"This Production is a Family!" says Union-Busting Producer
by Caitlin Bitzegaio. @caitorade.
WILMINGTON, DE - “This production is a family,” producer Skylar Barnes told the cast and crew of the non-equity national tour of Ragtime after hearing rumors that the cast had reached out to Actors’ Equity in response to low wages and safety concerns.
“I don’t want the unions forcing their way in and hurting our family,” elaborated Barnes, who was speaking directly in front of a dancer whose ankle was sprained due to inadequate safety procedures. “Families don’t need contracts to specify standards. I mean, my kids didn’t organize a union. Of course, they tried.”
Ragtime is the story of economic, social and racial inequities in America, a fact that Barnes, who is a 65 year old white man whose estimated net worth is $20 million, seems blithely unaware of.
Actor Eric Gregory said that playing Coalhouse Walker in these conditions is a struggle.
“I can’t take being compared to Brian Stokes Mitchell and getting paid poverty wages. One or the other, but not both,” said Gregory while participating in an online focus group for profit. “I fulfill my dreams every night on stage and then fulfill the dreams of little kids when I play Spider-Man at their birthday parties on my day off.”
The cast worries that their fate as people might mirror their characters’ which, for most of the cast of Ragtime, is a very bad thing.
“The irony of playing worker advocate Emma Goldman in a non-union production is not lost on me,” said actress Hilda Feeny, operating a forklift with no training. “When I sing 'these are causes to die for,' I think: 'what if I die tonight on stage at the Kroger Center for the Arts in Columbia, South Carolina?' It’s less romantic than in the show.”
Barnes says he thinks the cast and crew “will come to their senses.”
“This production is a family, and if they don’t see it that way, I’ll have to replace them with another family. Like I did with my kids.”