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Broadway Strike Ends


Curtains are rising on Broadway again after a 19-day strike darkened most of the Great White Way. From VOA's New York Bureau, correspondent Barbara Schoetzau reports stagehands and producers reached a tentative agreement after three days of marathon negotiations.

Fans began lining up early Thursday morning in hopes of getting tickets to the more than two dozen shows that shut down during the dispute. Tamara Sheehan waited for the box office for "Legally Blonde" to open.

"It is the first night back," she said. "So everyone is going to be all excited. I think it is going to be one of the most amazing shows ever."

Several shows remained open during the strike, because the theaters have separate contracts with the stagehands union, Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

Local One members, who have been working without a contract since July, still have to approve the new contract. Local One President, James Claffey Jr., announced the agreement to union members.

"Brothers and sisters of Local One, you represented yourselves and you families and your union proud," he said. "That's enough said right there."

The details of the new five-year contract have not been revealed. But insiders say the new contract gives the stagehands a substantial raise in return for concessions over work rules and staffing issues.

Charlotte St. Martin, head of the League of American Theaters and Producers, says everyone on Broadway is looking forward to returning to work.

"The agreement is a good compromise that serves our industry," she said. "What is most important is that Broadway's lights will once again be shining brightly."

Among those ready to return to the stages are the actors, who were not on strike but would not cross picket lines. Actress Brenda Braxton stars in the long-running musical hit "Chicago."

"I am so excited. First of all I am so excited to see my cast members because we have become such a family,": she said. "I am excited that they did come to some agreement between the unions and the producers and that we have new people coming into the cast. It is going t be like an opening night."

Tim Tomkins of the Times Square Alliance, a business group, says the strikes' effects were felt far beyond the theaters.

"The difference between August, which is already a busy tourism month, and December is anywhere between 50 to 75 percent more people are out in the streets in December," he said. "So that means that is an incredibly important time for restaurants and all of the business in Time Square."

The strike cost the city million of dollars in lost revenue and disappointed thousands of tourists who had tickets for shows during the Thanksgiving holiday.

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