Founded in 1913, the Actor’s Equity Association represents more than 48,000 actors and stage managers who work in live theater across the U.S. It is a member of the AFL-CIO and is affiliated with the International Federation of Actors, which grants bargaining clout when negotiating wages, health insurance and pension plans. Because market conditions for theater vary by location, AEA negotiate separate contracts in different cities.
Considered the pinnacle of the stage actor’s art, Broadway uses contracts that are valid until September 25, 2011, and apply to national theater tours that are organized in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Actors receive a minimum salary of $1,653 per week for either musicals or plays. Those working a split week, which refers to less than a full week’s worth of work, receive $952 per week. Weekly increments are added for special duties or performances. For example, those playing a specialty part get an additional $20 per week, those in roles with extraordinary risk get $20 more per week and those who are dance captains add $300.60 per week.
The contract for theaters in the Bay Area around San Francisco, California, expires on July 20, 2014. It covers six equity houses divided into Tiers, with weekly salaries specified according to experience. For example, the Intro Tier pays $203 for year 1, $205 for year 2, $209 for year 3 and $215 for year 4. The respective salaries for a Tier 5 theater run $574, $580, $591 and $609. Overtime is paid in half-hour increments at one-and-a-half times the hourly rate of the appropriate tier and experience. The hourly rate divides the weekly minimum rate by the maximum rehearsal hours as specified in the contract.
Walt Disney World
The contract for Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is current up to September 15, 2012, and specifies hourly pay rates. It starts with a minimum of $13.33 per hour as of September 20, 2009, goes up to $13.60 as of September 1, 2010 and ends at $13.83 on September 18, 2011. These rates apply to members of the chorus. Those who step out of the chorus, also known as principals, receive hourly rates of $14.94, $15.24 and $15.55 respectively, on the specified dates. Performers’ contracts that are renewed receive minimum increases of 2.5 to 2.75 percent, and those who have no contracts, known as casuals, get higher increases of 3 or 3.25 percent.
Chanhassen Dinner Theaters
Chanhassen Dinner Theaters is a 90,000 square-foot complex of three theaters located in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The contract here expired on May 30, 2010, and specifies weekly salaries. Minimum salaries for the Main Stage reach $612, those at the Fireside Theater are $436 and those at the Playhouse run $405. These salaries begin during the first day of rehearsal. Principal actors who play or understudy additional parts receive an additional minimum of $10 per week. Overtime is paid in half-hour increments and costs $11.25 for the Main Stage, $8.25 for Fireside and $7.70 for the Playhouse.
- K-King Photography Media Co. Ltd/Lifesize/Getty Images