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Florida Theaters Fear Disney World Drama Will Effect Future Talent Pool

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Walt Disney World is now fully open, with two of its parks (Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom) having opened their gates over the weekend, and two more (Epcot and Hollywood Studios) opening today, July 15. As BroadwayWorld has been reporting this month, this news comes despite grievances filed by Actors' Equity Association, who claim that Disney is retaliating against members for Equity's demand that performers be tested for coronavirus.

On June 25 Equity made a public statement that actors at Walt Disney World need to be tested because actors cannot practice social distancing. The following day, on June 26, Walt Disney World rescinded all of its recall notices for Equity members. "Since our public request that Disney test performers in the park, there have been more than 114,000 new coronavirus cases in Florida," said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors' Equity Association. "Rather than agree to testing of performers, Disney has decided to retaliate against workers fighting for a safe workplace during this pandemic."

Now local Florida theaters are speaking up about the impact of the drama on the future talent pool in the area. "It is so important to our existence to have a wonderful pool of fantastic actors living here in Orlando," Orlando Shakes artistic director Jim Helsinger, told the Orlando Sentinel. "If they are unable to work, they'll reach 'escape velocity' - and leave [central Florida]."

Winter Park Playhouse artistic director Roy Alan explained: "We regularly employ union artists because the talent and professionalism is at a consistently high level. Actors and stage managers must make a significant investment of money and time working in professional theater before they can join the union. This commitment to their craft and theater as a profession is evident onstage."

Actors' Equity represents around 750 performers at Walt Disney World.

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