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Broadway Is Back on the Road

by Ray Hair, AFM International President

I am pleased to report that the Federation has completed negotiations with the Broadway League and Disney Theatrical Productions for an extension to the Pamphlet B Touring Theatrical Musicals and Short Engagement Touring (SET) Agreements and for a comprehensive Health and Safety Manual (“Safety Manual”) applicable to all musicians performing under those agreements. The predecessor Pamphlet B and SET agreements expired of their own terms on March 15, 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic erupted worldwide, effectively shutting down the entire live entertainment industry, including 23 touring Pamphlet B and SET productions.

League producers restarted touring musical productions in Dallas on August 3 with Wicked. Touring productions of Hamilton resumed soon thereafter in Atlanta and San Francisco. Additional Broadway tours are scheduled to either open or resume touring itineraries in the fall, with bookings set through 2022.

The extension agreement applies and extends all terms of the expired predecessor Pamphlet B and SET agreements. It was concluded as a prelude to more difficult and comprehensive negotiations over the Safety Manual, which contains protocols necessary to minimize the risk of the virus and deal with the prevention of COVID-19 while on tour. The Federation and the League have agreed that the prevalence and incidence of COVID-19 and efforts to prevent and transmit it will be continually assessed for adequacy based on the changing nature of COVID-19 and its variants. You can view the Safety Manual in its entirety at www.afm.org.

The Federation and the League also recognize that the Safety Manual may require adjustments to protocols based on new knowledge about the virus. If changes are necessary, they may occur with prior notice and negotiations between the League and the Federation, and if needed, on an individual show or location basis.

Several key improvements were eventually achieved (over provisions the League initially proposed) for musicians working on the road:

  • Portable HEPA air filtration is required in the orchestra pit.
  • Additional compensation is required for any mandated health and safety training or education.
  • A stipend of $250 is required if a musician must travel away from home to undergo a COVID test on a day when not working for a producer.
  • If a musician is required to quarantine, all hotel expenses, reasonable food delivery expenses, and per diem will be paid by the producer.
  • If the tour moves to the next location before quarantine is concluded, the musician will be reimbursed for ground transportation to/from the plane/automobile transporting musician to next tour location.
  • Musicians will receive up to eight extra sick days for quarantine or isolation related to COVID.

The League, its bargaining partners, and producers proposed, and the Federation subsequently agreed, that all members of any touring company (including musicians) are required to be “fully vaccinated.” Fully vaccinated means the employee received an FDA authorized or WHO authorized vaccine, and more than 14 days have elapsed following the final dose of the vaccine. Proof of vaccination must be provided no later than the first rehearsal of a production.

Members of a tour who cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of a qualifying disability or a sincerely held religious belief must contact the employer to request an accommodation.

We believe the extension and Safety Manual are affirmatively good results, extending the expired provisions of the Pamphlet B and Short Engagement Theatrical Tours Agreement and implementing achievable protocols and guidelines for musicians’ care and protection via the manual. All of this was gained without sacrificing economic benefits and working conditions bargained over the Federation’s long history of negotiations with the League, its bargaining partners, and producers.

We owe a huge debt of thanks to AFM Touring, Theater, and Booking Division Director Tino Gagliardi and Associate Director George Fiddler for their unparalleled industry experience, focused advice, and superb ability to keep touring musicians’ issues at hand and in mind during these negotiations. Similarly, the contributions provided by Theater Musicians Association President Tony D’Amico, together with superb rank-and-file representation from players Elaine Davidson of Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft. Worth) and Susan French of Local 802 (New York City), both veterans of decades of roadwork, kept our negotiating team focused on the real needs and lives of musicians performing with the shows.

Thanks are also due for the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of the entire negotiating team, including AFM International Vice President Bruce Fife, AFM Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert, AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) President Pat Hollenbeck and Secretary-Treasurer Mark Pinto, AFM IEB Member and Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) President Terry Jares, Local 6 (San Francisco, CA) President Kale Cummings, Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) President Stefanie O’Keefe and Vice President Rick Baptist, Local 72-147 President Stewart Williams, AFM IEB Member and Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) President Ed Malaga, and Local 2-197 (St. Louis, MO) Secretary Vicki Smolik. Finally, I wish to thank Federation Counsel Russ Naymark and Jennifer Garner for their legal expertise, insight, and assistance at all stages of negotiations.

AFM and the Broadway League Announce COVID Safety Plans for Touring Broadway Shows

American Federation of Musicians of the US and Canada (AFM) and the Broadway League have announced an agreement on health and safety protocols for Pamphlet B touring shows. This news comes as Wicked, the first touring Broadway production to return to the road, is set to resume performances on August 3 in Dallas following a 17-month pandemic hiatus interruption.

Wicked’s fully vaccinated orchestra will perform and tour throughout the US and Canada under newly negotiated safety protocols and an extended collective bargaining agreement.

Key provisions of the agreement include:

  • Improved HVAC standards and portable HEPA air filtration in orchestra pits.
  • Mandated vaccines for the musicians, actors and crew.
  • PCR or antigen tests for COVID-19 will be provided at no cost to the musicians.
  • Each musician will receive up to eight extra sick days for quarantine or isolation related to COVID infection or positive COVID tests.
  • Allowance for modifications to the protocols where necessary for individual shows or locations.

