Musical theater, when it reopens, will be union


Accordionist Adam Young, reed player Mitch Iimori, and trombone player Justine Canfield were part of an April 2019 performance of the Tony-Award-winning musical Urinetown by Portland’s Stumptown Stages. When the company is able to resume live theater, its musicians will be part of American Federation of Musicians Local 99. (Photo by Paul Fardig, courtesy of Stumptown Stages)

By Don McIntosh

Portland music theater company Stumptown Stages has voluntarily recognized Musicians Local 99 to represent its musicians.

Stumptown, a nonprofit, had productions of Pippin and Annie scheduled this fall in Portland’5 Centers for the Arts, but the pandemic forced postponement. Local 99 Secretary-Treasurer Mont Chris Hubbard says Stumptown Producing Artistic Director Kirk Mouser approached him in June about union representation.

“I saw it as a real opportunity for us to stand up and support our local musicians,” said Mouser, who is himself a member of the Actors Equity and SAG/AFTRA unions. Stagehands employed by the company are members of IATSE Local 28.

Mouser also led Stumptown to reclassify actors and musicians as employees, not independent contractors. Portland Center Stage and several other theaters have also made that change.

Union recognition with Local 99 became official in September after Hubbard signed up an overwhelming majority of the 13 musicians who’ve worked on productions the last two years. The two sides expect to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, hopefully by the time the theater is able to reopen. As with lots of other live entertainment companies, that might have to be after a COVID-19 vaccine is developed. Right now, theaters are closed under the governor’s order through the end of the year, but Mouser said Stumptown Stages is looking at summer 2021 dates for a return, possibly in outdoor venues if a vaccine isn’t widely available by then.


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