At Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, the average stagehand salary and benefits package is $290,000 a year. To repeat, that is the average compensation of all the workers who move musicians’ chairs into place and hang lights, not the pay of the top five.
Across the plaza at the Metropolitan Opera, a spokesman said stagehands rarely broke into the top-five category. But a couple of years ago, one did. The props master, James Blumenfeld, got $334,000 at that time, including some vacation back pay. Ahern also notes that the top paid stagehand at Carnegie Hall makes $422,599 a year in salary, plus $107,445 in benefits and deferred compensation.
How to account for all this munificence? The power of a union, Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. “Power,” as in the capacity and willingness to close most Broadway theaters for 19 days two years ago when agreement on a new contract could not be reached. Wakin reported that this power was palpable in the nervousness of theater administrators and performers who were asked to comment on the salary figures.