As part of a wide range of COVID policies in the entertainment industry, the Actors’ Equity union has reached an agreement with the Broadway League trade organization, which will require all members to receive vaccines if they are. employees under a production contract.
This would apply to both Broadway homes and boardrooms across the country, and is part of the growing trend to require vaccinations at all levels of the industry. Several companies, including Hamilton, already stipulated that employees be vaccinated before the reopening on September 14. And on the West Coast, film producers and studios have the right to demand vaccines for anyone on active sets.
Members who are not eligible for the vaccine due to medical conditions, or who feel they should be exempted due to religious opinions, may request accommodation from their producers, who are not obligated to provide it. In addition, the tradition of greeting the actors at the door of the stage is now prohibited, as well as backstage tours for the public.
This is the latest in a series of important announcements from the union, which represents actors and managers. Earlier in July, he established an all-new membership policy, making it much easier for those looking for union work and protections (provided they can afford the registration fee) to get on.
The membership protocol was in part the result of the racial calculation that continues to reorganize the country and the theater industry. Last year, Equity drew the attention of members and activists alike saying it was not doing enough to support its members of color and that opaque membership requirements were contributing to racialized control. The union’s first steward convention was dissolved in April when members of color staged a walkout after feeling sidelined and attacked by white members and leaders.
Equity is just one of fourteen unions that work in the 41 houses of Broadway, many of which have also drawn strong criticism over racial and gender discrimination within their ranks. Equity is the first to make such sweeping changes in response, and the first to announce a vaccine-for-work requirement. However, the announcement indicates that the League will also apply comparable vaccine mandates for members of other unions, although it did not specify.
Ultimately, the protocol doesn’t come too soon. The first play to open in a Broadway theater since March 2020, Passes over, premieres next week.