Dallas-Fort Worth 2019-2020 Theatre Season Thoughts

Dallas-Fort Worth is fortunate enough to have three venues that book national tours of Broadway shows, so there’s no shortage of professional theatre here. Bass Hall in Fort Worth, Music Hall at Fair Park with Dallas Summer Musicals in downtown Dallas, and Winspear Opera House at AT&T Performing Arts Center in uptown Dallas each schedule their own season of shows, and we’ve finally reached that point in the year where all three have announced their 2019-2020 seasons.

The highlights here are Hamilton returning to DFW (in 19-20 it will be the Angelica tour at Bass Hall), Dear Evan Hansen, Come from Away, The Band’s Visit, and Frozen.  I do have some concerns about the number of shows that are non-equity shows, particularly as part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center season, where more than 50% of the season is non-equity. While there are quality actors and musicians working on non-equity tours, I don’t think they should be included in a “Broadway subscription” package sold at the same price as equity shows. It seems like they are counting on the audiences to not know the difference and taking advantage.

What’s wrong with non-equity/non-union shows, you ask? Well, welcome to my TED Talk on the subject. Actors’ Equity (and similar unions for musicians and stagecraft professions) exist to protect the actors with an equity contract, guaranteeing them fair payment, a safe work environment, and medical coverage. Non-equity shows don’t have to follow any of those safeguards, so the cast and crew are underpaid to work in unsafe (sometimes extremely dangerous) environments and they are out of pocket for their medical expenses. I know someone who is a musician for theatre who has suffered hearing loss due to working on a non-union show because safety procedures were not in place to prevent that from happening. The producers pay far less to put on these shows, but you, the audience member, will still pay the same ticket price as an equity show. And worst of all – it’s not advertised as a non-equity tour, so the audience has no clue they’re being hoodwinked. It looks like Dallas-Fort Worth has been hit with quite the bait-and-switch for 2019-2020.

Whether you choose to support non-equity tours is up to you of course, but I would encourage you to avoid it if possible. Not that the people working on these shows don’t deserve an audience, but they also deserve a contract that takes care of them. Beyond that, audiences shouldn’t be forced to pay equity prices for non-equity shows just to line the pockets of cheapskate producers. To find out the equity status of national tours, here are some resources to check with before buying tickets:

Actors’ Equity Do Not Work List

Playbill’s List of Current and Upcoming National Tours

American Federation of Musicians’ International Unfair List

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