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Equity, NEAT Agree to Three-Year Pact

Actors' Equity Association and the New England Area Theatres (NEAT) have reached a tentative agreement for a new three-year contract that will affect 14 Boston-area professional theatres.

The new Equity-NEAT contract will be submitted for ratification to the Eastern regional board of Equity's national council on April 23. The NEAT producers will meet within the next two weeks to vote on ratification of the new agreement. Once approved, the contract will be retroactive to March 3 and will remain in effect until Labor Day, 2005.

The following Equity theatres will now operate under the Equity-NEAT contract:

Boston Playwrights Theatre, Foxborough Regional Center for the Performing Arts, Gloucester Stage Company, Jewish Theatre of New England, Lyric Stage, Lyric West, New Repertory Theatre, Nora Theatre, The Publick Theatre, and the Wellfleet Harbor Actors' Theatre.

Four previously non-Equity theatres—Boston Theatre Works, Coyote, SpeakEasy Stage Company, and the Sugan Theatre—will also produce under the new pact.

Major changes in the new contract include:

For the first time, the agreement will be codified as its own separate rulebook, rather than as a rider to the Small Professional Theatres Contract, which many theatres used in the past.

Open auditions will be held for Equity members for each individual production in a theatre's season, including musicals.

Nine new salary categories go into effect based on the number of performances per week and the number of total work hours, including rehearsals, performance time, photo and costume calls. The salary range includes $176 (actor) and $211 (stage manager) to $445 (actor) and $534 (stage manager). There will be a cost of living increase in the second and third year of the agreement. Actors will receive full health benefits and Equity pensions.

In order to enable large cast shows, the agreement has a more flexible non-pro ratio, which will not cost any Equity jobs.

The theatres have agreed to the Environ stage smoke and fog guidelines to assure performer safety. New equal employment opportunity and nondiscrimination language is included in the pact.

There will also be increased stage management staffing, with assistant stage managers required when there is a cast of 10 or more or an Equity chorus.

Equity's chief negotiator was Rick Berg, Equity's senior business representative, who was assisted by Thomas Kaub. The negotiating team was chaired by Julia Breanetta Simpson, who was assisted by James Bodge (Chair, Boston area liaison committee), Equity councilor Bob Knapp, and member-at-large Michael Dell'Orto. Committee alternates were John Goldman, Sheila Stasek, and Ellen Colton.

"This was a very productive negotiation and I'm particularly pleased with the increasing number of professional theatres in the Boston area, the growth in work weeks for our members, and new opportunities for Boston theatregoers," stated Rick Berg.

Rick Lombardo, president of NEAT and producing artistic director of New Repertory Theatre, headed NEAT's negotiating team, which also included Spiro Veloudos of The Lyric Stage Company, Mimi Huntington of the Nora Theatre, Jason Southerland of Boston Theatre Works, Nancy Curran Willis of Gloucester Stage Co., and Diego Arciniegas of the Publick Theatre, among others.

Lombardo noted, "These negotiations created a very positive atmosphere for the production of professional theatre in the Boston area, and will allow our member producers greater flexibility in the type of programming they can produce within this agreement. This contract is a real win-win for our member theatres and the local professional acting community."

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