Posted Feb. 6, 2007
Connolly heads Actors’ Equity Assoc. Former AFTRA head steps into new post on March 19
By GORDON COX
Actors’ Equity Association, the live performers’ union, has chosen its new exec director: John P. Connolly, currently the national prexy of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, will become the head of Equity beginning March 19.
Connolly, who has led AFTRA for six years, steps into a position that was originally set to be filled by longtime Equity officer Patrick Quinn, who died suddenly last fall before he could assume the post. Quinn was replacing Alan Eisenberg, who topped Equity for 25 years.
AFTRA first national vice president, radio host Bob Edwards, will assume AFTRA presidential duties until the org’s next national board meeting.
Connolly takes the helm of a legit union that is now in good financial health, thanks in part to robust Broadway biz.
But looming in Equity’s future are this fall’s regional theater negotiations with the League of Resident Theaters, and the skedded 2008 renegotiation of the Broadway production contract with the League of American Theaters and Producers.
That contract, which determines the salary and benefits of thesps working on the Rialto, is especially important as a model agreement. “It’s the keystone and glue of the American theater,” Connolly said.
Broader concerns of high importance, he added, are “the continuing security and improvement of our ability to provide health care to our members, and issues of intellectual property and artists’ rights in light of new media.”
An actor whose TV credits include “The West Wing” and “Crossing Jordan,” Connolly has been a member of Equity since 1973 and has appeared on and off Broadway. He has served on Equity’s national negotiating committees and also was on the national board of the Screen Actors Guild for five years.
At AFTRA, he helped create the President’s Strategy Cabinet, which focuses on long-range planning, and the Legislative and Public Affairs Committee, which centers on public policy. In 2003 he pushed for the merger of AFTRA and SAG which was never approved.
At AFTRA Connolly developed a rep as a personable and vocal leader, and he said he sees his past experience with that union as an asset at Equity.
“There are important parallels in the issues confronting actors whether they’re onstage, in front of a camera, or in front of a microphone,” he said. “We all need to craft firmer alliances with each other.”
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Connolly leaves AFTRA to lead Equity
By Carl DiOrio
(Feb 7, 2007) John Connolly, the top elected and quite visible leader of AFTRA for the past six years, will move to Actors’ Equity, assuming its top staff post as national executive director effective March 19.Connolly will be replaced as AFTRA president by radio personality Bob Edwards, previously first national vp of the 70,000-member union.At Equity, Connolly replaces the long-serving Alan Eisenberg at the organization, which represents some 45,000 stage actors and stage managers.
Eisenberg announced he would leave in August after 25 years and was to be replaced by Equity president Patrick Quinn, who died from a massive coronary in September before he could take over as exec director.
“(Connolly) is highly respected in the acting community and is a strong trade unionist,” Equity president Mark Zimmerman said. “John has extensive experience as a consensus builder and policy leader in the entertainment business, making him uniquely qualified.
“Connolly, first elected as national president of AFTRA in 2001, said he was “humbled by the confidence and responsibility bestowed upon me” by Equity’s national council. He will be based in New York and plans to look for a Manhattan residence soon, while also maintaining a house in Los Angeles.
“The energy and passion John demonstrated as AFTRA national president on behalf of actors, recording artists, journalists and broadcasters (and) his commitment to the principles of organized labor will serve him well in his new role,” AFTRA national exec director Kim Roberts Hegpeth said.
An Equity member since 1973, Connolly has stage, film and TV credits. His 200 stage credits include the Broadway production of “Big River,” he has guest-starred in the TV series “The West Wing” and “Cross Jordan,” and his feature work has included leading roles in “When the Bough Breaks” and other films.
Edwards, the longtime host of National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” currently hosts the “Bob Edwards Show” on XM Radio. He has received an AFTRA media and entertainment excellence award. “John and I are probably opposites,” Edwards said.
“I’m very calm and laid back, and John gets very passionate sometimes.”But that’s just our personality styles, and both of us aim for consensus and want to do what’s best for the membership,” he added. “I came in the same day he did (in 2001) and our leadership is very united. I’m not saying we think with one mind, but we are interested in speaking together and acting together.
“Media consolidation and runaway production are just two of the challenges that face AFTRA membership and its leaders currently.AFTRA’s national board will meet in April to vote on Edwards confirmation to fill Connolly’s unexpired term as president, which runs through July when a president for the next two years will be elected at the organization’s annual convention in Philadelphia.
The turnover at the top of the organization comes as AFTRA leadership prepares for talks for a new network code, the collective bargaining agreement for all television work except primetime. That expires Nov. 15, but talks are expected to commence long before then.
In 2008, representatives of both SAG and AFTRA will engage with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers in negotiations for a new film and TV contract covering movie and primetime actors.Connolly said he is confident Edwards and AFTRA will navigate the busy period successfully.
“Both the elected leadership and the extraordinary staff of AFTRA has a capacity (that) goes way beyond anything that I provide,” he said. “I am not indispensable.”
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