Ask Playbill.com is a weekly Playbill.com column that answers questions about theatre, generated by readers and Playbill.com staff, every Thursday. To ask a question, email AskPlaybill@Playbill.com. Please specify how you would like your name displayed and please include the city in which you live.
This week's question comes from Katie H. of Kennewick, WA.
Question: I was wondering about Equity Chorus Calls for dancers. If someone shows up as a non-Equity member, would he/she automatically be turned away or is there a chance he/she would be seen and if so, how does that work? Does the person get thrown in with the Equity members present or seen separately?
Answer: Let's start at the beginning: Certain shows are required to have Equity Chorus Calls (for choruses) or Equity Principal Auditions (for main roles). Members of Actor's Equity — the union for stage actors — can sign up for these auditions starting one week before they occur. When non-Equity actors want to audition at ECCs or EPAs, they will only be seen if there's enough time left after all the Equity members have been seen, and if the casting directors want to see them. If the casting directors do indeed want to try to see non-Equity performers, a sign-up sheet will be available on the day of the auditions, and the performers will be seen in the order in which they sign up, if time permits.
Eric Woodall, a casting director at Tara Rubin Casting, says that he's very much in favor of seeing non-Equity members at these auditions. EPAs and ECCs are required to last all day — so if there aren't enough Equity members to fill up the time, why not see some of the non-Equity performers who showed up?
Woodall estimates that in his experience, at 90 percent of EPAs or ECCs, non-Equity performers get seen. Sometimes only some of the non-Equity performers who show up get seen, but other times, everyone gets seen.
"It's so worth it, even as a non-Equity member, to take a chance to show up and audition at those required calls," Woodall says. "It's a way to get seen at casting offices and start building professional relationships."
Woodall says that even the non-Equity performers who don't get seen at EPAs and ECCs still get to give their headshot and resume to his agency, and the agency will call the performers if it wants them to come in another time to audition, either for that same show or for another show. Also, in the few cases in which so many Equity members sign up that it's clear that none of the non-Equity performers will get seen, the non-Equity performers who show up will immediately be told as such, so they don't waste their time sitting around all day (and they can still submit their headshot and resume).
The non-Equity performers' dance auditions are typically separate from the Equity members' dance auditions, since non-Equity performers are seen only after the Equity members have all auditioned already.
Woodall says that his agency has actually cast many non-Equity performers who have shown up to Equity auditions — typically in choruses of large musicals such as Mamma Mia!, but also in smaller shows such as The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Casting directors do occasionally choose to have open calls that are open to any performer, Equity or non-Equity. Woodall says that his agency tends to hold open calls while casting a new show (as opposed to while casting replacements later in a show's run), just to make sure all of its bases are covered.