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Strike Forces Carnegie Hall to Cancel Opening Night for First Time Ever

By Alan Neuhauser | October 2, 2013 1:52pm
 Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees went on strike Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, forcing Carnegie Hall to cancel opening night for the first time in its 122-year history.
Strike Shutters Carnegie Hall
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MIDTOWN —  Carnegie Hall canceled its opening night for the first time in its 122-year history Wednesday, after striking stagehands walked off the job when contract negotiations failed to meet a midnight deadline a day earlier.

The concert — a performance by The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nezet-Seguin and featuring violinist Joshua Belle and vocalist/double bassist Esperanza Spalding — had been scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Carnegie Hall said.

The show will not be rescheduled, the venue added. Future performances remain on the hall's schedule, but updates will be issued daily as the strike continues.

"Carnegie Hall sincerely regrets any inconvenience this strike will cause our artists, concertgoers and everyone with whom we work," executive and artistic director Clive Gillinson said in a statement. "We remain strongly committed to reaching a fair agreement."

The stagehands, he added, "have one of the most lucrative contracts in the industry."

Carnegie and its stagehands, members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, have been in contract negotiations since last year, when their contract expired on Aug. 31, 2012, the hall and a union organizer said.

The new contract included wage and benefit increases, the venue said, but employees had also sought jurisdiction over the performance space's new Education Wing.

"They are seeking to expand…in ways that would compromise Carnegie Hall's education mission," Gillinson said.

Outside the hall Wednesday, a few dozen union members held placards and handed out fliers next to a giant inflatable rat set up outside the storied hall on Seventh Avenue.

"We wanted to get to work," said a man who identified himself as a "business director" affiliated with the union but declined to provide his name.

When pressed further, he said: "Don't ask me f---ing questions." 

Photos later identified the man as Paul Dean, business director for the union's Local 1 chapter in New York City.

Records show that the chapter operated at a $740,000 deficit in 2011 — the latest year for which filings are available — even as it spent close to $1 million on a 125th anniversary celebration. Ten of the organization's officers also earned six-figure salaries, ranging from $134,414 to $218,300. In prior years, some stagehands made more than $400,000, The New York Times found.

Dean, a trustee in 2011, made $64,622.

Carnegie Hall's Opening Night Gala dinner, which benefits its artistic and education programs, was still scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. at the Waldorf-Astoria.

For updates on Carnegie Hall performances, visit the hall's website.