Posts Tagged "Joanne Borts"

May Day – the original Labor Day

Let us carry the spirit that was entrusted to us…

לאָמיר טראָגן דעמ גײַסט וואָס מען האָט אונדז פארטרויט

Albert Einstein said, “Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of others, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”

This year, on International Workers’ Day – also known as May DayI would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge my Actors’ Equity colleagues and industry comrades. An effective Labor Union must be a well-oiled machine, and each person’s individual contribution, no matter how small it may seem, is truly significant. So I would like to thank ALL of the people who care enough to make Actors’ Equity Association a priority:

The Deputies, who take on the risk of being labeled ‘troublemakers’ for representing their fellow Actors in the workplace.

The Area Liaisons – forever on their cell phones to the business reps, while keeping a watchful eye on Equity theatres in the Regions.

My fellow Councilors, especially our elder statesmen, who sit in negotiations, caucuses and endless meetings for many excruciating hours, days & weeks… making sure that no stone has been left unturned, no question left unanswered. I owe a great debt of gratitude to their experience and years of sacrifice.

Our overworked Staff, who have chosen to make a career of protecting professional Actors. We’re a hard bunch to please, so hats off to them!

The Broadway League and Producers – our dedicated bargaining partners and employers – who’ve made the commitment to hire Union talent when they produce professional theatre around the country – and to treat professional Actors and Artists with the dignity we all deserve.

– But most of all, I’d like to thank the Members who choose to show up: for town halls, membership & committee meetings, rallies, fundraising events, even to stand on picket lines when asked. We show up because we genuinely care about our industry and each other.

On this May Day 2014 – when Congress continues to debate the Minimum Wage Bill – we also stand united with our sister and brother Unions, and with Workers around the country and the globe – men and women who still need our support in their struggle for fair treatment, a decent wage and a safe workplace. As we stand shoulder to shoulder, I am proud to count myself among my fellow activists and call myself an Equity Actor and a Proud Union Member.

How will you celebrate this May Day? #EquityWORKS #AEA2ndCentury



May Day 2014

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Joanne Borts for Actors’ Equity Principal Councilor

Joanne Borts for Actors’ Equity Principal Councilor

Get out the Vote!

I’ve served on the National Council and Eastern Regional Board of Actors’ Equity Association as a Chorus Councilor since 1999, and this year it is my privilege to run for a Principal seat. Below is the text of my speech from the Equity Membership meeting on April 10, 2014:


I owe a great debt to Actors’ Equity –and the Men and Women who’ve sacrificed themselves for over 100 years so we can have careers as professional Actors –

  • So when we step onto the Stage, we can be Artists-
  • When we walk out of the Theatre, we can have Real Lives-
  • And while we’re doing our jobs, we’re treated with Dignity and Fairness. Our livelihoods, health and safety are a top priority, and we don’t have to be the squeaky wheel at work – because we know our Union has our back.

My first priority as your Councilor is to LISTEN: To your needs as members, to our experienced Staff, to my fellow Councilors across the country and to my Conscience. Information is Power, and that’s what makes us strong.

My next job is to SPEAK UP on your behalf. So as we negotiate stronger salaries, terms and protections, your voices are represented in the discussion. And anyone who knows me even a little, knows that I speak my mind, and I am not afraid to disagree or be in the minority. That’s how we effect Change.

Finally, I want to talk about Solidarity, which is the backbone of the Labor Movement. We all come from different places, we have different opinions and different work experiences – be they Stage Manager, Principal, Chorus, Understudy, Swing, and the new normal, Actor/Musician – and we each have our own needs –

But we will Stand for Nothing if we do not Stand as One.

Please read my Statement in the Equity News and Vote with your Heart.

I’m Joanne Borts, I’m your Councilor and I have your back.

Thank you for caring about the future of your Union!

