The lights dimmed on Broadway Saturday as members of the union representing stagehands went on strike. From VOA's New York Bureau, correspondent Barbara Schoetzau has the story.

Picket lines replaced audiences lining up for matinees on the most popular day of the week for theater attendance. Most Broadway shows have afternoon and evening performances on Saturday.

The strike is not a surprise. The stagehands union, Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the League of American Theaters and Producers, have been bargaining over work rules and staffing requirements for months. The union's contract expired at the end of July.

Audiences hoped until the last moment that the doors would open.

"This is one experience of New York City that some of these kids will never have again," said one resident.  "Some of them will never even get to be in New York City again and to get to see a Broadway show, nothing compares."

James Sanna is a producer of the recently opened holiday show, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. "It is devastating because we have seven sold-out shows between Saturday and Sunday," he noted, "and not a lot of notification for the customers, so they'll be coming here. It really hurts that the show is not going to happen."

The strike comes at the start of the busy holiday season with several new shows scheduled to open within the next few weeks. A total of 26 Broadway theaters shut their doors just hours before Saturday matinees were to begin. Actors are not on strike, but will not cross picket lines.  Several shows have separate union contracts, and at those theaters, the show will go on.