Several Shows Affected By Walkout By Carol-Ann Rudy Along the Great White Way on Saturday, most theaters were plunged into darkness as the stagehands’...

Several Shows Affected By Walkout

By Carol-Ann Rudy

Along the Great White Way on Saturday, most theaters were plunged into darkness as the stagehands’ union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), chose this past weekend to go on strike. Picketing stagehands marched in front of twenty-eight theaters just a few hours after Friday night’s announcement by IATSE President Thomas C. Short that the strike was on. This short notice left little time for ticket holders to change their plans. Brokers will have their hands full reassuring and refunding tickets held by their customers.

How long the strike lasts depends on two factors: the willingness of the collective managements represented by the League of American Theaters and Producers to settle it while facing millions in losses, and the dogged determination of the union to achieve its goals. The ghost of the 2003 Broadway strike haunts the negotiations: that strike shut down theaters for four days.

In the meantime, the strikers’ resolve is mirrored by the writers’ walkout in Hollywood. That strike, which began with a march by about seventy-five writers last Wednesday, promises to cripple top television shows. Like Broadway, it will have a trickle-down effect, creating a loss of livelihood for many others besides writers. As for the Big Apple, an estimate by the League prexy Charlotte St. Martin estimates a loss of $17 million a day to the city. The League contends that only one out of four productions recoups its investment and that the IATSE overlooks this in their drive to protect members’ incomes.

Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas was the first show to be affected as news crews shot footage. Picketers handed out flyers to passersby explaining their position, pointing out the great increase in Broadway ticket sales in the past few years. At the same time, production teams handed out flyers informing theatergoers that their tickets would be refunded. Both the IATSE and the League of American Theaters and Producers held press conferences, each putting their case before the American public.

The strike does not affect Cymbeline, Mary Poppins, Mauritius, Pygmalion, The Ritz, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Xanadu, and Young Frankenstein. These few productions remaining open have a different contract with the union.

(The image accompanying this story is from Gothamist.com)