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The Triangle Fire Memorial and the 10th anniversary of the Chalk Project

From Chalk 2011

Chalk – from the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Fire

One hundred three years ago, on March 25, 1911, New Yorkers witnessed the worst workplace disaster in its history before 9/11. A fire broke out on the 8th floor of the Triangle Waist Company, one block east of Washington Square. Workers ran to the fire escape, but it collapsed. The critical exit on the 9th floor was locked – a precaution taken by the sweatshop owners to prevent theft. People on the street watched in horror as desperate workers clung to the windows while the flames licked at their backs. When the fire trucks finally arrived, their ladders only reached as far as the 6th floor, so many made the devastating decision to jump. 146 garment workers – most of them women, most of them Jewish and Italian immigrants, most of them under the age of 25 – perished.

From the ashes of this great tragedy rose the Labor movement.

“Chalk” is a public art project that began 10 years ago and was the brainchild of filmmaker Ruth Sergel. Each year on the March 25th – the anniversary of the Triangle Factory Fire, volunteers fan out across New York City to inscribe – in chalk – the names and ages of the victims in front of their former homes. A flyer is posted near the names, detailing how the fire galvanized organized labor and the fight for social justice. I was introduced to this project in 2004 as a volunteer and advocate for the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring.  In 2011, on the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Fire, I was given 2 names to inscribe:Chalk2011-VelyeSchochet

Rose Mehl, 278 East 7th Street  –   15 years old.

Violet/Velye Schochet, 740 East 5th Street – 21 years old

Several people stopped to watch. Others asked questions about the project. Most just stood quietly, wondering who these young women had been – and who they might have become. As I headed up to the memorial service at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street, I saw where people had chalked the names of other victims. All over the streets of the Lower East Side, each name on the pavement told a story of loss… of senseless tragedy… of the sadness that overwhelmed a city. The similarities to the “missing” and “have you seen?” posters that papered New York after 9/11 were unmistakable.

The ceremony, held in front of the former Triangle factory, was preceded by a march through Greenwich Village by thousands of people, some carrying shirtwaists with sashes commemorating the names of women who died in the fire. It was chilling to see these ‘ghosts’ witness the culmination of the service: a fire truck ladder that reached only as high as the 6th floor.

on the 100th Anniversary

Chalk 2011 with artist TIne Kindermann

As I stood with my fellow Actors’ Equity members and our brother and sister unions from across the tri-state, I was reminded that we all stand on the shoulders of generations of courageous women and men who risked everything they had for the future of the labor movement: A Better World. We owe them a debt of gratitude that we repay each day with our time and commitment to our Union.

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Looking back…and forward to 2014!


On the autograph line at Once – Broadway!


If 2012 was a year of heartbreak, then 2013 was a year of healing. Not always easy, but the learning curve certainly dragged me along.

Once – Broadway has been a blessing of extraordinary proportion. I go to work each day with the most incredible group of Artists – and then I actually come home each night to my amazing family.  It’s not that I don’t love touring, but sleeping in my own bed and waking up to real life has been a fascinating (and humbling) experience. Baby steps, for sure – often kicking and screaming – but my husband has limitless patience!  Even as we go into our 3rd year on the boards, Once is still fresh and heart-wrenching and every bit as gorgeous as it ever was.  Endless shout-outs to fellow cast, crew, producers, staff and especially the stage managers who continue to keep our Once family safe and inspired. I am so proud to walk into our little bar in Dublin eight shows a week…

KlezKanada 2013 was a terrific getaway with dear friends – and a creative and satisfying week of Yiddish music and dance. As vocal department coordinator, I worked closely with Artistic Director, Frank London on a super successful program that featured remarkable vocal artists from around the world.  Look for updates about KlezKanada 2014: Yiddish is UnDead! It’s going to be off the hook!!!

Actors’ Equity Association celebrated its 100th year representing professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.  I humbly stand on the shoulders of generations of Union activists who made it possible for theatre artists to be treated fairly in the workplace. I know that I’m but a small voice in the larger Labor Movement, but I am so proud to be making a difference in our profession and our industry.  Heaps of gratitude to the AEA Staff for letting us do the “Show” while they handle the “Business.”  Looking ahead, I hope to continue my service as I run for Principal Councilor in 2014.  I’ll keep you posted!

