More ?'s About Equity

More ?'s About Equity Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column provides more of the ever-sought information on the actor's union, AEA, and how it relates to auditioning, plus a few other tips. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!

Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column provides more of the ever-sought information on the actor's union, AEA, and how it relates to auditioning, plus a few other tips. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!

Question
Hi Blair!
I read your reply to Jonathan's message (going into business while working on his acting career, Ask Blair--May 10-15), and thought it was great! Do you think that would be a good idea? I really don't really enjoy anything as much as I do singing. I mean, I really can't imagine doing anything else and being happy. I also love computers...but don't have room in my schedule to take classes. I really think the idea about getting a degree in something else to support an acting dream is a good idea. I'm confused. What do you suggest?
Nora: )

Hi Nora,
Nice to hear from you again.

I'm glad you were inspired by my reply to Jonathan, however much it bemused you.

You don't necessarily need a degree in something other than music or theatre to get a good job to support yourself. In Jonathan's case, being a business major and having that degree helps. I applauded him for making the choice to use his hard work in college to support his art with a steady income job, and showed how it can work. If you really want a degree in something else, only you can know if its a good idea and what to study.

If you like computers, maybe you want to follow that when your schedule opens up? Follow things that you like, even if you don't love them like you do singing.

Take your time with this decision. It will all be clear to you eventually.

Question
Dear Blair,

I heard that in order to audition for National Tours and/or Broadway productions that you have to have some sort of card or recommendation so that you can audition. Because I heard they just don't let everyone audition. I was just wondering if you could tell me the audition process please!!
Thanks!!!
-- Kevin Cooper
- Ohio

Hi, Kevin!
Yes, with a few exceptions, you must be a member of the stage actors' union, Actors' Equity Association (AEA) in order to audition for Broadway shows, tours and many higher paying regional theatres. For information about AEA and how to become a member and obtain your Equity card, please refer to the Ask Blair column dated Sept 20-26.

There are also some open call (meaning, the audition is not selective and any one can go) auditions that allow people with or without Equity cards to audition. Some tours are non-Equity tours, which means only non-Equity actors can audition and people with Equity cards generally cannot.

The "recommendation" you are referring to is an agent submission. Agents have special access to audition information and good agent, by submitting headshots of their clients and talking to casting directors, can arrange to have their non-Equity clients audition for Equity shows.

Equity and non-Equity members can find out about auditions through trade papers, so find out from your local newsstand if your area of Ohio has its own, or carries Backstage the popular New York trade paper. Or call a regional theatre in your area and ask them how local actors they work with find out about auditions.

Equity open call auditions are posted in a local Equity office. All auditions that are public, as opposed to appointment-through-agent auditions, (and even some that are agent appointed), involve waiting. You go to the place specified for the audition, sometimes earlier than the time listed, to sign up and wait your turn.

A great article to read to get a flavor of a huge NY open call is Huge Response to Rent Open Call, in theatre news on Playbill On-Line. If you have any other questions about auditions, feel free to write again.

Question
How does one try to get into something or some place that you can acquire a AEA card/membership?
-- Kevin

Dear Kevin,
I'm going to assume that you are asking about how to get cast in productions which will help you get into AEA.

It seems very difficult to get a union card, and yet, so many actors do it, so it is possible. First and foremost, you must keep auditioning and getting cast. Here are a few tips. Talk to Equity actors and hear there stories for some more clues.

  • Sometimes Equity shows hold open call auditions for non-union actors. Go to them.
  • Contacts. Knowing someone who can get you into an audition to an Equity show. This could be an agent, a friend working in the show, a playwright who envisions you in the role, a director who worked with you, etc. This happened to me. In college, a director I worked with was assistant-directing at a professional theatre in the area. He submitted me for an audition, I got cast, and from that experience, I got submitted to other auditions in some very prestigious Chicago theatres, just by word of mouth.
  • Go to Equity-only auditions. Especially general auditions held by theatre companies before their season in order to see the talent out there. Kindly ask the auditioners if they will see you at the end. You may be denied the opportunity--but there's always a chance. Friends of mine have done this. None I know have gotten cast, but they have been seen. This requires risk and a LOT of waiting.
  • Apprentice at theatres for membership points. You will have to apply -- each theatre is different. Call the theatres you are interested in to find out if they have an apprentice position and how to apply. For theatres near you, you may want to refer to the regional theatre database on Playbill On-Line.

Good luck, Kevin. And take note, being a member of the union isn't always the best thing for an actor. There is plenty of opportunity to perform as a non-union performer. Make sure its right for you, before you make the union your first and only priority. Dear Blair,
I was recently cast in a production of La Cage aux Folles. We rehearsed for several weeks and the show was canceled one week before the show was to open. My question is, even though the show canceled before a public performance can I still list the show on my resume as a past credit? This is not the first time that this has happened to me.
E.W.

Dear E.W.,
Good question--but man, what a bummer. People put all kinds of things on their resumes, however, the honest answer is no. Any production that does have a public performance does not count as a credit.