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Actors’ Equity Announces Core Principles Needed to Support Safe and Healthy Theater Productions

Stage Directions • Industry NewsTheatre Buzz • May 27, 2020

May 26, 2020—Actors’ Equity Association, the national union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers working in live theatre, has released the four core principals needed to support safe and healthy theater production. A memo from Dr. David Michaels, former head of OSHA during the Obama Administration was released. The memo was shared with Equity members and Equity producers on May 26, 2020.

“These four principles are the foundation for our continued work with Dr. Michaels,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association. “We intend to build out protocols that can be used by our employers and all of our colleagues to insure that everyone who works in the theatre has the safest workplace possible.”

The principles include:

  1. The epidemic must be under control, with effective testing, few new cases in the area and contact tracing.
  2. Individuals who may be infectious can be readily identified and isolated, with frequent, regular and accurate testing with speedy results.
  3. The way we audition, rehearse, perform, and stage manage may need to change and the venues we work in may need to undergo changes in order to reduce the risk.
  4. Efforts to control COVID-19 exposure must be collaborative, involving Equity members, employers, the union and all others involved in the production of theatre. There must be collective buy-in and ongoing evaluation and improvement of health and safety practices.

Click here to view the memo from Dr. Michaels

Actors’ Equity immediately went to work early on to protect members even before Coronavirus was officially declared a pandemic. Equity made its first public statement on March 2 that staff were making plans to prepare for a possible pandemic. Equity then asked producers to put members’ health and safety first and postpone Equity EPAs and ECCs.

In New York, the union publicly called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to put worker safety first as the mayor considered whether to limit public gatherings to slow the spread of Coronavirus.

Equity has advocated for unemployment provisions included in the CARES Act that improves access for entertainers. And Equity has called for a 100 percent federal COBRA subsidy to ensure no one loses their health care during a pandemic while the entertainment industry is shut down.

Equity has made a public statement telling employers that it is “unclear how” a theater could safely reopen under the current circumstances and asked members to contact the union if they are asked to go back to work.

Further information from the Actors’ Equity Association:



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