TORONTO — An “informational picket line” manned by more than 100 members of Canadian Actors’ Equity greeted the media arriving for Wednesday’s press announcement of Blue Man Group’s arrival on the Canadian scene.
The highly successful multimedia entertainment is scheduled to open at the newly named Panasonic Theater (formerly the New Yorker) early in June, under the management of Clear Channel Entertainment Theatrical, which plans to spend C$15 million ($12.2 million) to renovate the facility.
Brandishing signs that said “Boycott Blue,” the Canuck thesps challenged Blue Man’s stated policy that they “are not now and have never been signatory to a collective agreement with any union.”
This has never been a problem in the U.S., where Blue Man has been in operation since 1991, with spinoff companies running in Boston, Chicago and Las Vegas.
Maria Somma, spokeswoman for Actors’ Equity Assn., explained the situation by saying “Blue Man Group was never pursued by AEA to join us, because their show doesn’t have a book and consequently wouldn’t fall under our jurisdiction.”
That argument failed to satisfy Susan Wallace, executive director of CAEA. “That’s not how we work here, and if Blue Man Group wants to be part of our city, it has to recognize and work with the unions in operation here.”
Manny Igrejas, longtime PR director for Blue Man, suggested one reason Equity has left them alone is that they meet Equity standards in every area of operations: hours, wages, benefits, disability, vacation, pension, etc.
“One of the things that is fundamental to this organization,” Igrejas said, “is that everyone who works for it is treated properly.”
AEA has forbidden its members to participate in the Canadian production of Blue Man Group at this time.
Somma referred to it as “an act of solidarity with our sister organization,” but readily conceded AEA “has no plans to pursue any action against Blue Man Group in any way.”
Blue Man and CAEA were scheduled to meet in Gotham Friday in hopes of finding a solution to the problem.