Walt Disney World has established free, on-site coronavirus testing for employees and their families, drawing applause from Actors’ Equity Association after a two-month-long stand-off over the matter.
Equity announced today that it has signed an agreement with the resort to allow union members to return to work at the Florida amusement park.
“We have been consistent that testing is an important part of ensuring a safe workplace for Equity performers, and today, I’m pleased to see that Disney World has agreed,” said Kate Shindle, President of Actors’ Equity Association. “With the news that Disney will make testing available for Equity performers and others in the park, I’m happy to announce that Equity’s executive committee has signed a memorandum of understanding with Disney for Equity performers to return.”
Testing is currently available for Disney World cast members, employees and family members. The test is a self-administered nasal swab that allows personnel to swab their own noses in their vehicles, under supervision of trained medical personnel. Results are delivered within 3-5 business days.
The testing site will be situated at Disney’s main gate office complex near Animal Kingdom, according to a Disney website set up for scheduling appointments.
The testing debate began on June 23, when Disney announced plans to recall cast members for rehearsals the following week. Two days later, Equity announced that its member actors needed to be tested since actors cannot practice social distancing at work. On June 26, Walt Disney World rescinded all of its recall notices for Equity members.
Equity represents about 750 park employees, many of whom performed the resort’s musical stage productions. Since the park’s phased reopening began on July 11, some stage productions have been revamped without actors, leaving stripped-down shows populated by non-speaking costumed characters and park employees serving as on-stage hosts. The long-running Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage show, for example, was replaced with The Disney Society Orchestra and Friends, a 20-minute instrumental concert that ends with non-Equity Disney employees dressed as Belle, the Beast, Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, Cogsworth and Chip taking the stage to silently wave goodbye to the audience.
A review in the popular Disney blog Blog Mickey was harsh: “If it weren’t for the talented musicians in the Disney Society Orchestra, what you’re left with is little more than a middle-school theater production.”
No dates have been announced for the resumption of actor-staffed musical productions.
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