Broadway stagehands on strike

By Jessie Holeva
November 15, 2007

alejandra villa/newsday/mct

Broadway was buzzing, but not with excited fans, instead, with strikers urging pedestrians to take a flyer. Stagehands picketed and as of Saturday morning, 26 union shows were cancelled.

Coincidentally, Cabrini College’s Office of Student Activities had their trip to see “Mama Mia!” scheduled for Nov. 10, the same day the stagehands union put the strike into effect.

Ben Ferguson, a sophomore Spanish major and business administration minor, still attended the trip after having the option of backing out like a few students did. “For me the only reason to go to New York is to see a show,” Ferguson said. He still had a good time in the Big Apple but would have liked to see the scheduled show.

Fans come from all over the country to see a Broadway show. Producers of the 26 different shows had to turn excited theatre goers away due to the walkout.

The whole problem stems from contract negotiations between Local One, including stagehands and the league of American Theatres and producers. The issue of concern is the number of stagehands required for each production.

According to the Los Angeles Times producers argue that the work rules are too costly and dated. This is specific to the number of workers required to employ to install a new show in a theater and take down the show.

“After I realized what the people were on strike for I understood where they were coming from,” Bobby Iocco, a sophomore business administrator major, said.

Iocco was also disappointed but didn’t let it ruin his time in the city and hopes the strike will be short lived. “I think the producers will realize that they’re losing a lot of money this week,” Iocco said.

Stagehands are the backstage workers and without them, stage sets wouldn’t function. They’ve been working out of contract since the end of July. This walkout has nixed productions like “Wicked” and “Avenue Q” from having the curtain raise.

As of Friday afternoon, Marlaina Geffers, the graduate assistant in the Office of Student Activities and chaperone of Cabrini’s trip, was made aware that the show was pending. Definite cancellation wasn’t known until 9:30 am the day of the scheduled trip, only a half hour before the bus departed. “I didn’t actually think they’d go through with it,” Geffers said.

Local One is over a century old and has never before had a walkout. On Thursday, Nov. 8 the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, its parent union, gave the okay to strike.

This not only affects the theatres but the hotels and restaurants as well. Geffers and Iocco think the dilemma will be soon resolved and hope so with the holiday season underway.

This shouldn’t affect up-coming trips to New York City. “People are really understanding because it’s not in anybody’s control,” Ashley Shoenfelt, assistant director of student activities, said.

There will be future Broadway outings offered to Cabrini students through OSA, at least when the picketers and producers come to an agreement.

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Jessie Holeva

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