LORT salaries may tear down ‘Town’

Roundabout prod'n vulnerable due to size, late date

It may be curtains for “Our Town” plans.

Rumors circulated last week at the Roundabout’s opening-night party for Edward Albee’s “All Over” that it was indeed all over for the company’s 2003 Broadway revival of Thornton Wilder’s play.

At issue is the new League of Resident Theaters contract, which Actors’ Equity has approved and recommended for ratification by its membership. The old contract expired in March and the money items of the new one will be retroactive to March 3.

“There’s a 50-50 chance we won’t do it,” confirmed Todd Haimes, the Roundabout’s artistic director. “We’re looking at the budget for next year and we may not be able to afford it.”

Haimes said the new LORT terms would add $1.2 million to the Roundabout’s 2002-03 season as announced in spring. “Our Town,” which requires more than 20 actors, is vulnerable because of its size and its late-in-the-season opening date of March 2003, which gives the company time to easily substitute another, smaller production. “The Boys From Syracuse,” which also requires 20-plus thesps, will begin previews this month at the Roundabout’s American Airlines Theater.

The other shows in the Roundabout’s Broadway season — “Miss Julie,” “The Look of Love,” “Tartuffe” and “Nine” — employ smaller casts and appear to be safe bets. “Everything else is kind of full steam ahead,” Haimes said.

As for future seasons, he speculated, “We can’t do the same size productions as we did in the past, which for a theater like ours that does classics is a problem.” In 2001-02, the Roundabout presented such large-scale shows as “Major Barbara” and “The Women.” “There are few other places to cut than the size of the production.”

Compounding the problem, in Haimes’ opinion, is the ongoing economic recession. “It will be a difficult year for contributions,” he said. “It’s hard to predict, and you can’t change (the schedule) in the middle of the season. Then it’s too late.”

Commercial Broadway productions use the Production Contract, which pays actors a minimum weekly salary of $1,252, as opposed to LORT’s $728. When not-for-profit theaters such as the Roundabout or Lincoln Center Theater present productions on Broadway, they have used the LORT contract.

The new LORT weekly minimum for the largest not-for-profit theaters has been reported as $1,000. Neither Haimes nor David Lotz, a spokesman for Actors’ Equity, would confirm that figure. Lotz said full terms of the new LORT contract would be made available Monday.

Alan Eisenberg, Equity’s executive director, was not available for comment. The org’s Web site offered the following statement from Eisenberg:

“Because of the dismal economic climate and funding cuts since the Sept. 11 attacks, LORT came to Equity with proposals for rollbacks and freezes in several areas. We successfully resisted these attempts. The negotiating team worked very hard and made significant gains in many areas, although we did not achieve all of our goals.”

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