Two shows reach deal with actors' union; adds byline

Monday, July 12th 2004, 11:36 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Whatever the outcome of the ongoing dispute between Broadway producers and the actors' union, at least two shows will go on.

Producers of ``The Boy From Oz,'' the hit Broadway musical starring Hugh Jackman as Australian entertainer Peter Allen, have agreed to a temporary contract with Actors' Equity that will allow the show to remain open even if the union declares a strike, Adrian Bryan-Brown, an ``Oz'' spokesman, said Monday.

And the Kennedy Center's production of ``The Glass Menagerie,'' starring Sally Field, also signed the agreement, Maria Somma, an Equity spokeswoman, said. The revival of the Tennessee Williams classic, now in rehearsal, begins performances in Washington, D.C., July 17 for a run through Aug. 8.

The Kennedy Center was placed in an odd situation with ``Menagerie,'' which is part of the Center's summer Williams festival. Even though the engagement was for a limited run, one-theater-only production, the Center agreed to terms usually reserved for Broadway or major touring productions.

``The contract we were offered by Equity was a (Broadway) production contract,'' Tiki Davies, a Kennedy Center spokeswoman, said. ``It was an unusual choice for us, given that it (`Menagerie') isn't a Broadway show and it isn't going to tour.''

Union leaders, meanwhile, were to meet Monday to decide what to do next in their lengthy negotiations with producers for shows in New York and on the road.

Alan Eisenberg, Equity's executive director, told The New York Times on Monday that the agreement was similar to a proposal the union made to the League on Friday, which was later rejected.

``We were basically trying to get out there with our last proposal,'' Eisenberg told the Times.

Despite the ``Oz'' agreement, the League said it remained committed to reaching an all-encompassing deal with the union and that all other shows were holding firm.

``Last evening, every show on Broadway, with the exception of `The Boy From Oz,' reaffirmed its intention to continue to negotiate as a group with Actors' Equity Association,'' Jed Bernstein, League president, said Monday in a statement. ``This was communicated in a letter to the union, rejecting any offer for individual agreements with the shows.''

Bernstein said producers of all Broadway shows except ``Oz'' met Sunday to sign a ``document of interdependence,'' vowing not to reach individual deals with the union.

Among options union leaders could consider Monday is a strike, which would shut down most Broadway plays and musicals as well as major productions on the road. Shows have continued to run throughout the negotiations.

Equity has been particularly upset by nonunion tours, which have increased over the past several years.

The union's contract with the League expired June 27, and the two sides have met since then to resolve not only the issue of nonunion tours but also questions about soaring health care costs and worker safety. Tentative agreements have been reached on the last two items, Bernstein told The Associated Press Sunday.

The League has offered to table discussion of nonunion tours until later, an idea rejected by Equity.

``Separating the issues is not a wise decision,'' union president Patrick Quinn told the AP Sunday. ``It's up to them (the producers) to face the fact that we have to stop trying to balance the books on the backs of the actors.''

In March 2003, more than a dozen Broadway musicals shut down for four days after the musicians' union walked out, resulting in lost theater revenue of more than $5 million.