Actors’ Equity Association, the live performers’ union, has chosen its new exec director: John P. Connolly, currently the national prexy of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, will become the head of Equity beginning March 19.
Connolly, who has led AFTRA for six years, steps into a position that was originally set to be filled by longtime Equity officer Patrick Quinn, who died suddenly last fall before he could assume the post. Quinn was replacing Alan Eisenberg, who topped Equity for 25 years.
AFTRA first national vice president, radio host Bob Edwards, will assume AFTRA presidential duties until the org’s next national board meeting.
Connolly takes the helm of a legit union that is now in good financial health, thanks in part to robust Broadway biz.
But looming in Equity’s future are this fall’s regional theater negotiations with the League of Resident Theaters, and the skedded 2008 renegotiation of the Broadway production contract with the League of American Theaters and Producers.
That contract, which determines the salary and benefits of thesps working on the Rialto, is especially important as a model agreement. “It’s the keystone and glue of the American theater,” Connolly said.
Broader concerns of high importance, he added, are “the continuing security and improvement of our ability to provide health care to our members, and issues of intellectual property and artists’ rights in light of new media.”
An actor whose TV credits include “The West Wing” and “Crossing Jordan,” Connolly has been a member of Equity since 1973 and has appeared on and off Broadway. He has served on Equity’s national negotiating committees and also was on the national board of the Screen Actors Guild for five years.
At AFTRA, he helped create the President’s Strategy Cabinet, which focuses on long-range planning, and the Legislative and Public Affairs Committee, which centers on public policy. In 2003 he pushed for the merger of AFTRA and SAG which was never approved.
At AFTRA Connolly developed a rep as a personable and vocal leader, and he said he sees his past experience with that union as an asset at Equity.
“There are important parallels in the issues confronting actors whether they’re onstage, in front of a camera, or in front of a microphone,” he said. “We all need to craft firmer alliances with each other.”