By Andrew Gans
17 Nov 2007
|photo by Matthew Blank|
The stagehands strike, which began Nov. 10 and has temporarily shuttered 27 Broadway shows, enters its second week Nov. 17, the same day negotiations between Local One and the League of American Theatres and Producers are scheduled to begin anew.
Today marks the first time since the strike began that both the union and the League will sit down together and attempt to solve the labor dispute that has affected the vast majority of Broadway's plays and musicals. Shows have already been canceled for the 27 affected theatres through Sunday evening, Nov. 18.
The union had previously refused to meet with the League, saying the organization of theatre owners and producers had not shown the union proper respect. During the union's Nov. 11 press conference, Local One president James Claffey Jr., said, "As [members of the League] continue to say featherbedding and they keep [saying] basically that we're thieves, we're not going back to the table with that lack of respect. . . . We can't negotiate under those circumstances."
It was the mighty Mouse — i.e., Disney Theatricals — that seems to have pressured the stagehands union to return to negotiations with the League, which begin today at 10 AM at an undisclosed venue. Robert W. Johnson, a Disney labor relations executive, will be the mediator for the weekend of meetings, which will also see Thomas C. Short, the president of I.A.T.S.E., return to the negotiating table. 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.
Peter Schneider, the former head of Disney Theatrical, told the New York Post that "Tom Short respects [Johnson] beyond belief. If anybody can bring a sense of security, fairness and calmness to this situation, it's Robert."
All in the theatre community — including the out-of-work actors, musicians, ushers and box-office personnel, among others — are hoping this latest round of negotiations will be fruitful. Many believe that Broadway will be up and running by Thanksgiving, which would give those in the industry even more reason to be thankful come turkey day.
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. It remains to be seen whether that show will open on time.
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.