Theater Blog Roundup: Theater as Class Struggle

In the dog days of summer, those few bloggers not on vacation are depicting the theater as dog eat dog – an arena for classic class struggle, workers vs. owners. Or at least that might be how one might view the following posts:

Oskar Eustis, millionaire
According to Philip Boroff in Broadway Journal: “In 2020, a year in which theaters were dark for nine and a half months, Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis earned $1.15 million in pay and benefits, more than any other nonprofit theater leader in New York. Eustis’ 10 percent jump in overall compensation — disclosed in the Public’s 2020-21 tax return filed with the New York Attorney General — runs counter to the company’s messaging about pandemic pay. In an April 2020 New York Times story about the cancellation of Shakespeare in the Park and planned staff furloughs, Michael Paulson reported that much of the remaining staff “will take up to a 25 percent pay cut. Eustis will take a 40 percent pay cut.”

While all of the posts this month on Ken Davenport’s blog (once called The Producers Perspective) have only listed the week’s Broadway grosses (i.e., how much money the owners are making), Lauren Halvorsen in her Nothing for the Group substack continues her regular feature “that’s not a living wage” in which she puts salaries offered by individual theaters in a context that never fails to startle. One example:

  • Literary Assistant at Roundabout: $42,000 (overtime-eligible, but I’m curious if reading plays outside of work counts as overtime) 
    • Executive Compensation: $952,870 (Artistic Director) / $740,301 (Executive Director)

In #TheatreClique, Brian Eugenio Herrera links to this Tweet by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (aka IATSE) which he calls a “handy reminder/tool”


A new series of blog posts in HowlRound, launched by Ann James’ essay “Intimacy and Equity: A Balancing Act,” focuses on “redistributing power to actors by balancing creative vision with strong consent  and boundary groundwork for the production community. “

There is an intriguing twist on this dynamic, by an anonymous writer (“The Broadway Vigilante”) in OnStage Blog who makes reference to the news that actress Laura Osnes is suing the New York Post for defamation for the way they covered her departure from a show because the company required its cast and crew be vaccinated, and she had not been. The anonymous blogger ties Osnes’ lawsuit together with the lawsuit filed late last year by actor Chad Kimball against the producers of “Come From Away” that claimed he was let go from the production because of his Christian beliefs. (The Times reported: “Kimball, a Broadway veteran described in the lawsuit as “a devout and practicing Christian,” had stirred controversy in November 2020 when he announced on Twitter that he would “respectfully disobey” Washington State’s coronavirus-related restrictions on religious services, including rules forbidding even masked worshipers from singing. At the time, he was living in Seattle, his hometown.”)

In “Differentiating Discrimination vs. Job Requirements When It Comes to COVID Protocols,” Vigilante writes “both performers lost employment because they not only failed to comply with requirements from their respective employers but with requirements from the CDC….Yes, there is great discrimination in this industry and the world at large, but there comes a point when we need to differentiate between discrimination and basic job requirements that we can either meet or not. Not to do so is a disservice to those who face real, awful discrimination and severe retaliation for speaking out or not “falling in line”.,,,Whether you’re an audience member, performer or creative team member let’s look out for each other and strive for all of us to be safe and healthy. Sometimes that means you need to speak out against injustice, but sometimes that means you need to take one for the team.”


Broadway Journal’s second scoop (picked up right away, unlike the one on Eustis):

Sweeney Todd on Broadway?

“Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller is raising as much as $14.5 million to revive Sweeney Todd on Broadway this spring…Josh Groban (The Great Comet) will play the vengeful barber and Annaleigh Ashford (Sunday in the Park with George) will play the creative pie maker Mrs. Lovett.”

In The Crush Bar theater newsletter, Fergus Morgan concludes his extensive coverage of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival with my five favorite shows of the Edinburgh 

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

Leave a Reply