“Reopening the touring Broadway productions and returning to work under achievable health and safety guidelines that minimize the risk of COVID transmission during a tour are important priorities,” said AFM International President Ray Hair. “There exists great pent-up demand and an overwhelming thirst to see, hear, and be entertained by great live theatrical musical performances. AFM members performing these shows are the finest musicians in the world. They will help quench that thirst.”

The protocols are based on preventive strategies from US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and medical and infectious disease specialists. The tour safety protocols will follow state and local health department guidelines and will be continually assessed for the adequacy of prevention efforts as the tours travel across the US and Canada.

View updated “Theatrical Touring Health & Safety Manual for the Broadway League and the American Federation of Musicians” at: https://www.afm.org/our-musicians/theater/

Safety Protocols for a Return to Work for Pit Musicians

From the Theatre, Touring, and Booking Division

The Broadway League announced in late June that Broadway performances in New York City will be suspended through the remainder of 2020 due to COVID-19. Returning productions are currently projected to resume performances over a series of rolling dates in early 2021. 

As we navigate through the current pandemic and the total shutdown of live theatrical performance, it is important to think ahead and consider what our industry will look like as we prepare for a return to work in the theatre pits across the United States and Canada.

For the last several weeks, I have been working with the officers of the Theatre Musicians Association—President Tony D’Amico, Vice President Heather Boehm, and Secretary Treasurer Mark Pinto—and the Director of Broadway Jan Mullen to evaluate the needs of theatre musicians for a safe return to work.

We will be faced with many challenges in ensuring musicians performing in the theatre pit environment remain safe and healthy. Below is a list of questions and issues that we believe will be important to address with our employers as we emerge from the current crisis. We offer these as a guideline for the bargaining of safety protocols for musical theatre. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments: tgagliardi@afm.org.

Questions to Consider While Bargaining a COVID-19 Safety Plan for the Musical Theatre Workplace:

All the items below are subject to collective bargaining and can be addressed in COVID-19 side letters to avoid opening the agreement and keep bargaining confined to safety protocols. As with any change negotiated in a collective agreement, side letters must be ratified by the bargaining unit before musicians return to work. Musicians should only return to work after the union has determined that the employer has met its obligation to provide for a safe and healthy work environment. 

All the below items should be considered for load-in, load-out, sound-check, rehearsals, and performances.

A coordinated response to health and safety procedures between the AFM, Actors Equity, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) will ensure consistent guidelines for our workplaces. All theatres should establish safety committees and compliance officers to monitor that sanitation, ventilation, social distancing protocol, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are in accordance with best practices and legal requirements. Employees are not responsible for establishing these protocols and should not shelter the employers from liability. No worker should sign a liability waiver as a condition of returning to the theatre or any other workplace. 

Under no circumstances should COVID-19 reopening procedures be used to change or diminish instrumentation or run of show by electronic or any other means.

