NEWS IN BRIEF

The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists reached a tentative agreement with the advertising industry on Friday to extend the Commercials Contract for two years. The deal—which must be approved by the unions' joint national board, their rank and file, and the boards of the advertisers' governing organizations—calls for a pay raise, increased contributions to the performers' benefits plans, and a study to examine alternative methods of compensation for commercials that run on television, radio, and in new media. Actors will receive a 6% pay raise, and pension and health-care contributions will increase from 14.3% to 14.8%. The agreement also gives advertisers the flexibility to edit commercials for the Internet and other new media, such as cell phones and iPods. Advertisers will also receive a one-year waiver that allows them to experiment with a shorter cycle of use in new media.

Actors working in musical productions at American Girl Place in midtown Manhattan walked off the job last Thursday and Friday to protest management's refusal to recognize their effort to join Actors' Equity Association. The performers returned to work on Saturday and were paid for the shows they missed, but the central issue of union recognition has yet to be resolved. Late last month, Equity filed a charge of unfair labor practices against American Girl, a subsidiary of Mattel Inc. with stores in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The union alleges that management reneged on a proposed pay increase for the actors because they are trying to unionize. A spokesperson for American Girl told Back Stage earlier that the company has followed federal labor laws and says the actors should hold an election if they want to form a union.

Harold R. Scott Jr., a Broadway director and the first African American to become the artistic director of a major regional theatre, died July 16 at his home in Newark, N.J., the Associated Press reported last week. He was 70. Scott's Broadway directing credits include The Mighty Gents, Suddenly Last Summer, and A Celebration of Lorraine Hansberry. In 1973 he was named artistic director of the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Scott began his career as an actor, winning an Obie Award for his 1958 performance in Deathwatch. He also created roles in the premieres of Edward Albee's The Death of Bessie Smith and Arthur Miller's After the Fall.

Manhattan Theatre Club has postponed its Broadway production of Clifford Odets' The Country Girl until the 2007-08 season and will add Brian Friel's Translations to the upcoming season. A spokesperson for the theatre said no reason would be given for the postponement. Casting for Translations will be announced at a later date, according to a press release, but Garry Hynes (The Beauty Queen at Leenane) will direct. Previews begin Jan. 4, 2007; the play is scheduled to open Jan. 25.

The pilot for a comedy series that was passed over by Fox for its fall schedule turned up on at least three video-posting websites last week, and the show's producer, 20th Century Fox Television, has issued cease-and-desist letters to the sites. The Adventures of Big Handsome Guy and His Little Friend appeared on Break.com, Vidking.com, and Slubber.com. It did not appear on YouTube.com, the most popular viral video site on the Web. The producer said it was investigating the matter. In June, Nobody's Watching, a sitcom bypassed by the WB network, turned up on YouTube and attracted so much attention that last month NBC ordered several episodes and indicated that it might put the show on the air.