DG Discussion

As you may have noticed, many members of the theatre community have begun speaking out regarding 10 out of 12s, and sharing a related graphic on social media. There is much to discuss about this complex and nuanced issue, which impacts theatremakers throughout the industry. We therefore want to ensure that dramatists are able to be informed and active participants in this conversation.

What are 10 out of 12s?

The term “10 out of 12” refers to an Actors’ Equity union rule stating that their members cannot work more than 10 hours out of every 12 hours, especially during the final rehearsal period leading up to a show’s first performances. This rule was intended to ensure that actors received one hour off for lunch and one hour off for dinner even during very intense rehearsals, such as technical rehearsals. However, there have been unsettling reports from designers and other theatre workers indicating that they have, at times, felt pressured to work through breaks and/or to extend their hours during tech, without necessarily receiving adequate compensation. This issue seems to go beyond the stipulations of any single union and rather indicates that an unhealthy working environment has pervaded the entire industry.

Sometimes dramatists are included in their show's tech process but the 10 out of 12 rule does not technically apply to Guild members since it is an Actors’ Equity union rule. At this time, it remains unclear exactly how changes to the 10 out of 12 rehearsal schedule would impact dramatists. We hope to explore that potential impact through some of the following points and questions.


What is the current conversation around 10 out of 12s?

Even before the pandemic, some members of the theatre community expressed concern about the quality of life provided by the standard theatrical schedule of six-day work weeks and 10 out of 12s during technical rehearsals. Then, in summer 2020, the advocacy group We See You White American Theatre brought the issue more prominently and forcefully into the cultural conversation. Last month's threatened IATSE strike added to the discourse regarding the conditions under which workers in the entertainment industry are expected to toil.

Some people are stating that the 10 out of 12 schedule affords little opportunity for a healthy work/life balance to ensure time for basic needs such as rest, self-care, and family. These members of the theatre community find the tradition of 10 out 12s to be oppressive, grueling, a strain on mental health, and particularly challenging for artists from historically excluded groups (especially those who are parents/caregivers) who might lack the physical support or other resources that are necessary in order to endure the intense schedule.

And so, these theatre artists (from a variety of different organizations and unions) are currently asking for the 10 out of 12 rule to be eliminated. Instead, they are proposing an eight hour work day and a five day work weeks for all company members during rehearsals, including technical rehearsals. 

Please keep in mind that, as a trade organization, the Guild does not engage in collective bargaining. Furthermore, the collective bargaining process does not always yield what each side proposes. Unions largely exist to bargain for better working conditions and wages but even they do not always achieve everything that they desire.

Even so, a number of theatres across the country, including the Alley Theatre (Texas), Detroit Public Theatre (Michigan), The Old Globe (California), Hartford Stage (Connecticut), Steppenwolf Theatre (Illinois), the 5th Avenue Theatre (Washington), the Wilma (Pennsylvania), Two River Theatre (New Jersey), Woolly Mammoth (Washington DC ) and Ma-Yi Theater Company (New York), have already pledged to end 10 out of 12s and/or six day work weeks at their companies.

For the complete list of participating theatres, and for more information on the movement against 10 out of 12s, please click here

Before issuing a statement or an opinion, the Guild would like to embark upon a discussion of the issue that is more nuanced than is possible on social media. So, here are some of the questions that we have, as dramatists and as multi-hyphenate theatre artists:

  • The work of a dramatist transcends hourly limitations, which is why dramatists can sometimes appear to be outliers in the 10 out of 12 model. That said, if the goal of this initiative is to create more sustainable, humane conditions, with a better work/life balance for all, does that mean dramatists would be more fairly compensated for their labor and time spent both in rehearsals and doing around-the-clock rewrites to get the show ready for opening night? What other steps can theatre companies take to allow for a better work/life balance, and how would those steps include dramatists?
  • If the rehearsal period will contain the same number of hours stretched over more weeks, will this result in shorter runs and/or fewer productions per season? And will that, in turn, reduce the compensation and production opportunities for dramatists? And if this spread-out rehearsal schedule increases production costs while generating less revenue, how can theatres remain financially secure, particularly since we are still in a pandemic and live theatre is only just reopening for much of the country?
  • If shows will simply have less rehearsal time overall, how will dramatists be impacted by having less time to develop their work before audiences (and critics) show up? How will this shorter rehearsal period effect the show’s critical reputation and future licensing opportunities?
  • Would eight-hour days and five-day work weeks apply only to the rehearsal and tech/preview periods, or would this new model be implemented for performance weeks as well? If producers reduce the number of performances per week, will the compensation paid to all those working on the show be proportionately reduced?
  • What would success look like for a theatre that eliminates 10 out of 12s? Who defines success in this instance? For example, regional theatres might have multiple periods of technical rehearsals for different shows, while some Broadway shows could have one extended period of technical rehearsals and previews that goes on for months. How are theatres of all kinds finding ways to uphold their commitment to eliminating 10 out of 12s from their productions' rehearsal processes?
  • After considering the possible responses to these questions, what best practices, if any, could or should the Guild recommend to its members in regard to 10 out of 12s and six-day work weeks?

We hope to explore these questions with you, and with the industry at large, in order to spark positive and productive conversation that takes into account the views of all those who may be impacted by such industry-wide changes.

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