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Stage hands


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#1 MJ

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 06:03 PM

There are stories floating around that Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall Stage hands make a lot of money, and was recently mentioned on the radio.

My question is, When I make a donation or buy a ticket to a Ballet Performance, how much is going to the stagehands versus the Dancers and Musicians?

Warm Regards,

#2 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 06:58 PM

There are stories floating around that Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall Stage hands make a lot of money, and was recently mentioned on the radio.

My question is, When I make a donation or buy a ticket to a Ballet Performance, how much is going to the stagehands versus the Dancers and Musicians?

Warm Regards,


Every theater worker is part of a specific union, for example: Actors' Equity for actors obviously, then there are the abbreviated ones: AGMA,(Musical Artists) SAG (Screen Actors' Guild), SSDC (or SDC now for Stage directors and choreographers), IATSE for stagehands, DGA (Directors Guild of America), AFTRA (Radio and TV Artists). Dancers are part of AGMA ( former NYCB principal James Fayette is the NY Area director). And of course, there is 802, the Musician's union.

Stagehands' salaries (as dancers and musicians in major companies) are therefore paid according to negotiated union contract rates. Their salaries will vary with their seniority and how much they work. In New York, I believe that stagehands work for a specific theater, rather than a specific production (as actors, dancers and singers are hired for a specific production - unless they are lucky enough to be part of a repertory company, such as NYCB or ABT).

As to how much of what you contribute goes to whom, that would be very complicated to figure out, and different for each company (and perhaps each production). First of all, is the company a non-profit or a for profit organization? Only non-profit companies can accept donations from the public. Then you'd have to look at each company's Annual Report to see what their earned income versus contributed income is, and then look at the proportions of what is spent on salaries. Very little of the money donated to an arts company goes to salaries, especially when donated funds are earmarked for specific projects.

Here's from the stagehands' website:

Local One is the premier stagehand union of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E). We are the Brothers and Sisters who construct, install, maintain, and operate the lighting and sound equipment, the scenery and special effects which thrill and delight audiences attending Broadway shows, concerts at Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall, the magnificent, spectacular productions at The Metropolitan Opera and throughout LIncoln Center, and the many entertaining broadcasts from CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and PBS. We work at numerous cable TV studios and make possible the presentation of major corporate industrials and special events.

#3 vipa

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 07:03 PM

There are stories floating around that Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall Stage hands make a lot of money, and was recently mentioned on the radio.

My question is, When I make a donation or buy a ticket to a Ballet Performance, how much is going to the stagehands versus the Dancers and Musicians?

Warm Regards,


Can't answer your question directly, but the stage hands union has always been very strong (looking into the history is an interesting exercise). Wages, overtime and who does what is very prescribed.

I tend to be a pro union person - but there are some unions that have gotten deals that are IMO too generous. Not the fault of the unions - someone was at the other side of the bargaining table.

I digress - but your question is a good one.

#4 Helene

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 07:16 PM

Very little of the money donated to an arts company goes to salaries, especially when donated funds are earmarked for specific projects.

That's a great point about projects and other restricted funds. A lot of donors want a specific production with their name on it and aren't as interested in wrenches and rest room supplies.

On the other hand, if a company needs a big pile of money to put on a new production or new ballet, people who write those big checks are critical.

#5 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 09:19 PM


Very little of the money donated to an arts company goes to salaries, especially when donated funds are earmarked for specific projects.

That's a great point about projects and other restricted funds. A lot of donors want a specific production with their name on it and aren't as interested in wrenches and rest room supplies.

On the other hand, if a company needs a big pile of money to put on a new production or new ballet, people who write those big checks are critical.


Speaking as a former fund raiser, the MOST desperate need is for general operating funds (as they are known) and those are considered by most donors to be the "least sexy." I also think that salaries are among the least mentioned of all the financial needs... except when the request comes from a very small non-profit.

#6 Helene

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 10:18 PM

I also think that salaries are among the least mentioned of all the financial needs... except when the request comes from a very small non-profit.

Do you know whether the money for sponsoring a chair at a symphony is used for that player's salary/benefits?

