The University/Resident Theatre Association (U/RTA) recently announced that it had reached an agreement with United Scenic Artists (USA), the union for theatrical scenic, costume, and lighting designers, as well as their assistants and apprentices. The new USA-U/RTA contract facilitates employment of designers at colleges, universities, and other not-for-profit institutions.

The new pact continues to allow the theatre and the designer to negotiate compensation levels, as there are no minimums attached. However, the theatre is required to make a 15% contribution towards pension and welfare, which may be waived if the designer is a full-time employee of an institution and fully covered by that institution's pension and health plans.

The contract addresses issues of great concern to both educational institutions and professional designers, including designer property rights and electronic reproduction of work. Filming, videotaping, or recording a production without additional compensation to the designer is permissible for the purposes of education, documentation, archival projects, and other non-remunerative activity.

The new contract, which is already in use by the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center and Arena Theatre at Wheaton College, is available through U/RTA's Contract Management Program (CMP). The CMP offers a complete contracting and/or payroll system for those colleges, universities, summer festivals, and other non-profit organizations that are unable to directly engage professional artists due to institutional policy, state government, regulations, or lack of time or personnel.

"This new contract with USA has a national impact and is tremendously important to U/RTA," says Scott L. Steele, U/RTA's executive director. "The USA contract, along with our agreements with SSDA and Equity, establishes an entirely new structure through which schools, theatre festivals, arts centers, and other organizations can employ designers, directors, choreographers, actors, and stage managers, and also can develop companies that bring together union and non-union participants, professionals, and students, accomplished artists and younger artists. In addition, we'll see audiences everywhere enjoy the enriched productions that result from employing professionals. Everyone will benefit."