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‘Why Are We Stuck?’ Stage Actors Challenge Their Union Over Safety

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Several actors said that, by refusing to OK theater productions with detailed safety protocols, the union is forcing them to take jobs that are even more dangerous. Boehm is working as a salesman at a Williams-Sonoma store; Kristine Reese, an actress who moved from New York to Atlanta during the pandemic, is teaching.

“They say they don’t want anyone to get sick doing a musical, but because I can’t do a very high-protocol musical, I have to do another job, and those jobs are way riskier than doing a show would be,” Reese said.

The union has agreed to schedule a national town hall in response to the recent upset; the petition-signers, led by Timothy Hughes of “Hadestown,” are asking that they be allowed to moderate the virtual conversation.

In a joint interview, Shindle, the union president, and Mary McColl, the executive director, said they would strive to be clearer about what the union is doing. But they also said that until actors and stage managers are vaccinated, vigilance is warranted.

“The vaccine is the thing that is going to get us back on our feet,” McColl said, “and back on the stage.”

At Dallas Theater Center, where “Tiny Beautiful Things” fell apart, the two sides don’t even agree on what went wrong; the actors say the union refused to approve the show, while the union says the theater withdrew its request for approval. (Kevin Moriarty, the theater’s artistic director, declined to comment.)

Unlike most stage performers, the Dallas actors still receive a salary as members of a company. But the cancellation still stings.

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