Actors Equity Association, the professional union for theater actors and stage managers, has announced an expansion of its “Do Not Work” notice for Kansas City’s Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre (MET).
Equity announced in early September that it had placed MET on the national “Do Not Work” list, barring union actors from being involved in MET productions. The union is now advising non-union actors and stage managers that they will be permanently prohibited from joining the union if they agree to take work at the MET.
Almost exactly a year ago, an exposé in “The Pitch” unveiled harassment and unsafe working conditions at the company, ran by Karen and Bob Paisley. The MET’s contract with Equity at the time only required they hire an actor or two from the union. Due to the many complaints, Equity began requiring the MET to use a union stage manager. The MET’s first move was to make the Paisley’s son a union member and appoint him stage manager.
Instead of apologizing for past issues or even acknowledging them, the MET has worked to push back, even threatening legal action against “The Pitch” and their author Liz Cook, who said that the MET and its attorneys scoured her social media feed for dirt, and found a post about her experience with sexual assault and harassment. They submitted it as evidence of bias: “Such experiences further call into question her ability to objectively report about allegations such as those made here,” the attorney allegedly said.
Many criticized Equity as slow to act and described the relationship with the MET as “hands-off” to PerformInk last year. Since, the union has been working to come up with equitable arrangements to make sure that members feel safe and are handled appropriately at the theater. This recent announcement is a sign that those negotiations have not been fruitful. Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre is the only company in the central region—which includes theater cities like Dallas, Chicago, and Minneapolis—on the “Do Not Work” list.
Jason is a producer, manager, and designer with 17 years of experience in Chicago, New York, and in the touring market. In 2015, he founded Lotus Theatricals - the publisher of Performink, and an independent commercial producing company - with Abigail Trabue.