Tuesday, July 16, 2024

How the Writers Guild of America strike is affecting theater

Arts and CultureHow the Writers Guild of America strike is affecting theater

BY BETH WOJCIECHOWSKI
Associate Arts and Culture Editor




After failed negotiations with Hollywood studios over increased pay, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) officially went on strike on May 2, demanding fair and equitable contracts and wages. While the strike is largely affecting the television and film industries, causing many delays for high-profile projects such as the highly anticipated fifth season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” it is also having a noticeable effect on the theater industry.

Broadway playwrights are typically not represented by WGA according to Playbill, although the writers for the Tony Awards are. The effects of the strike were apparent in the theater industry once The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that the 2023 Tony Awards may be untelevised. 

Prior to the official beginning of the strike, the Tony Awards production committee filed a waiver to still allow writers to work on the awards despite the strike. However, the move was criticized by WGA members and allies, as they worried that the awards continuing as scheduled would undermine the strike’s momentum. 

Theater fans and performers, on the other hand, worried that the canceling of the awards would result in a loss of revenue for Broadway shows.

Many theatrical companies and publications fought back against this initial decision, with Playbill pointing out that past awards shows have aired despite ongoing WGA strikes, such as the 1988 Tony Awards and 2008 Grammy Awards. 

Though the fate of the 2023 Tonys was uncertain for some time, the WGA announced on May 15  that it would not picket the awards since the awards committee promised “to conform with specific requests from the WGA” in a recent statement. 

The awards are still scheduled to be broadcast June 11 at 8 p.m. EST on CBS. However, the WGA recently reached out to guild members who are nominated at this year’s Tony Awards and encouraged them not to attend. Rather than attending and accepting their own award, the WGA suggested pre-taping acceptance speeches or asking a non-member to accept their award. 

As for the strike, it is expected to last at least six months, according to Variety Magazine. Support for the strike from the WGA and outside organizations such as the Actors’ Equity Association has been felt in the theater community. 

“The cross-union solidarity has been incredible on the picket lines,” late-night TV writer Sal Gentile told PBS. “We have been joined by our friends and colleagues from unions across the industry.”

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