by Edwina Hagon
Hundreds of actors have rallied together to protest against the termination of the Agreement Covering the Use of Foreign Artists in Live Theatre in Australia earlier this year.
The Agreement, which covers a variety of genres such as dance, drama, musical theatre and ballet, was established in 1993 to assist the development of the live performance industry and expand work opportunities for Australian performers.
“The Agreement ensures that Australian performers have a fair shot at being cast in Australian productions and therefore are able to build a career in the country in which they live,” says Angus Murray, a member of The National Performers’ Committee.
Live Performance Australia (LPA), the peak body for Australia’s live performing arts industry and registered as an employers’ organisation under the Fair Work Act 2009, offered no explanation when it terminated the Agreement in April.
Sue McCreadie, the director of Actors Equity, told the industry union, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, that there could be some loss of jobs in the short time although what is more concerning is in the medium to long-term.
“If I was a young performer, I’d be very concerned about my future work career opportunities,” Ms McCreadie said.
Without the Agreement, Australian performers face a situation where there are potentially no limitations on the use of overseas actors taking local theatre jobs.
Since the LPA terminated the Agreement, Actors Equity has been meeting with members to hear their views.
“Equity members are rightly disappointed by the lack of respect that the LPA has shown us by tearing up the Agreement without first discussing their concerns,” Angus Murray says.
The LPA’s Membership Guide states that its vision is “to ensure the growth and long term sustainability of the Australian live entertainment and performing arts industry.”
Rallies are being held in Sydney and Melbourne with Equity members calling on the LPA to stand by that vision.
In the United States and the United Kingdom, actors have similar protections which prevent overseas performers being cast in Broadway or West End productions.