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Day 7: Strike Goes On as Theatre Community Awaits New Round of Negotiations

By Andrew Gans
16 Nov 2007

Stagehands strike outside of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, home of Curtains.
photo by Matthew Blank

As the strike initiated by Local One, the stagehands union, concludes its first week Nov. 16, all in the theatre industry are hoping that the negotiations between the League of American Theatres and Producers and the union, scheduled to begin anew Nov. 17, will bring a quick end to this chapter in Broadway history.

Although the League and the union are scheduled to return to the bargaining table Saturday morning, the League has already announced that the 27 Broadway shows affected by the strike have canceled both Saturday and Sunday performances. The soonest all of Broadway could be up and running is early next week (most shows are dark Monday), and that will only happen should the two sides either reach a tentative agreement this weekend or agree to allow the shows to go on during further negotiations.

For months prior to the strike, producers and the union have been hashing out issues of work assignments, setting of a production's run crew, load-in costs and labor minimums.

It was the mighty Mouse — i.e., Disney Theatricals — that seems to have pressured the stagehands union to return to negotiations with the League. The New York Post reported that Disney's top labor lawyers will be part of the meetings, which are scheduled to begin at 10 AM Nov. 17 at an undisclosed venue. Disney's The Lion King (the high-grossing musical at the New Amsterdam) and The Little Mermaid (Disney's newest offering, which is scheduled to officially open Dec. 6 at the Lunt-Fontanne) have both been shuttered since the strike began.

Thomas C. Short, president of I.A.T.S.E., will also reportedly be part of the negotiations. It was Short who, on Nov. 8, had granted strike authorization to the Broadway union, which had been working without a contract since July 31. The strike officially began the morning of Saturday, Nov. 10.

To date, the strike has forced the postponement of two Broadway openings: The Farnsworth Invention (originally scheduled for Nov. 14 at the Music Box Theatre) and The Seafarer (previously scheduled for a Nov. 15 opening at the Booth). New opening dates have yet to be announced for either show.

The Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of August: Osage County is the next scheduled Broadway opening: Nov. 20 at the Imperial. Jeffrey Richards, one of the drama's lead producers, told Variety that should the strike be settled on Sunday, he would consider opening the show as scheduled.

Only eight Broadway shows are currently running: Xanadu, The Ritz, Mauritius, Cymbeline, Pygmalion, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Young Frankenstein and Mary Poppins.

Broadway was last darkened by the 2003 musicians' strike, which lasted from Friday, March 7, 2003 to early Tuesday morning, March 11, 2003. That dispute temporarily closed 18 Broadway musicals.

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