Saturday, November 10, 2007

We will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes.


That's not just a word to the Broadway theatrical community. For the second time in this decade, we have felt it and lived it. And each time that solidarity is tested, we become stronger for it, individually and as a community. You, the Producer, do this. We rediscover that part of the human spirit that we have been alienated from, the power of the group, the tribe, the union. This is a sense that can only be found during times of mutual trial.

Today started with a sense of solemn commitment. We were beginning a course of action that was not one we chose but rather one that was forced upon us. There were no cheers when the crews walked out of their theatres. There were no cheers when those out on the street refused to pick up their tools and instead picked up picket signs. We had to break our first commandment, “the show must go on.”

It was a trial. As a group, we had to call on those skills most commonly found inside of the theatre, not outside of one. We had to organize ourselves into action, with an aim and a goal. The groundwork had been laid and we had been given our new tools but we had to learn how to really use them. Some started to walk right away and some defiantly stood their ground. Through the long morning and afternoon some of us discovered we had not dressed warmly enough. All of us have worked in the cold, the heat, and the rain so weather is not something we are unaccustomed to. We just need to be prepared. Some of use got foot weary. All of us have spent hours upon hours on our feet, in grids, on trucks, on studio floors. This not something we are unaccustomed to. We just need to be prepared. Now we know what to expect. It will be like any long load-in, hour upon hour on our feet, in the cold. This not something we are unaccustomed to.

The late afternoon was the hardest. We were alone on the line. We were tired, cold, sore and determined.

Then they started to arrive. The other members of our theatrical community joined us on the line and spirits lifted. Where there were a few determined people trudging along, now there were many. Now there was cheering when passing cars honked in support. Matrons of a certain age, union members for decades, carried signs and smiled. House Managers, Box Office Personnel, Chorus Members, Dancers, Actors, Musicians, union members all, walked and carried signs in support of our common struggle. And we did what we knew best. We had a big finish.

You have united us as a community.

We will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes. This not something we are unaccustomed to. We’ve put your shows on. We have worked long hours and not seen home but briefly, for weeks at a time. Sacrifices come with the entrance into this community. Sacrifices you now seem to be unaware of but we know intimately. And now that common strength is united against you and we will not fail.

We will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes.


Jason Robert Brown said...

Hey Stagehand Guy.

Thanks for your blog, which I find to be very well-written and very articulate. I wonder whether you would be amenable to responding to some questions I have about Local 1's position. I'm an 802 member myself, though now that I live in Los Angeles, I'm fairly insulated from the Broadway hubbub. But from this vantage point three thousand miles away, some of Local 1's positions seem ... well, they seem a little childish, and I know that's an inflammatory word but it's what I keep thinking.

As a longtime Union supporter, and as someone who is enormously grateful for Local 1's support in the musicians' strike four years ago (though the results of that strike hardly made anyone happy), I want more than anything to stand with you and defend your rights. But as a casual outside observer, some of the Union rhetoric is confusing, and as I stated above, some of their posturing seems entirely indefensible.

If you're interested in having this dialogue with me, we can either do it here on your comments page, do it privately through email, or we can share the exchange on your site and my website as well. But I don't want to pressure you to "speak for" the Union if you feel like you can't in good conscience take up that position. And I certainly would never ask or expect you to surrender your anonymity.

You can post this comment if you'd like, my email address is all over the web already: jason at jasonrobertbrown(dot)com. Or you can just contact me privately. (Or, of course, you could ignore me.) My preference would be to start with the Playbill article you linked to which explained some of the terms that the League enforced last week in the absence of a contract.

This isn't a trap, I promise. I'm not going to try to make you or Local 1 look bad, and I'm not going to argue you into a corner. Like I said, my desire is actually to understand Local 1's position so that I can better defend it. I've found myself very emotionally involved in this strike, and I'd love to be able to participate in a more substantive discussion than the 14-year-olds on the message boards really have the appetite for.

Regardless, thank you for your hard work and I wish you all the best on this fight.

Jason Robert Brown

Anonymous said...

Instead of posting your union solidarity propaganda, how about delineating the actual issues and what it is that has caused the strike?

One NYC StageHand said...

My posts are just those, mine. The issues that are at hand are complex and wrapped up in passion, history, politics, money and on the rare occasion, art.

For a wide-ranging, free-spirited exchange on all the issues, I think you will find the Broadway message board at helpful. There you will find all the issues discussed in detail. As to the accuracy of any one point of view there, only you can make up your mind.

I'm not trying to dismiss anyone's desire to have a dialogue but the panoply of opinion can be found there and should be a starting point.

I will (and have) said this. It may be news but it's not necessarily the truth.