Here’s what I think the Screen Actors Guild and Actors Equity should do.

When Bernardo and Riff see each other at the “Dance at the Gym” in West Side Story, it’s obvious that at some point soon . . . there’s going to be a rumble.
This past summer, when TheaterMakers were struggling to figure out . . .
1) How to keep developing shows
2) How to earn to a living
. . . a question kept coming up that should have made me realize that we had our own rumble in the works.
That question?
“If the reading or production is on Zoom, how do we deal with the union?”
No one knew the answer. (I’m not even sure the unions did either.)
And that’s what has started the rumble between Actors Equity and SAG that made the NY Times this week.
I don’t blame the unions for not knowing what “the deal” is with streaming theater. It’s not like any one of us ever thought this would be a thing . . . that we’d have to solve . . . in the middle of a pandemic.
Not to mention that Actors Equity and SAG are like every other company in our industry. Producers, Agents, Regional Theaters and more. We’re all struggling to figure out how to keep our lights on . . . with less staff than we had since we started our business.
So, Actors Equity is claiming jurisdiction. SAG is claiming jurisdiction. And the actors? Well, they want to work.
And here’s the thing . . . Producers want to hire them.
My advice?
I’m advocating for The “Moonlighting” solution.
Remember that show? Bruce Willis. Cybil Shepard. She was his straight-laced boss; he was her wild-and-crazy detective. And they couldn’t have fought more. They fought so much . . . that you knew at one point . . . they’d make out.
Yep, I’m proposing that SAG and Actors Equity should make out merge.
This is an opportunity to not only solve THIS streaming issue, but a host of other issues that are going to come out of this crisis. Not to mention the issues that existed BEFORE all this. (Whenever our theater actors appear on TV (Morning shows, The Tonys, etc) there is so much extra paperwork that after over 25 years in the biz, I still don’t understand it!)
Wouldn’t it be easier to have the actors under one union roof?
You’d reduce friction for the hiring of these actors, which means more actors would get hired.
Or the unions could keep fighting.
But here’s what happens . . . when two people fight, everyone else avoids it so they don’t get caught in the melee.
That means, fewer people will get hired. Or they’ll get hired outside of the unions.
And no one wants that.

Related Posts


Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.