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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Coronavirus: Theatrical union sets safety guidelines


IATSE has some influence in region

IATSE image.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, “The Union Behind Entertainment” based in New York City, this week released a set of guidelines detailing a possible COVID-19 safety program for stagecraft workers.

Along with Broadway, high in the mind of the union, IATSE, are venues that present professional productions, such as performing arts centers in Northeastern Wisconsin.

The 27-page document that can be found at gives a picture of the serious impact and challenges on the entertainment industry, which is virtually handcuffed.

According to a press release, “This comes as Broadway and most of the live event/performance industry enters nearly the fifth month of being shut down due to the COVID19 pandemic. The guidelines address the unique challenges stagecraft workplaces face in a global pandemic. The International’s Stagecraft Department collaborated with local union officers from Stage, Wardrobe, Treasurer’s and Ticket Sellers, Front of House, Make-up Artists and Hairstylists and Designers locals in the United States and Canada to ensure that the guidelines included all relevant crafts. Additionally, these documents were reviewed by medical experts in occupational health and safety.”

Theatrical unions are somewhat part of the landscape in Northeastern Wisconsin. Here are examples:

+ In Appleton, Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, which regularly hosts touring Broadway productions, directly mentions the IATSE in its specifications.

Statement: “UNION STAGEHANDS: The Center contracts with the I.A.T.S.E. Local #470 for stagehands. Stagehands are required to use any technical or staging equipment in the Center including, but not limited to, sound, lighting and rigging equipment. The Center retains the right to determine the appropriate number of stagehands for User’s event. All performances involve a minimum of three separate labor calls: the load in, the performance and the load out. Upon the receipt of an accurate event timeline and description, the Center will provide an estimated labor bill. User will be billed actual usage, including any overtime or meal penalties.”

+ In Green Bay, the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts has some union connections.

Statement: “The Weidner Center is a non-union house. Crews are predominately trained students and community members with I.A.T.S.E. Hands called as needed. All crews, including students, are scheduled for the duration of the call.”

+ In Fish Creek, Peninsula Players Theatre has relationships with theatrical unions, which often respect one another’s decisions.

Statement: “Peninsula Players is a professional, not-for-profit theater, which employs professional actors and collaborates with members of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), the union of professional actors and stage managers; United Scenic Artists (USA), a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople; and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), a theatrical union of stage directors and choreographers.”

The 27-page document covers many facets in meticulous detail. Below is a sample that gives a window on specifications that may be relatable because they involve personal human interaction:

Make-up/Hair Department

• Review and adhere to Recovery Plan (see Highlights document).

• Physical Distancing

   o Alter workspaces to permit physical distancing by a minimum of six feet.

   o No one should enter a workspace while Make-up Artists and Hair Stylists are working with an Actor.

   o Where physical distancing is not possible, install plexiglass partitions between workstations. • Consider implementing a Work Teams Policy:

   o Work teams include a small number of people who routinely work together but keep their distance from everyone else.

   o For example, Hair and Make-up Artists being assigned to a limited number of performers, can form a “work team” to limit their exposure.

   o Hair and Make-up Artists should not “float” through the entire cast.

• Masks performers cannot wear face masks or PPE while makeup, tattoos, wigs or hair is applied or styled workers in close proximity shall wear a properly fitted N95 respirator and face shield at all times and perform hand hygiene before and after the encounter.

• Brushes, combs and applicators

   o Use disposable single-use brushes and applicators if proper disinfection of these cannot be guaranteed.

   o Multiples of tools, brushes and equipment may be needed to assure that these items are dedicated to single actors.

   o Principal Actors may want their own personal items to avoid cross contamination. In this case, these items must be disinfected between uses if more than one person touches them.

   o Washable sponges and puffs can be used on a single actor only. These items should be cleaned and disinfected each day.

• Mix foundation, powders, lipstick, etc. on a separate clean palette for each individual.

• If gloves are used, new gloves should be applied for each individual actor and disposed of properly.

• Cleaning

   o All clean tools, combs/brushes should be kept in covered clean containers.

   o Clean hairbrushes and combs with appropriate disinfectant solution. Some equipment may need to be provided when wet disinfectants are incompatible, for example: UVC sterilizing lamps, autoclave sterilizer; etc.

   o Clean and disinfect chairs after each use.

• Smocks and capes

   o Make-up and Hair department members should have multiple smocks to wear over clothing to maintain sanitation. These smocks should be changed for work with each individual and laundered daily.

   o If non disposable capes are used, these should be cleaned and disinfected between each actor or alternate. If disposable paper capes are used, new capes should be applied for each individual actor and disposed of properly.

• Hats and other wardrobe pieces may be brought into the hair and make-up room but not placed on a disinfected workstation.

• Specialized containers, cabinets or shelving for uncontaminated storage on deck should be available for Make-up and Hair departments.

• Use of “bite lights” should be eliminated unless essential, in favor of headlamps or lighted quick-change areas.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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