In response to the New York statewide restrictions on mass gatherings—as well as similar mandates in other states—Actors' Equity has released a statement calling for protections for members, many of whom will face impacted employment due to these cautionary measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The statement, from Executive Director Mary McColl, assures members that the union will "use all of our options" to ensure compensation, paid leave, health care, and unemployment benefits for members as it continues to work with congress and local government.
Under the gathering restrictions, groups of over 500 will be prohibited through April 13, effectively shutting down all Broadway productions until then. For groups under 500 (including most Off-Broadway houses), capacities will be limited to 50 percent of its normal allotment. Many other organizations across the U.S., including D.C.'s Kennedy Center and Los Angeles' Centre Theatre Group (both of which present their own productions as well as national tours) have canceled performances through March 31 at the earliest.
See below for the full statement from Actors' Equity.
Governor Cuomo has made an important decision to protect the health and safety of everyone who works in the theatre. Equity members are dedicated professionals who earn their health care and pensions one week of work at a time. Today’s decision means tremendous uncertainty for thousands who work in the arts, including the prospect of lost income, health insurance, and retirement savings.
Equity will use all of our options to advocate for all our members and is engaged at all levels to ensure members are protected and paid. Now is the time for Congress and local governments to put workers first to ensure that everyone who works in the arts and entertainment sector has access to paid leave, health care, and unemployment benefits. Payroll tax cuts won’t help those whose theatres are now dark. For every middle-class actor you see onstage, there are dozens of other workers behind-the-scenes and in an administrative capacity.
Decisions made now will impact many arts organizations and the communities they serve for months to come. Sustaining our entertainment sector and the workers who power it is essential. We must act, and quickly now, not only to protect public health, but with arts funding at all levels that ensures local arts employers have the resources they need to quickly recover and reopen. This will ensure the arts continue generating an economic halo effect in New York.