The New York locals of Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists each hold their fall membership meetings next week.
SAG members on Mon., Nov. 12, will be looking at the controversial issue of the local's new lease for office space at 360 Madison Ave. AFTRA on Tues., Nov. 13, will be honoring multi-award winning actress, composer/lyricist and playwright Micki Grant with the annual Women's Image Now (WIN) award.
John MacKinnon, a 20-year SAG member, is bringing a resolution before the membership calling for the guild to step away from its 20-year, $46.45 million lease on over 50,000 sq. ft. of new office space at 360 Mad. The guild currently occupies 35,000 sq. ft. at 1515 Broadway. The SAG/NY and national boards of directors have both approved the lease, but arguments continue within the national board about the new lease with Madison 45 Company, 360 Mad's landlord.
Dissatisfied with the lease and the local and national boards' actions, MacKinnon hopes to bring the matter to a member vote. According to SAG/NY's listed agenda, MacKinnon's resolution reads: "To contact a reputable realtor to determine the existing possibility of purchasing a building and/or finding suitable premises at a fraction of the cost of those currently rented or now being considered."
According to MacKinnon's full resolution, which he provided to Back Stage, SAG/NY has been paying $1.1 million a year "in rent alone" which MacKinnon calls "a pretentious, unrealistic and unjustified front." He claims space is available for less money, and SAG/NY's high rent "is only a liability without any equity or security of ownership, as owning a building would be."
John Sucke, SAG/NY's executive director who has been placed in the position of defending the new lease before the national board, told MacKinnon in an Aug. 31 letter that the guild signed the 360 Mad lease in 1999, at a time when "no acceptable buildings or condominiums were available?Further, costs for taxes, maintenance and resale complications made purchasing a building unattractive." That's also the crux of Sucke's explanation to the guild's finance committee and national board in an Aug. 30 letter.
AFTRA's WIN award, presented by the local's women's committee, honors a member (male or female) of the entertainment/broadcasting industry who has been instrumental in increasing employment for female performers, breaking the barriers of stereotypical casting, and changing the negative image of women and aging in society and the media.
Grant is the first woman to win the Grammy Award for the score (music and lyrics) of a Broadway musical ("Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope"). She has also won the Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, the ad industry's CLIO Award for her commercial jingles, and has received four Tony nominations.
She was the first African-American contract player on a daytime soap ("Another World"), and served for many years on both the local and national boards of AFTRA.
SAG's meeting will begin at 5:30 pm at the Directors Guild of America Theatre, 110 W. 57th St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues. AFTRA will meet at 7 pm (with a 6 pm coffee gathering) in Ballrooms I and II of the Crowne Plaza Manhattan Hotel, 1605 Broadway at 49th St.