Mary McColl, executive director of Actors' Equity Association since 2011, has announced that she will step down from her position at the theatrical union when her contract expires in January 2022.
The union's national council will form a search committee in the coming months to find a successor. "My hope," McColl said, "is that Equity will cast a wide net...so that historically marginalized members will see themselves reflected in staff leadership. While the search is ongoing, there is much work left to do."
She continued: "The staff and I are committed to working through reopening to make sure that members return to a workplace where they not only feel safe, but that the culture begins to change so everyone feels they belong."
The triumphs that Equity attributes to McColl are indicative of the hardships and reckonings the industry has faced during her tenure. The union says McColl is responsible for expanding its EDI initiatives, securing a new profit-sharing contract for in-development work, and creating systems to address harassment, bullying, and discrimination.
McColl's leadership will end months into the reopening of many Broadway productions, which will have remained dark for a year and a half in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The forced hiatus ushered in a wave of its own unique, circumstantial challenges. As theatres pivoted from in-person to virtual audiences, Equity and the Screen Actors Guild weathered a months-long dispute over jurisdiction on filmed and streaming productions. Equity members faced increased requirements for healthcare eligibility and reduced coverage (a move the Equity-League Health Fund, an independent committed of Equity and Broadway League members, deemed "essential" for the fund's survival during the shutdown). A petition signed by over 2,000 members underscored the need for a more productive and proactive approach to reopening (Equity has since released guidelines for "fully vaccinated" productions).
Additionally, in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd and several other episodes of violent injustice, the Black Lives Matter movement has led to a closer examination of the systemic racism that permeates the theatre industry, including the role Equity might play in perpetuating or combating it. Earlier this spring a "March on Broadway" called for transparency from the union regarding its efforts to lift up the voices of BIPOC and other marginalized artists; organizers have remained in conversation with Equity to address these steps.
McColl did not provide an exact reason for her departure.