The incongruity of our contracts.

For those of you reading my Godspell Blog, you know that I’m in the midst of teching Godspell.  Techs for Broadway shows can be some of the most expensive and time consuming events leading up to a show’s first performance.  A big musical can easily spend more than $1mm in labor alone just getting the set in the door and up on its feet.

But that’s not what this blog is about.

As I have watched yet another tech, I couldn’t help but notice how our own industry has established a system that is counterintuitive to delivering the best product.

I’m talking about how the contracts for the participating unions are built on different structures .  Some unions are paid hourly, others weekly.  Some employees can work in four hour chunks, others in three, and others in five.  Some folks are paid on holidays, some are not.  Breaks are different.  The actual “end of day” is different.  And so on.

And all of these different rules and regs actually leave a producing and creative team with strange schedules with nooks and crannies of time that can’t be filled . . . which means minutes during this very expensive period can be wasted . . . which means shows have less time to put their best foot forward.

If the union work rules were more in sync (and know that I’m not talking about anyone getting paid less), more work could get done in the same amount of time, and the shows would be better.

Better shows = happier audiences = healthier theater.

I realize that the work rules are the way they are because the lives of the different artists who come together to create a Broadway show are so different.  But in tech and in previews, for those final few weeks when shows are readied for their big unveiling, it would seem to be in everyone’s best interest to be in a little more alignment.

Can we do anything about it?  Honestly, probably not.  We’ve done this to ourselves over the past few decades. The foundation of our contractual house has been built, and we’re reaching up several stories by now.  And it’s hard to futz with a foundation when your other floors have been built.

The only way we’d get back to our foundation now is if there was a disaster of some sort.  And no one wants that.

But honestly, if we don’t get other elements of our industry in order, we could be starting at that foundation, whether we like it or not.


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– 3 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

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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.