses,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” “Harmony,” “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” “How to Dance in Ohio,” “Lempicka,” “The Notebook,” “Once Upon a One More Time,” “The Outsiders,” “Suffs,” “Water for Elephants” and “The Wiz.” Equity and the Broadway League began negotiations on Jan. 22, 2024; the current agreement expired on Feb. 11.

In 2019, Equity staged the union’s first strike in half a century during negotiations over a restructuring of the Lab, Workshop and Stage Reading agreements. The ultimate result was the Development Agreement, hailed for the introduction of contingent compensation, which ensured that actors and stage managers would share in the success of productions they helped develop when those productions returned their investments.

In a statement to Broadway News, the League responded, “The Broadway League and our bargaining partners have engaged in good faith negotiations with Actors’ Equity on new terms for our development work contract, including agreeing to the union’s request to utilize the federal mediation services to help facilitate this process. Our Development Agreement is specific to developing new works, and these negotiations have no impact on current Broadway and touring productions or those opening this season. We remain hopeful that ultimately we can reach a deal that works for all parties.”