This Ain't Trump's B'way! Actors to Rally With Casting Directors

June 8, 2017
By Joe Maniscalco

"Indecent Cast"

New York, NY - The hardest working actors on Broadway are going to bat for IBT Local 817 casting directors and their fight to secure a fair contract with the Broadway League. 

The leads in such Broadway hits including “Hamilton,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Waitress” and “Indecent” have taken to social media to express their clear support of the casting directors - and will rally alongside them on Thursday morning, June 8, outside Radio City Music Hall between 9 and 10 a.m.

“We wouldn't be here without them! We support #FairnessForCasting,” “Indecent” actor Katrina Lenk said on her Twitter account. 

While Broadway virtually remains a “union shop,” the people responsible for putting great actors in the roles that have helped New York City’s theater industry rake in some $1.5 billion in gross earnings, are still fighting for basic healthcare coverage and pension benefits. 

“Make no mistake, this is about Trump's America," casting director Cindy Tolan said ahead of Thursday morning’s Radio City rally. “Last season, Broadway producers grossed $1.5 billion. Health insurance and retirement contributions for one week for a single casting director cost significantly less than the price of one premium Broadway ticket. We're talking about the health and welfare of less than 40 theatre artists. Do the math. This is about the little person up against the 1 percent.”

Broadway casting directors organized with Local 817 last year. But so far, theater producers and owners represented by the Broadway League have refused to come to the bargaining table, maintaining that casting directors are not eligible employees and likening them, instead, to lawyers and accountants. 

That’s in stark contrast with the film and television industry, which has successfully negotiated contracts with Local 817 casting directors for over a decade for the same work. 

“It is shameful that Broadway producers deny healthcare and a stable retirement to casting directors,” said Local 817 Tom O’Donnell said in a statement

On a recent episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz,” O’Donell said that casting directors are the only significant group on Broadway that are unrecognized. 

“It’s the same argument I initially had 12 years ago with the Hollywood studios,” O’Donnell said. “There are many people on Broadway that function just like the casting directors, they’ll work on multiple shows at the same time.”

In addition to powerful statements of support for casting directors, Broadway actors have also issued stirring images of solidarity, including one from the entire cast of “Indecent" in full costume.  

“The New York theater has been in the vanguard of collective bargaining since the founding of the Actors National Protective Union in the final decade of the 19th century and of Actors Equity in 1913,” Drama Desk President Charles Wright told LaborPress. “In light of that, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the cast of a Broadway show – especially a show that chronicles groundbreaking theater artists – is expressing support for the casting directors  and Local 817.”

O’Donnell says that Thursday morning’s rally outside Radio City Music Hall in support of Broadway’s casting directors is only the “first step.” 

“As the Tony Awards approach, we are going to take every opportunity to increase the visibility of our struggle on Broadway and demand that producers put their greed aside and take care of our members who have helped to make Broadway a remarkable success,” he said. “Everything is on the table. This is not Trump’s Broadway.”

The Broadway League declined to  comment for this story. 

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