Last week, unions Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA came to an agreement regarding whether live-streamed performances should be considered theatre or television. Typically, live-streamed work falls under SAG-AFTRA's jurisdiction. However, for the duration of the pandemic (currently defined as taking place through December 2021), Actors Equity will be responsible for covering digital work that is presented as a supplement to, or a replacement of, live theatre productions that were cancelled due to COVID-19. This agreement also allows for the possibility of theatres streaming archival productions- provided that certain parameters are observed, such as the size of the digital audience.
Both unions seemed pleased with the results of the accord. As noted on SAG-AFTRA's website, "The agreement reaffirms the historic solidarity and deep bonds between Equity and SAG-AFTRA and their members." Furthermore, the advent of live streamed theatre provides a necessary lifeline to many struggling theatre artists who have lost vital work due to the pandemic. "This gives people who make theatre the ability to innovate in ways that they need in order to survive," Actors Equity President Kate Shindle said in a recent interview for The New York Times.
The Dramatists Guild of American stands in solidarity with the two unions, and is pleased that they were able to reach a mutually beneficial decision. This agreement will likely also enable playwrights, lyricists, librettists, and composers to have their work more readily licensed for live-streamed and digital productions.