2007_10_curtains2.jpgTheater producers and Local One, the Broadway stagehands’ union, may have agreed to return to the bargaining table next week, but don’t rush out and buy Phantom of the Opera tickets just yet. (Or ever.) The Posts’s Michael Riedel points out that Local One is being joined at the table by Tom Short, the boss of their umbrella union, The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Since Short will have to give the final authorization for a strike – and it's a union rule that an IATSE official be present during at least one round of negotiations before striking – this could signal a breakthrough or a breakdown.

It’s been three weeks since talks stalled, and in the meantime producers have already begun implementing the changes they’ve sought in their new contract proposal. (Stagehands have been working without contracts since July.) Playbill has a rundown of the new work rules, which include obscene demands like making stagehands help clean up a mess, even if it’s not their job! Stagehands have been chafing under the changes, and the building tension is making a Thanksgiving-time strike seem like a real possibility.

If you’ve got Broadway tickets for any time during or after the Thanksgiving weekend, you might be wise to unload them and wait it out. Depending on how things go next week, we could be seeing a very high-stakes game of chicken coming to the crossroads, with poor Mama Mia! trapped in the middle.