Broadway actor and stage manager union Actors' Equity will add Paradise Square producer Garth Drabinsky to its "Do Not Work" list at the request of the production's actors and stage managers, Playbill has confirmed. The move will render Drabinsky unable to hire members of Actors' Equity, effectively ending his ability to produce on Broadway and at many major theatrical venues across the country, many of which operate under contracts requiring the use of Equity performers.
This latest setback—which follows earlier legal action filed by Equity and United Scenic Artists Local USA 829 seeking to collect nearly $350,000 in benefit contributions, wages, and payments owed to both unions and their members cumulatively—is the result of a letter sent to the union collectively by the production's actors and stage managers, citing "outstanding payments and benefits, and a continued pattern of abuse and neglect that created an unsafe and toxic work environment." Read the full text of the letter below.
As of this writing, the production is expected to perform as scheduled through its previously set closing date of July 17. Drabinsky will not officially be added to Equity's "Do Not Work" list until after the production has completed its run, allowing the company to play all remaining performances.
"The company of Paradise Square has expressed their commitment to this show and want to continue to tell this story through its planned closing on July 17. However, Garth Drabinsky has made it clear that he is unable to uphold the terms of a union contract, so Equity intends to add him to our Do Not Work list immediately afterwards," says the union via a statement provided to Playbill.
The legal drama is not the first for Drabinsky. The Tony-winning Ragtime and Show Boat producer was convicted of fraud and forgery in 2009 following the dissolution of his production company Livent. Paradise Square is Drabinsky's first Broadway outing since being granted parole and released from prison in 2014. Equity also put a stop work order on the production earlier this year following contract disputes, a move that lasted only one day.
Paradise Square, which opened April 3, is directed by Moisés Kaufman, with choreography by Tony winner Bill T. Jones. It takes place during the Civil War and tells the rich story of Irish immigrants and Black Americans fighting for a similar cause. Star Joaquina Kalukango won a 2022 Tony Award for her performance in the work.
A national tour is reportedly in the works, eyeing the 2023-2024 season, along with a number of international productions. It remains unclear if Drabinsky's troubles could jeopardize those plans; Actors' Equity does not have jurisdiction over any international productions.
Paradise Square was conceived by Black 47 frontman Larry Kirwan. Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas, and Kirwan penned the musical's book to a score with music by Jason Howland, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Masi Asare, and additional music by Kirwan.
The production also has staging by Alex Sanchez; music supervision, direction, and orchestrations by Howland; scenic design by Allen Moyer; costume design by Toni-Leslie James; lighting design by Donald Holder; sound design by Jon Weston; and projection design by Wendall K. Harrington.
The Company of Paradise Square's full letter to Actors' Equity:
"Members of Actors’ Equity National Council,
"Since work on Paradise Square began in Chicago in the fall of 2021, there has been one person making all executive decisions surrounding the production. This person is not the producer of record, but it is well known that they are in full control and therefore no action can be taken against them. They have withheld benefits and pay from many company members, and have created an unsafe, toxic, and frequently hostile work environment. When presented with these concerns from the company, this person has continually been dismissive, defensive, and often abusive.
"As has been said about this person, 'every day there is a new way to disrespect someone,' and today is no different. We did not receive our final payment in the form of direct deposit, and with this producer’s history of dereliction of payments, this is a massive concern.
"Therefore, due to outstanding payments and benefits, and a continued pattern of abuse and neglect that created an unsafe and toxic work environment, the company of “Paradise Square” call for Garth H. Drabinsky to be placed on the Actors’ Equity Do Not Work list, effective July 18th, 2022.
"We truly loved bringing this show to the audiences in New York City, but we should never have had to endure the circumstances that we did to do so, and no one should ever again."