Dear Off-Broadway Producer/Manager:

We, the members of Actors’ Equity, are writing to you today in the hopes of better explaining our perspective as we move forward with Off-Broadway negotiations.

First of all, please know that we recognize that the economics of producing Off-Broadway Theatre in 2016 are challenging. We have sympathy for those challenges and gratitude for your efforts. We share your frustration that there aren’t more established sources of Arts funding in the United States. We know that raising money for the operating costs of your theatres is a tremendous undertaking. We know you are personally invested in and affected by the success or failure of every show you produce.

We are all in this together. Your success is our success, and for the last 50 years we have given our time, talent, and expertise to help Off-Broadway theatre survive, grow, and thrive. And it has thrived. However, as we have been helping your institutions succeed, the cost of living in New York City has skyrocketed, and our compensation has not risen commensurately. We are struggling just to make ends meet. Our membership cannot survive in New York City. We ask that you recognize and acknowledge that the current Off-Broadway business model is failing us entirely.

Equity conducted a survey of Off-Broadway actors and stage managers who have worked this contract in the last five years to find out what it costs them to live in New York City—one of the most expensive cities in the world—and over 190 members responded. They reported needing to clear an average bare minimum of $815 per week just to meet basic expenses: housing, food, utilities, child care, public transportation, medical costs. Because the current Off-Broadway model cannot cover those fundamental needs, we are returning to day jobs in middle-age, taking early pensions, and piling up debt. Under the current Off-Broadway model, we cannot sustain ourselves in New York City.

We are not hobbyists. We are highly trained and skilled professionals. We are not part-time workers. We work this contract year round, but end up with nothing in the bank, struggling with debt. Our work wins raves, awards, and acclaim for your productions, but we must take second jobs to survive. Our successes boost your sales and enhance your fundraising efforts, while some of us are declaring bankruptcy. The current Off-Broadway model does not support us, nor does it adequately value us as working professionals.

When Actors’ Equity met with the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers on June 9th, our Chief Negotiator Tom Carpenter asked the attending League members whether they could live on what the Off-Broadway League proposed to pay us. The question was met with silence.

The current Off-Broadway business model is contributing to the deterioration of the New York theatre community. It’s time for the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers to adopt a new model that respects us, its actors and stage managers, by offering us the dignity of a living wage.

In good faith,
1105 Signatures of the Membership