by Hedy Weiss
At the very moment when the whole union movement in this country is struggling to survive, Actors' Equity is celebrating a major milestone - its 100th birthday. Paying tribute to the event is a new book, " Performance of the Century: 100 Years of Actors' Equity Association and the Rise of American Theater," by Robert Simonson (Applause Books, $42.50).
Lavishly illustrated with historical images and archival photographs, the handsome volume is not just a window on the Union's many triumphs in assuring salaries and benefits and decent working conditions for actors and stage managers, but is a tribute to American theater itself.
Simonson and Actors' Equity president Nick Wyman will be at local signings of the book as follows:
± Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. at Anderson's Bookshop, 123 West Jefferson, Naperville; call (630) 355-2665.
± Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. at The Book Cellar, 4376 North Lincoln, Chicago; call (773) 293-2665
"Performance of the Century" not only chronicles the turbulent founding of Equity in 1913, but recounts how the union dealt with the rise of Off Broadway and the regional theater movement, how it worked to fight segregation (on and off the stage), how it dealt with the blacklist years, how it was involved in entertaining the troops during wartime and how it confronted the challenge of the AIDS epidemic.