20 QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

  1. How will the special challenges of placement in the pit be resolved?
    1. Protection against contamination from singers/dancers above the pit.
    2. Ventilation challenges in close quarters.
  2. Will musicians and staff, as well as vendors and anyone else entering the workplace, be trained in the agreed-upon safety protocols?
  3. What must change with regard to sanitation?
    1. Placement of hand sanitizer and/or disinfectant wipes.
    2. Containers/absorbent material for wind and brass condensation/spit and proper disposal of same.
    3. Prohibition of food and drink in shared spaces.
    4. More frequent cleaning and sanitizing of all facilities.
    5. For more info, visit: www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf
  4. Will employees receive health screenings prior to entering the workplace?
    1. Testing, for either infection or antibodies.
    2. Temperature screenings.
    3. Local musicians who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 should inform their union steward, contractor, and local union officers. Traveling musicians shall inform their union steward and company management.
    4. Anyone who has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should stay home and get tested. No musician who stays home due to symptoms should lose wages, sick pay, or sick leave. This should apply to subs as well as chairholders. In the US, the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) provides for paid leave in these and other circumstances. More information here: www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave.
    5. Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should remain at home, away from the workplace, until cleared to return to work by a medical professional. The employer should assist in contact tracing to identify any other employee who may have been exposed to the infected worker. The AFM local, union steward, and company management should be informed immediately of any infection that occurs in connection with the workplace and any potential exposure.
    6. If a family member of a musician or other worker contracts COVID-19, the individual should stay at home and quarantine until it is clear they have not become infected. The FFCRA provides paid leave in the case of employees.
    7. In the circumstances of the pandemic and community spread, employers are permitted to ask employees about their symptoms and perform certain temperature and health checks on employees. The employer must continue to keep all employee health information confidential and store it in a file separate from other personnel records. More information can be found online here: www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws.
  5. How will the employer provide support allowing musicians to travel safely to and from the theatre, particularly in cities where public transportation is the normal mode of travel or when company housing is farther than one-half mile from the venue? Will employers secure free or discounted parking in close proximity to the theater, so as to allow musicians to avoid public transportation or ride share services?
  6. Will masks be required of everyone in the workplace?
    1. Will the employer provide PPE (masks and gloves)? What kind?
    2. When will brass and wind players remove masks to play?
    3. Where will masks be kept when not being worn?
    4. Will new masks be available to musicians on double service days?
  7. Will visitors be prohibited from entering backstage/pit areas?
  8. How will musicians and others in the workplace maintain proper distancing offstage from their arrival to departure? How will traffic flow be managed, and workplace capacity limited, in all of the following areas:
    1. Parking Lot • Entry to the theatre/Stage Door • Security checks • Backstage/Onstage/Pit areas • Hallways • Green rooms and lounges • Dressing rooms • Locker rooms/Instrument storage room/Trap Room/Case storage • Restrooms • Offices
  9. Where will musicians place their cases?
  10. Where will musicians warm up?
  11. How will food and drink be handled?
    1. Water fountains? Bottled Water? • Eating in shared spaces? • No communal food?
  12. How will music be prepared and distributed safely?
    1. Adjustments to rental and touring music distribution procedures to protect performers.
    2. PDFs of advance books.
    3. Touring librarian safety in handling returned parts and rental parts.
    4. Encourage iPad or EStand technology.
  13. How will musicians be physically spaced for rehearsing and performing?
    1. Routes for travel to the performing/workspace.
    2. Spacing in performing/workspace.
    3. One person per stand, even for strings.
    4. Barriers between musicians—plexiglass or other materials.
    5. Barriers between workspace and audience.
    6. Conductor placement.
  14. How will musicians document and report instances of discrimination because of ageism, immunocompromised status, caretaker status, or personal comfort level?
  15. How will normally shared equipment be managed to avoid contamination?
    1. Chairs • Music stands • Percussion equipment • Keyboards • Books/Parts • Headphones • Avioms or other personal audio monitoring systems • Laptop rig/Mainstage • Shared instruments for subs.
  16. When large instruments, travel cases, and other equipment are moved who will move them? What will be done to protect against contamination of people and instruments?
  17. Will normal timing of rehearsals need to be adjusted?
    1. To limit time exposed to others in the same space.
    2. To extend break time to allow safe (staggered) use of restroom facilities.
    3. To create breaks to allow for proper and complete ventilation of rehearsal and performance areas.
  18. Will the theatre need to be updated or retrofitted?
    1. HVAC and air filtration • No-touch door opening • Elimination of blowing hand dryers • Installation of hand sanitizing stations.
  19. What restrictions must be in place for the audience and front of house in order to protect workers?
    1. Distance from the front of the stage to the audience.
    2. Audience members and ushers required to wear face masks.
    3. Suspension of onstage/backstage tours and pit visits.
    4. Temperature checks or other screenings for audience members.
  20. Will you need to address travel-related concerns for out-of-town musicians?
    1. Ability to travel across borders (state or national).
    2. Housing (single vs. double occupancy) in hotel or with company.
faith seetoo

Faith Seetoo – Zen and the Art of musical

Faith Seetoo of Local 76-493 (Seattle, WA) has spent most of her adult life on the road as associate conductor with more than a dozen touring Broadway shows, among them: The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Mamma Mia!, A Chorus Line, and Newsies. Since April 2017 she has been on the North American tour of Aladdin.

Seetoo’s first glimpse into the world of theatre music came when she saw Peter Pan at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles as a child. She was so taken by the show that she wrote to both the show’s star, Sandy Duncan, and the conductor of the orchestra, Jack Lee.

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Touring Show Update

2017 Touring Show Update

Touring Show Update

During a performance of Elvis Live in Concert, AFM Touring/Theatre/Booking Division Director George Fiddler (left) had the opportunity to meet with Greg Luscombe who assembled the symphony orchestra used in the show.

The traveling show season has begun and most of the new productions have premiered or are about to start their season. I visited Les Misérables in Hartford last month as it began a new tour. There are numerous seasoned road musicians in the orchestra, as well as musicians new to touring. This show has an orchestration for 15 touring musicians, nearly all of them on orchestral instruments. The conductor, Brian Eads of Local 257 (Nashville, TN), has done an amazing job of having everyone play at the highest ensemble level possible. The production quality was first-rate.The show’s stellar cast was accompanied flawlessly by the orchestra, creating a magical performance. The fortunate audiences have certainly received a production worthy of the Broadway experience.

This season there are many shows that have sizable touring complements, as well as large local musician employment. The new Disney blockbuster for the road this year is Aladdin, which has an orchestration of 16, with a minimum local hiring of eight musicians in every city it visits. The King and I continues this season with 13 local musicians hired in all cities.

Another new production with a large musician complement is Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera. This show travels 15 musicians, with local hiring in select venues.

There are a variety of unusual productions that are not traditional in orchestration or content that will be travelling under our agreements.

As the new director of the AFM Touring/Theatre/Booking Division, I look forward to overseeing a large and varied season of traveling musicals that is sure to provide a genuine Broadway experience to audiences across the US and Canada.