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Archive for the ‘Contracts’ Category

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Hey there, hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Looks like Actors’ Equity Association isn’t giving thanks these days to touring producers for producing Non-Equity tours and road presenters for including these Non-Equity shows in their Broadway Series. If a tour is Non-Equity is it misleading to include it on a Broadway series? AEA thinks so. A recent New York Times article describes the campaign AEA is currently promoting in Chicago in order to gain the sympathies of audience members attending Non-Equity shows at venues such as The Cadillac Palace Theater.

AEA’s touring production contracts terms are up in September 2015 (see p.127) and so the union has been working to gain leverage and strength. In addition to this campaign, AEA has also been holding forums over the past year to hear the concerns of their membership about the lower tiered Equity touring contracts. These are the contracts AEA negotiated about ten years ago to incentivize producers to produce Equity tours in order to garner more consistent work for their union members.

Will AEA’s approach of reaching out to audience members ultimately have an effect on enough people to support their position? Do enough audience members even care, or notice the difference between the Equity and Non-Equity tours that share billing on a presenter’s Broadway series?  Check out this thought-provoking Howlround post by Greg Redlawsk for more on this topic.

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In honor of Father’s Day, I would like to dedicate this post to a wonderful man that the theatre industry recently lost, Seth Popper.

I had the good fortune to work with Seth while he was at Broadway Across America. Seth was a lawyer specializing in labor relations and I provided support to Seth in the tracking and management of the many collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) across North America that BAA negotiated directly, or had an association with via one of our presenting partnerships. Seth was terrific to work with. Reliable, responsive, patient and clear, it was easy to feel confident in him and know that the complicated task of dealing with all the various labor agreements was in excellent hands. I was sorry when Seth left BAA to return to The Broadway League, but knew that the change was one that would make him happy, so I was happy for him. I didn’t get to know Seth well, but I had an easy rapport with him and, even after he left BAA, whenever we crossed paths I was always happy to see him and greeted him with a hug, as I had done at the Spring Road Conference less than two weeks before his untimely death on May 26. I am still reeling from Seth’s passing and so cannot even begin to imagine what his wife and two young children must be going through.

Life is precious and unpredictable and if I can gain anything positive from Seth’s passing it would be to not let petty gripes and setbacks consume me, and to remember to appreciate every minute of what I have, and who is in my life.

So, thank you, Seth for passing through my life. I’m sorry we didn’t talk just a bit more in depth about our histories on those elevator rides to and from the BAA office. If we had, we may have discovered that we had gone to the same elementary school, P.S. 117 in Briarwood, Queens (though different years) and likely had some of the same teachers, and we also could have determined if my mom had been your kindergarten teacher there. Though I did not get the chance to know you back at P.S. 117, I am so thankful I got a second chance.

Rest in peace, Seth.

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contract - cartoonYesterday, Actors’ Equity Association held a forum where its membership had the opportunity to voice concerns regarding what some performers view as the unfair utilization of lower tiered touring contracts by certain productions that will be going out on tour in the 14-15 season. Here is a follow up article on the forum in The New York Times.

Having been an actor myself, and someone who now also has a number of years of experience on the business side of theatre under my belt, I have a decent understanding of both sides. I chose not to attend the forum, but based on the NYT article it sounds as though the AEA leadership provided a sense of the historical and financial context that led to the establishment of these various mutually agreed upon lower tiered union touring contracts.

But is AEA’s membership now satisfied and willing to accept the way things stand, or when it’s time for AEA to re-visit these contracts will the membership push their leaders to seek changes? Any thoughts, or predictions? Feel free to share!

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Returning to the topic of a recent post, below is a link to an article by Chris Jones of The Chicago Tribunewho shares his thoughts about the increased use of tiered contacts for national tours that lately has members of AEA up in arms.

Would love to hear your comments on this issue here at The Road 101 if you have ’em!

‘How and why actors’ paychecks are shrinking on tour’

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An article in yesterday’s New York Times exposed the growing frustrations of some of AEA’s membership about upcoming 14/15 tours using lower-tiered contracts. You can check out that NYT article here.

For more information about the Short Engagement Touring Agreement (SETA), please check out my post from a few years ago here.  Also, in a more recent post, actor Patrick Oliver Jones, currently on tour with EVITA, talks about how the SET Agreement works here.

Stay tuned for more on this issue as details develop following AEA’s Town Hall Meeting on January 27.

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Actor, Patrick Oliver Jones. Currently on the road with the First National tour of EVITA

Actor, Patrick Oliver Jones. Currently on the road with the First National tour of EVITA

So, I am really excited about this post! I mostly talk about facts and figures and numbers and behind the scenes business stuff here, but the truth of the matter is, while these are all important aspects of the theatre touring industry, we can’t forget, hello — there are people on stage, too!

Which brings me to the latest in The Road 101’s “Voices From The Road” series. I am so lucky that actor, Patrick Oliver Jones, currently on tour with EVITA, stumbled on to The Road 101! Despite how busy he is, Patrick kindly agreed to talk about touring from an actor’s perspective in general, as well as his own personal experience.

