Negotiations have broken down between producers of the upcoming tour of "State Fair" and Actors' Equity. The tour will go forth on a non-Equity basis, and its star, John Davidson, will have to resign from the union.
Alan Eisenberg, executive director of AEA, said the union had attempted to forge an experimental, low-cost contract to be used for this tour "based on the low-budget/low guarantee financing of the production." Equity representatives Carol Waaser and Tracey Lieberman had been negotiating since last summer with Ken Gentry of NETworks, the tour producer, based in Gaithersberg, Md.
"We worked very hard to create a deal that was within the financial constraints of the production while still providing essential benefits for the actors," Waaser said. "I thought we'd reached an agreement, and I was prepared to present it to Equity Council for approval." Gentry, however, reneged on the deal a few days prior to the Council meeting on May 20, and hasn't responded to Equity's attempts to contact him since then, according to Eisenberg.
A stage adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1945 film musical, "State Fair" toured the U.S. extensively as an Equity production of The Theatre Guild before coming to Broadway for a short-lived run in the spring of 1996. The show starred Davidson as Abel Frake, along with Kathryn Crosby, Andrea McArdle, and Donna McKechnie.
David Westberg, Davidson's agent, said: "Regrettably, John will resign from Equity. He's very unhappy that the union and the producers were unable to come to an agreement for the tour; but he created this role, and he's impassioned about continuing to play it."
Rehearsals begin Aug. 11 for the 35-40 week, multi-city tour, which is scheduled to open in early September. According to Equity's Eisenberg, "We will be mounting a vigorous information campaign to alert the theatregoing public in the tour cities that this is a non-union production in which none of the actors, except the star, is receiving sufficient compensation or benefits. We believe other entertainment industry unions will be joining us in this effort."
Eisenberg further said that Equity will take "all appropriate steps to discipline John Davidson for his actions, which are detrimental to the Association and a betrayal of the rest of the membership. We have contacted AFTRA and SAG, and expect their full cooperation in the disciplinar