Thesps get dolled up

Actors' walkout ends without resolve

The 14 non-unionized actors who staged a walkout Thursday at Gotham’s American Girl Place store returned to work Saturday despite receiving no guarantee on whether the doll manufacturing company would recognize their efforts to join Actors’ Equity.

Thesps, employed in the live tuner offerings at American Girl’s multi-level retail outpost, were protesting what they called unfair labor practices on the part of the company, which they perceived as attempts to discourage their efforts to unionize.

According to Equity, the actors’ union that’s repping the performers in the dispute, the org sent a letter Friday to American Girl that included an unconditional offer to return to work Saturday for the two productions running in repertory at the store’s 150-seat theater, and to return to rehearsal Monday for the third show currently being prepped.

The first Saturday perf of one production, “Bitty Bear’s Matinee,” was canceled without explanation by management, but the actors who had shown up for work were informed that they would be compensated for the perf nonetheless. The 12:30 p.m. showing of the second musical, “The American Girl Revue,” went on as skedded.

Equity’s letter, sent to the artistic director of American Girl Place Inc. New York and to a rep at the corporate office in Wisconsin, expressed the hope that the Mattel-owned company would recognize the thesps’ wishes to unionize. The org had not yet received a response.Reps for American Girl were unavailable for comment.

The popular line of dolls made by American Girl has grown into a hot property in recent years, inspiring books, telepics and a feature deal. The three stores in Chi, Los Angeles and Gotham have become tourist stops for families traveling with young girls.

On July 25, Equity filed a charge of unfair labor practices against American Girl with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that after a majority of the store’s 20 actors expressed an interested in being repped by the union, the company rescinded an earlier offer of a pay raise. (For both shows, the base pay for each perf is $44.) The NLRB’s evaluation of the claim could take several months.

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