This post is Part One of what will potentially be three posts. For these future posts, The Road 101 will check in with Patrick down the road to see how things are going, and what other interesting observations he has about the world of theatre touring …

THE ROAD 101: Patrick, thanks so much for taking the time to give The ROAD 101 readers insight into your experience being an actor on tour! Could you tell us little about your background? Where you’re from? How you got into the performing arts as a career? Anything else you’d like us to know about how you got into the business?

Patrick Oliver Jones:  I grew up in Birmingham, AL and had my first taste of performing in my church’s third grade choir. That grew into singing roles in Christmas, Easter, and other productions. But my first actual musical was FIDDLER ON THE ROOF in the ninth grade. I played Mendel, the Rabbi’s son. I had braces and thick plastic glasses and didn’t really look the part, but I was so excited to just have lines and little solos here and there. Throughout high school I performed in a musical every year, but I still wasn’t sure about theater as a career, until I got a singing scholarship at Samford University. It was the summer after my freshmen year that I got my first professional acting job as part of the ensemble in a summer stock theater company. During that summer I was cast as Pharaoh in JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT and I absolutely loved it! Getting to sing and move like Elvis in such a fun role was totally exhilarating to me, and I knew that I wanted to continue doing more of that kind of work. Since then, except for a brief two-month stint as a car salesman (you gotta do what you gotta do), I have been blessed to make my livelihood from performing.

TR101: For this tour of EVITA, how did you find out about the auditions? What did you need to prepare? What was the process like? How long before you heard that you got the part, and from whom? And once you heard you got the job, how long before you had to get yourself packed up and out on The Road?

POJ: In late March of this year, my agent lined up an audition for me with Telsey Casting, the biggest theatrical casting agency in New York. I was going in for the Peron understudy and to be a part of the ensemble. At this initial audition I was to prepare a song of my choice for the music director and one of the casting directors. A week later I got a callback and was given a packet of music to learn, about 20 pages total, that included ensemble parts as well as Peron solos. I had never sung the EVITA score before, and it has some tricky parts in it. Even though I had just a couple of days to learn it all, the music director was so friendly and understood how difficult the music was to learn in such a short period of time. She helped put me at ease as I sang through the sides for her and the associate director, and it certainly made for a much better audition experience. (I am constantly reminded in moments like that how much those behind the table want those of us who audition to succeed. Getting nervous is part of the game for actors, but we have to be mindful that they want us to do well because that makes their job more enjoyable and easier in casting the show.)

About two weeks later I was notified from my agent about a second callback…this time for the choreographer. It was to be a 90-minute session of going through different sections of the show. Usually dance callbacks have around 10 people or so (as they are looking for several ensemble parts at once), but as it turned out it was just me and one other guy at this dance call. It was comforting to know that I had a 50-50 chance of getting it, but it was also nerve-racking to be one-on-one with the choreographer, especially since I am not a dancer and it takes me a while to pick up choreography. But I must have done well enough, because three days later on April 8th my agent called and said I booked the tour!

However, rehearsals wouldn’t begin till August, so I had several months of continuing auditions and booking other work until then. To be honest, by the middle of July I still hadn’t signed a contract for EVITA. It wasn’t till I read my name in a press release announcing the cast on Playbill’s website that I knew for sure I was in. A couple of days after that, I went in to my agent’s office and finally signed my contract.

TR101: How much of the business aspect of The Road, including the complex behind the scenes ticket pricing, budgeting, contracting and settlement operations, are you and other performers aware of while you are out there rehearsing and performing?

POJ: Being a part of the Actors Equity Association, the union governing both actors and stage managers, we are aware of some of the finances going into a national tour like this. You see, Equity has created about 11 different tiers and categories of contracts for touring productions. The Production Contract, which includes Broadway, has five tiers and the Short Engagement Touring Agreement (SETA) has six categories. Based on our average weekly guarantees/flat fees and box office receipts as well as things like number of actors hired and trucks used, this touring production operates under the SETA contract. Though SETA salaries are far below that of the Production Contract, it is possible for us to make above our contractual weekly salary. If revenue ever exceeds expectations during a particular week on tour, this is called “overage” and the EVITA cast gets to share in those increased profits along with the producers and presenters.

Ticket prices vary widely from venue to venue. Tempe, Arizona has house seats going for $73 while in Los Angeles they top out at $125. The cast and crew are not usually given comp tickets or discounts to the shows. However, presenters will sometimes offer such deals on specific days if ticket sales are lagging or they want to fill the seats for a particular reason like opening night or press night. This gives us a chance to have family and friends come see us at reduced rates, which we are always grateful for.

TR101:  It must get a bit exhausting out there every once in a while, or performers get sick. How does the understudy situation work on your tour of EVITA?

POJ: Our show has a lot of group numbers and once the curtain opens most of us in the ensemble are quickly changing costumes going from scene to scene. As a result we don’t get many breaks in the show, which can be hardest on those in the dancer tracks. Because of this and the difficulty of the choreography, we have already had three people out on injury so far and we’re only in our fourth city. Thankfully, we have four swings (two male, two female) that cover all 18 of the ensemble tracks (nine male, nine female). To simplify what the swings have to learn through the rehearsal process, each swing focuses on 4-5 ensemble members to cover at first. However, eventually each swing must learn all nine ensemble tracks of their respective gender.

