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Actors in devised performances demand share of royalties

Hamilton on Broadway. Photo: Joan Marcus The original Broadway cast of Hamilton. Photo: Joan Marcus
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Actors involved in newly created or devised work deserve a share of the royalties, Equity members have claimed.

The union will fight to include a clause for such royalties within future contracts and look to standardise royalty arrangements within the industry, as a result of a motion on the issue, which was passed at Equity’s Annual Representative Conference.

Speaking at the conference, actor Madeleine Worrall said: “There is now more performer-created or inspired material in theatre and on screen. The line between creative team and performer seems, in many cases, to get more blurred.

“My introduction to this was in my work with director Sally Cookson, devising and performing Jane Eyre and Peter Pan.

“Sally offers her performers, and in most cases her stage managers, a royalties deal because she is honest enough to recognise that her companies help create both actual content in terms of text, but also their creative input through improvisation, devising and discussion contributes in real terms to the productions she makes.”

Worrall said each cast member made upwards of £3,000 in royalties, which made her question why this arrangement does not happen more often in theatre.

She cited a letter written by the 22 members of the original cast of Hamilton, who, following a difficult process, ended up negotiating a 1% share in net New York profits of the show due to the “collective creative genius” they had brought to the material.

“The time has come to be more honest about the creation of work and to recognise that work through credit and royalty agreements for performers and stage managers. I do not think it should be left to the individual generosity of a director, but this concept should be enshrined in the Equity contracts used by our theatres,” Worrall said.

“I propose we take a stand as a union to ensure we are justly acknowledged and financially rewarded for the creative content and collective genius that we bring to a production,” she added.

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