Actors' Equity at 100: The Regional Theatre Movement

By Robert Simonson
13 Oct 2012

Tyrone Guthrie
Soon cities themselves, hungry for theatres of their own, became the instigators. In 1959, British director Tyrone Guthrie placed an ad in The New York Times asking for communities' interest in starting a resident theatre; the result was Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre, launched in 1963. A group of citizens in Rhode Island hired New York-based director Adrian Hall to create Trinity Repertory Theatre. Seattle businessman and arts patron Bagley Wright and others recruited Stuart Vaughan and other artists to found in 1963 what became Seattle Repertory Theatre. Soon, if you were an American city without its own resident company, you weren't in the big leagues.

By the early 1960s the press took notice, and by the end of the decade, theatres started to send shows to New York. Arena's The Great White Hope was one of the first. Eventually, such transfers became common. As a result, many companies became torn between the desire to stay true to their local roots and the desire to build their national profile.

Through the journey, Equity has collectively bargained with theatres, endeavoring to strike a balance between protecting actors and fostering creative growth. Fichandler remembers the union getting wind of what Arena was doing and sending down a representative. She recalls, "A man came down and said, 'You guys are doing good work. I think you really should belong to Equity, and we'll help you do that.' I must say, when I came to Washington, I did break rules. I think it was terribly important that Equity was watching everyone."

Equity is engaged in a yearlong centennial celebration of its birth and legacy. Every month, Playbill magazine is featuring a new story about AEA and its history in the theatre. This feature appears in the October 2012 issue of Playbill.


Read about a chapter of Actors' Equity's history in the Great Depression.

Read about how Equity played its part during wartime

Longtime Lion King actress Jean Michelle Grier shares insight into an actor's career as part of Playbill's continuing look at Equity.