Actors’ Equity to Add Producer Garth Drabinsky to “Do Not Work” List After ‘Paradise Square’ Cast Speaks Out (Exclusive)

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Actors’ Equity said it plans to put producer Garth Drabinsky on the “Do Not Work” list after Paradise Square castmembers sent a letter speaking out against him.

In a letter sent to Actors’ Equity, and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, the actors and stage managers of the show asked for Drabinsky to be put on the list due to “outstanding payments and benefits, and a continued pattern of abuse and neglect that created an unsafe and toxic work environment.” The decision comes after the cast and stage managers in the Broadway show initially reported not receiving their weekly direct deposit Thursday morning.

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“The company of Paradise Square has expressed their commitment to this show and want to continue to tell this story through its planned closing on July 17. However, Garth Drabinsky has made it clear that he is unable to uphold the terms of a union contract, so Equity intends to add him to our Do Not Work list immediately afterward,” a spokesperson for Actors’ Equity tells THR. 

Company members were previously told to report to the theater Thursday evening to receive physical checks, in lieu of the direct deposit, sources tell THR, but members were concerned about the checks bouncing. The actors and stage managers met with the union Thursday afternoon to decide on next steps before the show’s scheduled closure July 17.

Money was then wired to Actors’ Equity members Thursday evening and the cast was poised to go on as scheduled. Other members of the production still planned to receive paper checks. 

General manager Jeffrey Chrzczon tells THR that the production thought it could use the Actors’ Equity bond (money the union makes the production set aside in case it defaults its obligations to Equity members) to pay the week’s salary, but was not allowed by Equity. Instead, the production had to get funding from one of the co-producers Thursday, Chrzczon says, which caused the delay in payment.

A spokesperson for the production declined to comment on the Actors’ Equity letter. 

As previously reported, Actors’ Equity is taking Paradise Square to court to enforce payment of $189,877 in previously unpaid union dues and benefit fund contributions and interest. The union filed a complaint after the production failed to keep up with a payment schedule set up as part of a settlement agreement reached in May, according to court filings. 

As detailed in the letter and in the lawsuit, while Drabinsky is listed as the lead producer on the production, he is not the principal of the limited liability company that handles the finances of the show. Drabinsky was convicted of fraud in Canada in 2009 for misstating finances as head of a publicly traded theater company. In 2014, he received full parole in Canada, with the promise that he not be in charge of finances for his projects, according to the Globe and Mail

However, the company members are specifically asking for Drabinsky’s placement on the list, saying, “There has been one person making all executive decisions surrounding the production.”

This is the second time in recent history that Equity members have advocated for a producer to be added to the list. In summer 2021, about 300 members of the Broadway community marched in New York City to protest producer Scott Rudin and advocate for the union to take further steps against him, following the THR exposé detailing allegations of bullying and harassment by the producer. Shortly after the article was published, Rudin said he was stepping away from Broadway producing.

At the time, Equity said it could not add an active member of the Broadway League, which has collective bargaining agreements with the union, to the “Do Not Work” list. The list is primarily used to warn members about nonunion productions, according to the union. Rudin later stepped down from the Broadway League. His name is still not on the list, nor is he currently producing on Broadway. 

On the website, Equity describes the “Do Not Work” list as “an additional tool to alert members of Equity or our 4A’s sister unions to the non-union status of certain employers.” It goes on to say: “Unfortunately, there are times when good-faith negotiations between Actors’ Equity and employers do not result in an agreement acceptable for union members. Other producers may refuse to negotiate altogether or default on the terms of their agreement.”

According to the court complaint, filed by Equity in early July, Paradise Square has paid $224,900 out of an owed $412,807 and now Equity is seeking to enforce payment of the rest. 

This follows an incident on Feb. 21, wherein the union had told its members not to report to rehearsal for Paradise Square due to a contract dispute with the production. Members returned to work the next day. 

United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, which represents designers on the show, is separately taking the production to court to enforce an arbitration agreement for more than $150,000 in unpaid wages and benefits.

In an email about the show’s closing, sent by Drabinsky to the company Wednesday, and confirmed to THR by several members who received it, the producer stood by his actions. 

“The art of producing is filled with endless choices, the appropriate decision made for the greater good. Compromise is a tool that often must be part of the process. Every producing decision made on Paradise Square was to protect the show and to achieve as long a run as possible for all of you to benefit,” ​​the email reads. 

Drabinsky’s email adds: “I fought the entire time for the company and the production I believed in. I was your champion in the arena, valiantly fighting the fight to garner the admiration of all those who love musical theater and for all those who care about the sacred institution of Broadway.”

The full letter to Actors’ Equity from the Paradise Square company is below:

Members of Actors’ Equity National Council,

Since work on “Paradise Square” began in Chicago in the fall of 2021, there has been one person making all executive decisions surrounding the production. This person is not the producer of record, but it is well known that they are in full control and therefore no action can be taken against them. They have withheld benefits and pay from many company members, and have created an unsafe, toxic, and frequently hostile work environment. When presented with these concerns from the company, this person has continually been dismissive, defensive, and often abusive.

As has been said about this person, “every day there is a new way to disrespect someone,” and today is no different. We did not receive our final payment in the form of direct deposit, and with this producer’s history of dereliction of payments, this is a massive concern.

Therefore, due to outstanding payments and benefits, and a continued pattern of abuse and neglect that created an unsafe and toxic work environment, the company of “Paradise Square” call for Garth H. Drabinsky to be placed on the Actors’ Equity Do Not Work list, effective July 18th, 2022. 

We truly loved bringing this show to the audiences in New York City, but we should never have had to endure the circumstances that we did to do so, and no one should ever again.

-Company members of “Paradise Square”

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