As you probably know, the Actors' Equity Association (“Equity") is the U.S. labor union for Stage Actors and Stage Managers that protects and fights for your rights as a performer. Since their creation in 1913, when “exploitation had become a permanent condition of an actor's employment,” the organization has been working to ensure we receive benefits any other employee at a 9-to-5 job would expect. Like fair salaries; timely breaks; days off; health, pension and 401(k) plans; Workers' Comp insurance; and, safe and sanitary working conditions.
As the Broadway Life Coach, I work with a lot of actors at different levels in their career. It’s such a joy for me to help actors create goals, achieve them, and see them thrive on their paths. I know that it can be confusing to figure out when you need certain memberships or representation and which ones are “best.” And boy, there can be so many.
It is extremely important to me to be positive and optimistic when coaching, but also realistic. So, I’m going to give you a taste of that now.
While it may seem like a high priority, earning your Equity card is not a goal. Your goal, always and forever, should be to book great work. You will get your card naturally as a result of that work you book.
However, like most things in the business, there’s a catch 22. How do you get good work at Equity theaters without your equity card? Here’s how: it comes from the relationships you build through the work you do.
When I was first faced with pursuing my Equity card right out of college, it was important to me to be working at a level where other Equity actors were playing. However, many people my age were booking principal roles on non-union tours and learning a lot about confidence and commanding the stage. It was important to me to start my pension, my health care, and a retirement plan. All things to consider when wanting to join the union.
However, there are a lot of non-union tours out there right now, who need good talented people. Quite often the people creating those shows are the same people who have and will be creating on Broadway. If you are building strong relationships first, and nurturing those relationships, those could be you key to eventually getting your equity card.
It’s understandable that you want to get into ECC’s and EPA’s but if that’s the only reason you are trying to get your equity card, then I want you to consider what you’d rather be doing: Auditioning or Working?
Getting experience under your belt, and forming WORKING relationships beyond auditions will always be the most important things to gain when pursuing a career as an actor.
Joining the union can be a very personal decision, but really sit with your priorities before you decide. As a proud union member we want people like you, dedicated to a life in the theatre, but we want you to join proudly and confidently. After all, a union is only as strong as its members.