Actors' Equity Raises Showcase Code Limits 

Nick Micozzi 

Actor’s Equity is making modifications its Showcase Code to increase limits under which the majority of Off-Off-Broadway productions operate.  The changes go into effect May 25th 2009, according to documents posted on Equity’s website.

Basic Code
The current “Basic” Showcase Code sets maximum limits on participating productions to 16 performances within a 4-week window, and 4 consecutive weeks of rehearsal at a maximum of 32 hours per week; audiences must be 99 seats or less, ticket prices must be $18 or less; and the production’s total budget must not exceed $20,000.  Under the new code, producers will still be limited to 128 hours of rehearsal, but they may spread those hours out across 5 weeks, rather than 4.  The budget cap for Basic productions has been increased significantly:  up 75% to $35,000, and is now exclusive of AEA stipends.

Basic Showcase Code Changes Table 

Seasonal Code
The current “Seasonal” Showcase Code sets limits of 4 weeks for rehearsal and 5 weeks for performance. Under the new code, while the maximum total number of performances are allowed (20 or 24, depending on the producing company’s annual gross income), but producers may now schedule those 20 or 24 performances over a 6-week run, up from 5 weeks.    The ticket price cap for Seasonal productions will be raised from $20 to $25.

Seasonal Showcase Code Changes Table  

Equity believes the extended performance window would allow shows a more flexible schedule to target press coverage and audience attendance.  Showcase Committee Chairman, Gil Rogers, said the goal behind these changes is “to meet some of the basic needs of emerging theatres, at the same time protecting the actors.” 

The “budget increase and extended rehearsal window is fantastic,” said Tim Errickson, Artistic Director of Boomerang Theatre Company.  But many producers may not be able to afford an extra week of costs with no increase in revenue-generating performances.  The extra week in the performance window is “a step in the right direction,” said Errickson, “but you spread the performances so thin you can’t balance out the cost you accrue with the additional rent.” 

A recent IT Foundation study found that over two-thirds of OOB productions paid rent in weekly increments, rather than hourly or daily.  For such productions, the additional week would cost an extra $1,600 to $4,000 in rent alone.  For those in the higher-priced theaters, the cost of just the rent for the run would break the previous budget cap, even before any other expenditures, including actor stipends, are taken into account.

The Committee wants the Showcase Code to “encourage emerging companies to develop” from producing on the showcase level to eventually producing on contracts, while educating actors and younger producers. The code’s introduction states that “Equity offers this code to enable its members to showcase themselves for industry professionals and to provide a set of rules under which Equity members may participate in the arena generally known as ‘Off Off Broadway’”. 

There were nearly 1,000 shows produced under the showcase code in New York in 2008.

Actors’ Equity Association Showcase Codes

What do you think of the changes?  Let us know.


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