So far the process has been fairly seamless as they simply fill in for whoever is out of show. That can be due to illness, injury, or if someone is swung out of show, which is what happens when one of us in the cast is allowed to watch the show from the audience. This is particularly helpful to an understudy like myself to watch a performance to see what the principal I cover does on stage. In the unfortunate event that we had more than two male or female ensemble members out (knock on wood!), then our dance captain who is also one of the swings would devise a split-track, where portions of those ensemble tracks would be covered at different times throughout the show, depending on their importance to a scene.

TR101: What is your favorite aspect of being a performer on The Road and what is the most challenging aspect for you?

POJ: The best part of being on the road is the traveling. Being paid to go to cities like Chicago, Orlando, or Seattle is truly a delight, especially when I have friends or family there. While there is the downside of living out of a suitcase and dealing with long lines at the airports, there is the benefit of seeing wonderful cities across the country, especially those I’ve never been to before, and embracing my inner tourist that I keep hidden in New York City.

The most challenging aspect is the schedule. Most of our stops last one week, then it’s on to the next city. Performing six days in a row with two shows on Saturdays and Sundays and then traveling on the seventh day makes for a very long week. The weeks often run together and it can be difficult to realize what day it is. In cities where we stay two weeks or longer, then we are able to savor a full day without traveling or performing and just enjoy the sights and sounds of the city.

TR101: How are you enjoying being in Los Angeles right now? 

POJ: Interestingly back in 2005, I was deciding the next step in my career and debating whether to live in New York or LA. It was Broadway and the ever-abundant theater opportunities that eventually led me to choose New York, but I have always been attracted to the TV and film production here and enjoy visiting sunny Southern California with its beautiful weather, temperatures in the 70s, and less frenetic pace of life than NYC. Fortunately, we are here for three long weeks and our show and rehearsal schedules allow us to avoid most of LA’s famous rush hour traffic. As a result I’ve been able to go to TV show tapings of Let’s Make a Deal and Chelsea Lately, drive out to the beach and pier in Santa Monica, stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and go hiking in Teluca Hills.

TR101: Are audiences different from city to city? If so, in what ways?

POJ: In our first three cities (Providence, Chicago, St. Louis) audiences were pretty much the same…quiet. I mean it is basically a musical biography that begins and ends with a funeral. Furthermore, it is completely sung through so listening is imperative to not miss any dialogue or the storytelling. However, once we got here to LA the audience was a vocal part of the show for the first time. Scenes were getting chuckles and applause that we hadn’t had before. I’m not sure how to explain the change, but those here in Los Angeles seem to grasp the ironic and sarcastic moments that others have either not understood or at least were not vocal in their understanding.

TR101: Would you be interested in giving us updates on how things are going for you as you travel with EVITA to other cities?

POJ: Absolutely. Just let me know how often you’d like updates and what types of info would be most beneficial for your blog. I’m happy to keep you posted! 🙂

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Patrick Oliver Jones is currently on the road with Evita (Peron u/s), having recently finished the Equity national tour of The Addams Family (Lurch, Mal u/s). Off-Broadway he starred in the world premieres of The Extraordinary Ordinary, Magdalene, and Swiss Family Robinson (NYMF). Regionally, Patrick has led a revolution in Les Misérables, made ladies swoon in Beauty and the Beast, antagonized Quixote in Man of La Mancha, and spent his days mooning in Grease. His dramatic works include The Tempest (Ferdinand), Look Homeward, Angel (Eugene), and To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday (David). On camera he has co-starred in BLUE BLOODS and LAW & ORDER: CI as well as numerous national commercials in the U.S. and Canada. www.PatrickOliverJones.com

 

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concert-promoter-settlement-sheet

I tend to keep things pretty simple here at THE ROAD 101. This blog is designed to give basic insights into the business of commercial theatre touring without being overally technical. That said, I found a useful link at Actors’ Equity Association called TOURING 102 that presents a few hypotheticals showing how a producer’s and presenter’s bottom lines are affected depending on different guarantee and gross revenue scenarios. It’s a little more advanced than what I typically get into here, but, hey, it’s good to exercise those brain cells once in a while! The Touring 102 post also gives some good, general insight into the risks and profit requirements a producer needs to consider when building and booking a tour, as well as what a presenter might generally take into consideration when creating a season.

If the lexicon is unfamiliar, you should be able to find all the tools you need right here at THE ROAD 101 to help you! Be sure to check out THE ROAD 101 Glossary for a solid list of definitions. Also, be sure to input terms into THE ROAD 101 search field, and you will likely find related posts containing the answer you are seeking.

The graphic above is a blank settlement that is actually for concerts rather than theatre, and includes some line items that are not applicable to this discussion, but does share some basic similarities with a theatre settlement and may be a helpful visual to get a sense of what a settlement looks like.

I recommend you have a calculator handy! It will help you understand better how the Touring 102 author arrived at his or her various numbers.

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