Casting Directors Union Calls Out Broadway Producers’ Greed
Denying healthcare to casting directors called “biggest Tony season snub”
While Broadway producers are celebrating “the highest grossing season in Broadway recorded history,” the industry’s casting directors are asking why producers are denying them health insurance. This week, the Broadway League announced that the latest season had grossed $1.5 billion. Despite those profits, the Broadway League has refused to bargain a first contract with casting directors, members of Teamsters Local 817, denying them employer-provided healthcare, retirement, and basic work protections.
“It’s unconscionable that Broadway producers made $1.5 billion last year, yet won’t provide casting directors with health care or a retirement plan,” said Cindy Tolan, a Broadway casting director for shows including The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.
“This is the biggest snub of the Tony season,” said Tom O’Donnell, President of Teamsters Local 817. “Every actor, director, stage hand, costume designer, and set designer on Broadway has a union and has a contract. Other Broadway workers don’t have to choose between paying the rent and going to the doctor. There is no reason these wealthy producers can’t take care of their casting directors too.”
Broadway casting directors joined Teamsters Local 817 in 2016, but the Broadway League refused to negotiate a union contract with them. Without a union contract, casting directors are left to find expensive health insurance on their own, or go without it. Their employers – the producers – also make no contributions toward their retirement.
“We are the only employees on Broadway who do not have healthcare or a pension. It’s Tony season and our productions are being celebrated, but we are being overlooked,” said Tara Rubin, casting director for Jersey Boys, Dear Evan Hansen, and other shows.
Casting directors are the creative vision behind the dynamic casts that make Broadway shows a success. They are involved in a production from the beginning, assembling actors for readings or workshops, to the end, recasting roles and scouting new talent. Casting directors can work for months or years on a show before they get a formal contract from the producer.
“We need a union contract so that all casting directors and future casting directors will be protected,” said Bernie Telsey, casting director for shows including Hamilton and Hello Dolly!.
While casting directors have gotten the cold shoulder from the producers, they have the full support of other Broadway unions, including IATSE Local One, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the Actors Equity Association, and Musicians AFM Local 802.
As the Broadway community looks forward to the Tony awards, the call for fairness for casting directors will only get louder.