Opera and ballet often work differently, in that in North America, there are rarely contracted salaried employees among the performers. The Met might still give weekly contracts to comprimarios, but most companies contract each cast separately, even if the singers are repeated. However, there are funds like the James and Sherry Raisbeck Principal Singers' Fund at Seattle Opera, which according to the Foundation's website was $1M plus $250K/year. At the bottom of the cast page there is a notice to say that Ms. Diva's or Mr. Divo's appearance is sponsored by the fund.

I know there was an effort by some ballet companies to have people sponsor dancers, but I don't know if that was a major commitment that could be invested and contribute towards those dancers' contracts.

#7 richard53dog

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 07:38 AM

The Met might still give weekly contracts to comprimarios, but most companies contract each cast separately, even if the singers are repeated. However, there are funds like the James and Sherry Raisbeck Principal Singers' Fund at Seattle Opera, which according to the Foundation's website was $1M plus $250K/year. At the bottom of the cast page there is a notice to say that Ms. Diva's or Mr. Divo's appearance is sponsored by the fund.


Helene, it's my understanding that the Met Opera now has individual contracts with all singers, even those in comprimario roles. And those singers have fee progressions based on number of years service which seem to overide "draw" capacity. So a performer such as Paul Plishka gets something very close to top fee per performance for his current work which is primarily in comprimario roles. Plishka has been a Met singer for more than 40 years which seems to be the driving factor. He gets a lot of money, almost as much as the leads, for doing tiny roles.

Back much earlier in the decade I actually saw some of the material extracted from the Met's tax return and the two performers with the largest yearly earnings were Juan Pons and Ruth Ann Swenson, neither being major draws.

So, to sum up, a lot of the salary expenses in arts organizations are very complex, affected by numerous factors, and seemingly incomprehensible to the layman!!!

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 05:52 PM

And to add to the complexity, consider that there are HOUSE crews, and COMPANY crews. The house crews come with the performing venues, and the company with the agencies performing in the said houses. Sorting out which from which against a donation or a ticket purchase is a real mind-bender. Could there be Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder about here somewhere? (...Prisoners of love,♪ Prisoners of love♫....)

#9 MJ

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 03:14 PM

http://www.bloomberg...id=a0oxw90zC9Wc

A stagehand/prop person made close to 540k at Carnegie Hall. Carnegie hall and LCPA are non-profits regulated by the State of NY, and may even use buildings owned by the State. I believe Robert Moses used a State agency to condemn fund and build LCPA. State and Federal arts funds (AKA our tax dollars) helps cover many operating expenses of performing arts companies.

NYSAG Elliott Spitzer had Dick Grasso thrown off the NYSE chairmanship for generous compensation.

NYCB and ABT had to let a few dancers go to cut costs, I doubt the unions gave anything back or got more flexible on their work rules.

#10 Helene

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 04:25 PM

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a0oxw90zC9Wc

A stagehand/prop person made close to 540k at Carnegie Hall.


That does not speak to what stagehands who work for NYCB or ABT receive.

NYCB and ABT had to let a few dancers go to cut costs, I doubt the unions gave anything back or got more flexible on their work rules.

There are also other ways to cut costs than to get concessions from parties with existing contracts.

#11 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 06:03 PM


http://www.bloomberg...id=a0oxw90zC9Wc

A stagehand/prop person made close to 540k at Carnegie Hall.


That does not speak to what stagehands who work for NYCB or ABT receive.

NYCB and ABT had to let a few dancers go to cut costs, I doubt the unions gave anything back or got more flexible on their work rules.

There are also other ways to cut costs than to get concessions from parties with existing contracts.



At NYCB a few years ago I noted that Mark Stanley (lighting designer) no longer had a staff position, but was used as a consultant. That may also have been a cost-cutting maneuver.

#12 Amy Reusch

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:14 PM

But that wouldn't be a stage hand union issue... would it? Lighting designers/directors aren't stage hands.

#13 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 06:17 AM

But that wouldn't be a stage hand union issue... would it? Lighting designers/directors aren't stage hands.



True. Was just thinking of some of the ways Companies have been cutting costs - relating to personnel.


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