Proudly Progressive Holidays at the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring included a Community Seder that honored Beyle Schaechter Gottesman (z”l) and focused on the issues that face our nation’s newest immigrants.  The High Holidays included a fantastic kids program and featured the participation of the Midtown Shule’s leaders and families.  I am always so grateful for the opportunity to observe the holidays in the warm blanket of poetry and music and dedicated lovers of Yiddish. Huge thanks to Lorin Sklamberg for sharing his voice and talent and soul.

NYC Dance Alliance Foundation kicked off the fall with its annual fundraiser, Bright Lights, Shining Stars a benefit performance to provide college scholarships for talented young dancers.  What a privilege to be working again with former dance partner Joe Lanteri, Founder/Executive Director of this astonishing organization. And what a star-studded cast!  Felicia Finlay (Mamma Mia!) Charlotte D’amboise (Pippin) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago) to name but a few… 5! 6! 7! 8!


with Theo, Bel and Fyvush at Symphony Space

Miracle of Miracles!    This gala performance at Symphony Space celebrated the activism and artistry of Theodore Bikel in honor of his 90th birthday.  I was fortunate enough to co-host this once-in-a-lifetime event, which included appearances by Emmy winner, Fyvush Finkel and best-selling author (and grand-daughter of Sholem Aleichem) Bel Kaufman.  Shmoozing backstage over deli sandwiches and Cel-Ray tonic with this remarkable group (whose combined ages total almost 300 years!) was definitely one of the highlights of 2013.  Thanks abound to Zalmen Mlotek, Bryna Wasserman and the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene for inviting me to be part of this glorious evening!

Of course, 2013 saw great loss as well – In particular, three magnificent women of the Yiddish world who mentored and inspired so many.  Chana Yachness (z”l), Chana Mlotek (z”l) and Beyle Schaechter Gottesman (z”l) will live on in our hearts as their poetry, music and memory will continue to be a blessing.  The year finished up with the annual Dreaming in Yiddish concert – in memory of sister Yiddish Diva, Adrienne Cooper, and honoring a star-spangled and sparkly Jenny Romaine.  Out of sadness can come great joy, and seeing my fellow Klezmorim in one modest room making giant-sized music is the perfect celebration of a true artist’s life.  Lekhayim!!

Many, many thanks to ALL OF YOU!!  Everyone who cut me slack when I couldn’t get out of my own way, gave me a break when I was being cranky or ridiculous and loved me unconditionally, even when I probably didn’t deserve it.  They say that making your Resolutions public will help you to keep them. So last, but not least…here goes:

Joanne’s 2013 Resolutions…

New Year’s Resolution #1:   Take time to smell the roses, enjoy the sights and truly listen to people – even the ones who disagree with me…

New Year’s Resolution #2:  Find the gratitude, even on the most challenging days – especially the days that make my head explode.

New Year’s Resolution #3:  Don’t take anyone or anything for granted…  I think that bears repeating, don’t you?  Don’t take anyone or anything for granted…

New Year’s Resolution #4:  Stop talking!  JUST DO IT!!  (I was going to dedicate this one, but the list got too long- you know who you are, so thanks for continuing to lean on me…)

New Year’s Resolution #5:   Neglect NOT thy BLOG!! And REALLY keep in touch with family, friends, colleagues and the planet…

New Year’s Resolutions #6 and beyond:  TBD…Stay tuned…

Wishing you all good friends, good times, good work, and good fortune for the new year.


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Happy Thanksgivukkah!!

Happy Thanksgivukkah!!

In the timeless words of Menachem Mike Fox:

Let us recall now, our heroes of old,
When darkness was all that our future foretold.
Did they lose their faith? Did their fire grow cold?
Chanukah’s message must always be told…

Lomir dermonen di heldishe teg
Ven undzer folk iz geshtanen baym breg
Tsi hitn dem flam? Tsi farlirn dem veg?
Lomir dermonen di Khanike teg…



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