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Actors’ Equity responds to petition on theater reopenings

Actors’ Equity has pledged to host a town hall in response to union members calling for clarity on reopening protocols.

Actors’ Equity has pledged to host a town hall in response to union members calling for clarity on reopening protocols.

In a Medium post published this past weekend, Equity said it would address member concerns about updating safety protocols, while also pointing to rising COVID-19 rates in New York and New Jersey and a largely unvaccinated workforce. The post was made in response to a recent petition signed by more than 2,000 Equity members who say the current safety protocols, which require private car service, among other requirements, are creating an impasse for theater reopenings.

As part of the petition, signatories asked for a town hall meeting in which members can ask questions about updating protocols, whether those protocols would include input from other unions and whether increased vaccine rollout will change the union’s approach. While not offering an exact date for the town hall, Equity said it will offer more details on the event “in the days ahead.”

Ahead of the town hall, Equity wrote that the protocols currently in place — which the Broadway Journal first reported include the need for Plexiglas and 12 feet of distance between singers on stage — are part of an evolution of regulations that were first developed last summer. These protocols were not intended as a means to reopen the industry, but rather were meant to facilitate theater in areas of the country that had COVID-19 in control.

The current regulations will change once vaccination is more widespread, Equity said, while nodding to the proposed reopening timeline of fall 2021. However, the union noted that COVID-19 infection rates are still high, particularly within New York and New Jersey.

“When vaccines are widespread, theatre will be able to return in much greater numbers and safety protocols will update to take into account that a large portion of the population has been vaccinated,” the post reads.

President Joe Biden has directed each state to make vaccines available to all adults beginning May 1. Equity has called upon New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to prioritize workers in the vaccine eligibility process.

In the meantime, actors who signed the petition are asking for greater communication from the union and more transparency on what it will take to get back to work. The sentiment is that if Equity does not move its plan forward, it will slow the return of the industry.

“Actor’s Equity has to start implementing solution-based protocols and stop putting up impossible roadblocks,” said Timothy Hughes, a cast member in “Hadestown” and author of the petition.