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Actors' Equity Association Asks New York City's 'Open Culture' To Prioritize Arts Workers

A hearing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. ET today, February 26.  

Actors' Equity Association Asks New York City's 'Open Culture' To Prioritize Arts Workers

Actors' Equity Association, the national labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, has submitted testimony on New York City's Open Culture series. A hearing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. ET today, February 26.

Open Culture is a new permit type available from the Mayor's Street Activity Permit Office allowing for ticketed performances. Arts and cultural institutions, as well as entertainment venues, will have the opportunity to secure a permit for socially distanced performances at over 100 street locations throughout all five boroughs.

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Equity encourages the Open Culture program to prioritize making sure producers are paying a living wage and have the appropriate safety protocols in place.

The union's testimony can be read in full below:

Dear Stefan Grybauskas:

I write on behalf of our union that represents over 19,000 actors and stage managers in the NY entertainment industry. Actors' Equity Association is the national labor union that represents stage actors and stage managers in live performance. Our members work on Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off Broadway throughout New York City. For over 100 years, Actors' Equity has fought to secure important workplace protections for actors who work on stage.

We are excited about the Open Culture Program and what it will mean as we look toward reopening of the arts, and are grateful for the opportunity to submit comment about the program. The Open Culture Program as established by the Mayor's Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management will allow eligible arts and cultural institutions to use open performance spaces for artistic and cultural events.

As you work to launch the Open Culture Program, there are important safety considerations that should be taken into account to protect the participants, regardless of whether they are union members or not. Strong safety protocols now will protect the reputation of the entire industry from a theater becoming a vector for an outbreak, which would damage the reputation of the industry as we collectively all consider reopening.

For example, the city should require that all productions approved for the program have proof of workers compensation insurance, in addition to other insurance requirements.

With the industry largely shut down for nearly a year, the city should ensure and prioritize those programs that are paying their performers a living wage. Providing a living wage and union contracts will mean those who participate in the program not only can earn a living, but have the protections of Equity's safety protocols, which includes testing requirements that have kept workers safe in New York City and around the country.

We urge the Mayor's office to prioritize making sure the performers are paid a living wage and incorporate these concerns into the eligibility and use guidelines for the Open Culture Program. Actors' Equity Association stands ready to collaborate on safety protocols that will keep everyone associated with the program safe and protected moving forward.


Brandon Lorenz

National Director of Communications and Public Policy

Actors' Equity Association

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