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Industry Pro

Industry Pro Newsletter: Labor Issues Come to a Head, The Closure of the Lark


This week, we highlight the many challenges of coming back to “normal” as an Industry

October 11, 2021 -

Coming back from a year and a half shutdown was never going to be easy. The challenges brought not only by the pandemic but by individual artists standing up against the myriad of injustices that were normalized within the industry meant that as theatre artists got back to work, there were going to need to be serious changes to "business as usual". This week, some of those calls for change came to a head with two strike authorizations (only 1 lost performance between them), and protests outside of the opening night of a major institution. Also in this week, however, was the good news that the hard work of change can lead to good - The Flea has announced major changes to their operating model that has led to members of The Fled to return as members of a new resident company. That story is below, along with stories about challenges faced by regional theatres and AEA rules, the closure of the Lark, and the sharp drop in streaming productions being offered.

The Social Report

Following opening night, Chicken & Biscuits takes the top spot on the leaderboard. Diana continues to see a bump from its Netflix debut, while SIX joins those at the top following resuming performances on Broadway.


The Lark Announces Their Closure

The Lark was instrumental in the development of new plays over the last 25 years, and with the recent vote by the board to shut down, it highlights how difficult a model that was before COVID, and the challenges brought by the pandemic ultimately made it impossible for the company to survive. During the process of closing down, the Lark is actively seeking partners to take over existing programs in the hope that while the company doesn't continue, the way in which they have developed work will. With three of the last five Pulitzer Prize winners having been developed at least partially in Lark programs, one hopes that their work is able to continue as uninterrupted as possible.

Labor Strife, Strikes, and Protests Accompany Theatre's Return

IATSE Local 22 voted for a Strike Authorization at the Kennedy Center - in response to management's plans to cut wages by 40%, eliminate jobs, and other cost-cutting measures. Negotiations have been ongoing for 16 months, and Hadestown was slated to take the stage. A last minute deal over the weekend averted the strike, and Hadestown will take the stage as planned. North Shore Theatre recently canceled one performance of their production of Mamma Mia! Following a strike by IATSE Local 11. The issues between the union and management were resolved, at least temporarily, allowing the show to resume performances the next evening. In Philadelphia, protesters gathered outside the opening night at Walnut Street Theatre to protest what they described as the toxic culture of the institution. The Board of the theatre previously brought in a third party to investigate these claims, but the third party investigation could not corroborate them.

American Shakespeare Center Cancels Their Fall Season

Earlier this year, calls for change at the institution led to the resignation of their Artistic Director, and the elevation of a new Actor-Leader model at the ASC. However, elements of the toxic culture remained, and with continued internal issues, the company decided the best course forward was to cancel their production related activities to focus on fixing the internal cultural issues that led to the toxic environment in the first place.

Biden Nominees for NEH and NEA Announced

Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson and Shelly Lowe were announced last week to lead the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, respectively. If confirmed, each would be historic firsts as leaders of their agencies. Lowe would be the first Native American to lead the NEH, and Dr. Jackson would be the first African American and Mexican American to serve as chair of the NEA. Both have long and distinguished careers in both arts leadership and public policy.

As Audiences Return, UK Theatres Turn Off Their Stream

More than 50% of theatres in the UK who had previously held at least one streamed performance during the last year and a half have none scheduled for the fall season. This sudden shift back to the status quo has activists worried about retaining the ground made towards full accessibility to the art forms - and not only for those at higher risk during the health crisis, but for traditionally underserved populations as well.

Updated AEA Covid Guidelines Proving a Challenge for Small Theatres

In Cleveland, Regional theatres are struggling to implement some of the requirements of the AEA safety plan - particularly as it concerns the testing requirements. Many of the actors employed in these smaller companies have day-jobs, making getting tests difficult - not to mention the budgetary strain of providing tests in areas where testing is not abundantly available.

Following a Process of Reconciliation, The Fled Return to the Flea

The Flea will return next year with a new model - one that was worked through, developed, and negotiated with the group of artists who became known as The Fled last year. The new model will involve a focus on underrepresented artists, built upon independently programming resident companies. The Flea as an institution will provide these resident companies with support, while allowing the companies to program independently of the Flea's administration. The first group in for a three residency will be The Fled Collective - with a $10,000 cash grant support and $50,000 worth of rental credits each year, along with other administrative support to develop new work.

Add Your Show to our Regional Events Calendar

As audiences get set to return to in-person performances, and as your company works to market your own return to the stage, make sure you've got your upcoming shows in our regional events calendars. Listings are free of charge, with boosting options available. Get your show listed now!

BroadwayWorld Stage Mag - A Fully Interactive Show Program

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From This Author Alex Freeman