Director Thomas Kail, music director Alex Lacamoire, choreographer Andy Blankenbeuhler, associate choreographer Stephanie Klemons, and Leslie Odom Jr. in rehearsal for the Public Theater production of "Hamilton" at New 42 Studios. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Actors’ Equity Strikes Broadway Development Labs

2 years of negotiations for a new contract with the Broadway League on developing new musicals have reached an impasse.

NEW YORK CITY: After nearly two years of attempts to negotiate a new contract to replace its Lab Agreement with the Broadway League, members of Actors’ Equity Association today declared a strike calling for a halt to all new show development work with signatory members of the league.

The Lab Agreement is a contract used for the development of new productions, often musicals. According to Equity, weekly salaries on the agreement have been frozen since 2007. The strike, authorized by Equity’s National Council, follows media reports that 2018 was Broadway’s highest-ever grossing year on record.

With the strike, Equity has placed its Lab Agreement, Workshop Agreement, Staged Reading Contract, and Stage Reading guidelines with the Broadway League on its “Do Not Work” list. Any Equity member offered work on any developmental agreement produced by a Broadway League member producer are advised to contact NotALabRat@ActorsEquity.org.

Some Broadway shows, including Frozen and Mean Girls, already share profits with Equity members who worked to bring their productions to life during development on the Lab Agreement. And some years ago Hamilton made history for cutting its original cast in on profit-sharing for the blockbuster musical. Despite these precedents, Equity says the Broadway League has refused to agree to profit sharing as part of a new contract.

“It’s unconscionable that Equity members who go to work developing some of the biggest hits on Broadway have gone more than a decade without a raise, especially when we regularly read about many of those same shows smashing box-office records and generating billions of dollars in revenue,” said Equity president Kate Shindle in a statement.

Said Equity executive director Mary McColl in a statement, “An unprecedented number of Equity members have already volunteered to support our campaign for a better Lab agreement. We will continue our fight to make sure that Equity members can share in the success when a show becomes a hit and recoups.”

Equity’s Lab Agreement is often used by commercial producers to develop new work, mostly musicals. One in four Broadway shows have used a Lab Agreement before opening on Broadway. According to Equity the Lab Agreement has been used 75 times since 2016, with 51 percent of those Labs going on to further production.

Equity launched its #NotALabRat campaign in November, kicking off its largest member mobilization effort in years. More than 2,000 Equity members—most actively working in Broadway shows—have signed commitment cards to support their union, and members have volunteered and made more than 9,000 calls to their fellow members to support the campaign, according to a release from the union.