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Equity, League Debate Schedules, Raked Stages

Both sides' stands on two major issues within Actors' Equity Association's lucrative production contract have become clearer, a result of Equity's reports to members on negotiations with the League of American Theaters and Producers.

The union and the league recently used two focus sessions to discuss over-strenuous performance schedules and raked stages.

Equity has expressed concern about shows—such as "Rent, "Chicago," and "Fosse"—requiring a five-performance weekend immediately followed by a Monday performance. Such strain on performers results in exhaustion and makes them more prone to injury, the union feels.

According to Equity's website report, "The producers offered a counter proposal, whereby an actor who performs 'highly strenuous' duties would be allowed a day off after (8) weeks; however, they were also concerned about the economic impact and view Equity's proposal as too restrictive."

The union has requested more financial data on box office income to evaluate the league's position.

On the volatile issue of raked stages, Equity has proposed their elimination as a valuable safeguard to performers. The union, in a session earlier in the negotiations, had offered a presentation featuring a neurologist's research on injuries due to raked stages, as well as testimonies by actors who have suffered from performing on them.

In the more recent session, the league countered with an extensive rebuttal.

"Two prominent Broadway set designers, a physical therapist, and a dance supervisor defended the use of raked stages on a variety of levels: artistic intent, improved sightlines, the relationship between the audience and the actors, and historic value," according to the union's website. "The physical therapist and dance supervisor said that although dancing is an inherently dangerous activity, the risks posed by raked stages could be significantly reduced by proper physical training (e.g, warm-ups and strengthening exercises)."

Equity responded with a physical therapist's letter "outlining the extensive damage resulting from raked stages." The union also brought in more live testimony from performers. The neurologist, Dr. Randolph Evans, who has published studies on raked-stage injuries both on Broadway and in London's West End, also returned to readdress his findings.

However, Equity noted that the producers "discount these findings and Equity's position."

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