The union for professional stage actors is protesting the opening tonight of “The Music Man” production in Des Moines. Members of the “Actor’s Equity Association” say there’s trouble in the Capital City with the production of “The Music Man” because it uses non-union actors — paying them half the standard union wage. Iowa native and former child actor Paul Peterson is one of the people protesting the show. Peterson says the producer, “Big League Theatricals,” is taking advantage of the kids and adults who need to work. Peterson says the kids are really at risk without the protections provided by the union.Peterson says the production company could still hold down costs with a union contract.He says they’ve been offered a decent contract below the standard rate, and other companies are using the same type of contract.Peterson played Jeff Stone on the “Donna Reed Show”, whose namesake is also an Iowan. Peterson grew up on a Cherokee County farm near Otto, and is now an advocate for child actors.Peterson will be among those handing out information tonight asking people to boycott the Des Moines Civic Center performance of “The Music Man.” The President of the Civic Center, Jeff Chelesvig, says it’s nothing new to use non-union actors in a show. He says they do lots of shows that use union members and lots that do not. He says being a member of a union is not a test of whether the actors are good. Chelesvig says it’s an issue between the union and the production company, and he’s sad to see they’ve decided to fight out the “little battle” in Iowa. Chelesvig says he’s not worried about the children in the show.Mason City native Meredith Willson created the Music Man, which opened on Broadway in 1957 and the film is still a family favorite. The new stage version features one Iowan — Cedar Falls native and 1983 University of Iowa graduate Greg Lauterbach. The stage version opens tonight in Des Moines and runs through October 7th.
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