Home Economy Kate Shindle explains why she is stepping down as President of Actors' Equity

Kate Shindle explains why she is stepping down as President of Actors' Equity

by SuperiorInvest

Kate Shindle, who has served as president of the Actors' Equity Association for nine years, is stepping down after a tenure dominated by the coronavirus pandemic that for a time left all union members inactive.

Shindle, 47, said she hoped to remain active in the union movement but was eager to return to work as an actress. The presidency of Equity, which leads a union representing more than 51,000 theater actors and stage managers nationwide, is a voluntary, unpaid position. Due to the time required to manage crises faced by union members, Shindle has worked so little as an actress that she has not even qualified for health insurance coverage from her own union.

His departure comes amid major changes in the theater industry. Charlotte St. Martin recently left her position as president of the Broadway League, which is the trade association that most often finds itself on the opposite side of the negotiating table with Equity, and the heads of many nonprofit theaters do as well. They are leaving their positions.

“It seems the time has come,” Shindle said. “We have achieved a lot. And I think turnover is good for organizations. “I have never been someone who wanted to stay until the members kicked me out.”

Shindle, a former Miss America, will conclude her third and final term on May 23. These are edited excerpts from an interview.

Equity imposed very strict rules during the pandemic that had the effect of limiting performance across the country. Looking back, what do you think of Equity's role in the state of theater during those years?

In the forefront of my mind, for most of those turning points, there were a couple of things. Firstly, the little we knew when Covid began and that we now take for granted: how it was transmitted, for example. Secondly, in many respects, if an industry had been designed to be completely leveled for a period of time by a highly contagious pandemic, I can't imagine designing one that would suit it better than live performance.

It got to a point where everyone wanted to go back to work (including me, by the way), but we really had to deal with the fact that we could reopen an industry that was pretty safe for 22-year-old dancers who would probably survive Covid if they did. contract, but was that the industry we wanted to reopen that was only safe for some of our members? What about older people? What about those in our industry who are disproportionately and permanently immunocompromised due to the AIDS epidemic? We had to reopen an industry where we had enough safeguards so that people could do their jobs without risking their lives.

Labor organizing and activism appear to be on the rise. How has that affected equity?

The art industry does not exist in a vacuum. The things that workers around the world are becoming aware of also permeate our industry. The murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter really mobilized the majority of our members. How do we reopen an industry that puts discrimination, harassment, racism, bullying, and all those types of associated behaviors on equal footing with other reasons we would tell an employer there won't be any Equity members at their show? tonight unless they remedy that? ?

How do you assess the state of the industry?

We are still in recovery mode. I was very excited at the end of last season, which for my money was the best Broadway season I can remember. It feels like a time where we, as an industry, are trying to tell stories that haven't traditionally made it to the platform. But continued evolution may be necessary in things like marketing.

Something that isn't talked about much, but is never far from my mind: I don't think we can ignore that there is a lot of politically motivated scaremongering about cities, especially cities with Democratic mayors, and perhaps some of the reasons why some of the audience has not returned as fully as we hoped is because we have to reject that.

In the wake of the pandemic, the idea of ​​“the show must go on” has changed. We see more artists screaming sick. How do you think about that?

I think it's really important. I've sat in front of employers who point out that people are taking mental health days, or calling in, at a higher rate than before, and in my opinion, it's now probably closer to what the rest of the world accepts as reasonable. When I started, we were still talking about those stories about a performer who runs off stage, throws up in a bucket, and comes back and continues his show. I don't think it's something to celebrate anymore.

What are the challenges facing your successor?

Salaries will continue to be a primary issue. In the coming years the question will be asked more frequently if there will be a strike, because people are excited. There is a battle on many fronts, but at its core it is a moral imperative for people who decide they want to produce theater to build their structures around living wages for the artists who work for them.

One of the last things you had to deal with was the war between Israel and Hamas. Did the National Equity Council choose not to issue a statement?

They pressured us to issue a statement of support for Israel and also a statement of support for the ceasefire. I actually wrote a draft for our council to consider if they voted to issue a statement, but we never got around to that; the question of “do we make a statement?” It was not approved.

We try to take positions that are appropriate for us, that don't make us foreign policy experts that most of us are not. I know that more and more members want to be part of unions that reflect their values; That's nothing new, but it seems to be growing. I personally think it's pretty clear that it's imperative that there be some kind of ceasefire as quickly as possible. But in terms of how we handled it, with members whose opinions were directly opposite of each other, I think we handled it the best we could.

What's next for you?

I'm auditioning all the time. All I ever wanted to be was an actor and it really feels like it's time to refocus on my own career. I miss singing more than anything. I want to be in a rehearsal room, getting new pages.

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