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Equity Rejoins Actors' Federation: After Nine-Year Hiatus, A Return to International Fold

Equity has rejoined the Inter-national Federation of Actors (FIA) nine years after withdrawing from the Geneva-based organization due, primarily, to budgetary considerations.

According to a news report on Equity's website, Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg has attended several meetings of FIA in recent years as an observer. In June 1999 he, with Equity First Vice President Patrick Quinn and Arne Gundersen, Eastern regional vice president and long-time chair of the union's alien committee, accepted an invitation to attend a session in Portugal.

They reportedly were encouraged about FIA's new leadership and the agenda of the meetings, which included greater attention to live theatre. FIA represents 92 performers' unions from 63 countries and is a forum for exchange of information and reciprocal support.

At the Feb. 15 Equity council meeting, Central Regional Vice President Madeleine Fallon-who acknowledged that she had been very vocal in supporting Equity's withdrawal from FIA-now offered the motion to rejoin. She said she was pleased to learn that FIA had undergone changes and felt the time had come to "reassess and reevaluate."

Quinn relinquished the chair in order to speak in support of the motion. He, too, felt it was an important organization that had changed a great deal over the years since Equity withdrew. He called the organization's new general secretary, Katherine Sand, "quite remarkable." He spoke of the meetings in Portugal, saying they were like sitting in the United Nations, wearing headphones for simultaneous translation. He added that with the globalization of the entertainment industry, the continuing expansion of digital technology, and growth of the Internet, he felt it was important for Equity to be a part of FIA.

Gundersen agreed, saying the meetings were an opportunity to air differences and similarities of actors worldwide.

The question of funding naturally arose, but many speakers felt that affiliation with a global organization was of greater importance now than it was a decade ago.

"We need to be at the table in order to protect our interests," said Equity council member Kitty Lunn. "We should not only rejoin, but Equity should take a leadership role." The motion carried overwhelmingly.

Equity originally joined FIA in 1970 and played an active role. Theodore Bikel, Equity's president from 1973 to 1982, also served as a vice president of FIA from 1981 to 1991. Ken Orsatti, national executive director of Screen Actors Guild, currently serves in that post, representing the interests of American actors.

FIA unions in Europe, North America, and Latin America meet regularly. In addition, there are annual meetings of the French-speaking and English-speaking unions, and once every four years all of the affiliates meet at a Congress to discuss global issues and matters of mutual concern, including health and safety standards and training.

Regular surveys are conducted of members to develop policy positions. For example, recently FIA looked at different systems of funding theatre and live performance so that FIA members could more effectively lobby their own governments for improvements.

In 1999, a World Live Performance Conference in Lisbon gave FIA unions an opportunity to discuss multinational production and the challenges of touring and live performance in the digital age. As a result, an action plan for live performance is currently in development. Equity will now be able to participate fully in these discussions.

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