In another nod to worsening pandemic conditions, SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity Association have extended the agreement struck last year 2020 that makes it easier for producers to offer live streaming and other recorded video of stage productions.
The deal was reached in November 2020, months after the shutdown of Broadway theaters put thousands of theatrical professionals out of work almost overnight. With theaters closed, live streaming and other recordings of theatrical stage productions emerged as an alternate means of keeping the spirit of the Main Stem alive.
But those efforts to capture stage plays on video also created some headaches for the industry’s two largest performers unions, SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity. SAG-AFTRA typically has jurisdiction over video content while Equity rules the live stage. The deal reached last year allows Equity to set compensation terms with actors for live-stream and recorded stage events.
The unions “reached the agreement in November 2020, as a way to address the challenges of performing live theater during the coronavirus pandemic. It was originally set to expire at the end of the year, but the extension acknowledges the ongoing nature of the pandemic and sets June 30, 2022, as the new expiration date,” SAG-AFTRA and Equity said in a joint statement.
The pact covers a relatively small amount of activity for both unions, but it’s a sign of the times. Broadway shows have been hit hard in the past two weeks by COVID outbreaks among cast and crew members, as have sports leagues and other activities that revolve around close strenuous contact among workers and large crowds.
The nation at present is bracing for the prospect of COVID infection rates continuing to spike through the Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday period. Broadway theaters celebrated triumphant re-openings last fall after being dark for more than a year, but if infection rates in New York state continue to climb, theaters may well have to temporarily dim the lights again.
Already, the surge of positive test rates in New York, Los Angeles and other major cities is forcing the cancelation of live events on the entertainment industry calendar set for early in the new year, such as the Palm Springs Film Festival’s annual awards gala.