Kate Shindle on Why She’s Stepping Down as Actors’ Equity President

Kate Shindle, who has served as president of Actors’ Equity Association for nine years, is stepping down after a tenure dominated by the coronavirus pandemic that for a time idled all of the labor union’s members.

Shindle, 47, said she expected to remain active in the labor movement, but that she was eager to resume working as an actor. The Equity presidency, leading a union that represents more than 51,000 theater actors and stage managers nationwide, is an unpaid, volunteer position. Because of the time required to manage the crises facing the union’s members, Shindle has worked so little as an actor that she hasn’t even qualified for her own union’s health insurance coverage.

Her departure comes amid significant turnover in the theater industry. Charlotte St. Martin recently left her position as president of the Broadway League, which is the trade association most often on the opposite side of the bargaining table with Equity, and the heads of many nonprofit theaters are also leaving their positions.

“It feels like it’s time,” Shindle said. “We’ve accomplished a lot. And I think turnover is good for organizations. I’ve never been one who wanted to stay until the members threw me out.”

Shindle, a former Miss America, will wrap up her third and final term on May 23. These are edited excerpts from an interview.

Equity imposed very strict rules during the pandemic that had the effect of limiting performance around the country. In hindsight, how do you think about Equity’s role in the state of theater over those years?

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