By FREDI WASHINGTON PV's Theatrical Editor April 6, 1946 p. 26
WHEN 650 ACTORS GET TOGETHER, there is bound to be either a rousing good time or a hell of a good fight. The latter happened at Actors Equity meeting last Friday at the Astor Hotel. The purpose of the meeting was to elect new members to the Council and report to the body activities of the union for the last six months. This part of the procedure went down without a hitch. It was only when the floor was thrown open for new business that the fireworks started.
It was Francis Verdie, a well aged and rounded self-appointed orator, who introduced a resolution asking that the by-laws and constitution be amended making it unlawful for any member of the council or any member of the union to bring charges or take official action against another member because of his religious or political activities. When asked quickly by the president, Bert Lytell, to clarify the resolution, Verdie took his text. That text, as you might imagine, was loaded with the backwash of the Frank Fay case. It was at this point that the room became charged with indignation by the majority of the membership. Hands shot up all over the room calling for the floor and a point of order. Lytell, always suave and capable of handling a situation, interrupted Verdie saying he didn't think it fair that any member should take over the meeting to rehash a matter that had been settled by that body.
Verdi's [sic] resolution sounded logical and innocent enough; but the real purpose was to give free reign to folks like Frank Fay and his cohorts who are busy waging a fight for Franco and against the Soviet Union. One got the feeling that it was worded with the specific purpose of confusing those actors who are not particularly aware politically. Such a member was Sir Cedric Hardwick. He said he didn't see how the body could do anything but vote for the resolution. To this, Lytell answered that the resolution was ambiguous and dangerous. He called for a vote. The Yeas were exactly six. Very deliberately Lytell said that Equity had six very unusual people and that they represented th [sic] smallest cast playing on Broadway. Mr. Verdie's resolution was not only killed but buried as well.
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THE NEGRO ACTORS were out en force and it was after all business had been disposed of that Lloyd Gough of Deep Are the Roots asked for the floor. He referred back to the executive secretary's report in which he said that Equity Council had arranged with the League of New York Theatres on the matter of hotel accommodations. Hardships had been worked on actors in out of town shows, because road managers had not been bending every effort to see that accommodations were made available. Gough said he and every other member of Equity are keenly aware of the far more difficult time the Negro actor has in getting hotel accommodations when he travels with a show and for that reason, he felt it was up to the Council to make a concentrated effort to do what it can to alleviate the situation.
Gough's suggestion met with immediate and enthusiastic accord. It was here that the resentment against a two-way upper-lower case American system came to the surface. Mercedes Gilbert, who has traveled extensively with white casts, suggested that Council specifically ask road managers to refrain from asking a casual Negro passerby, porters, etc., where they an place their Negro cast members.
By this time, every actor in the room was equally as indignant about the treatment their fellow members receive at the hands of un-American Americans as were the Negroes. But it was Warren Coleman of the cast of Anna Lucasta who, in a dynamic and dramatic manner put his finger on the source of the evil. Coleman said that Equity Council and the League of New York Theatres can work from now until doom's day on the problem but their work will not make a hotel manager give Negroes accommodations and therefore, the screws must be put on Congress to pass a law making it unlawful for any public hotel or rooming house to refuse admittance to anyone regardless of race, creed or color, anywhere in the country. Along with this campaign, said Coleman, it is Equity's duty to see that road managers and all concerned, do not bow to and accept without a fight, the discrimination which is ingrained and in good working order in various parts of the country.
The membership unanimously empowered the Council to go to work immediately on this problem and the president assured that body that no stone would be left unturned to put into motion the necessary machinery to erase the disgraceful treatment of fellow union members because of discrimination.
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MUCH CAME OUT OF THIS DEMOCRATIC MEETING of unionized actors. For one thing, we now have a work shop under the sponsorship of the American Theatre Wing Ware Service, Inc., for veterans. Here a vet has the opportunity to refresh himself in whatever branch of the theatre he happens to be interested, in a very practical way. Also, it was decided that Equity would print a new edition of the Players' Guide. This is a directory which lists names of actors with their pictures and gives a brief resume of their theatre accomplishments, for a small fee. The Guide is given free to all produces, agents, directors, etc., from coast to coast. Veterans who are not currently playing in a show, will receive this service without cost if they get the information in to Equity immediately.