CUE & A REVISITED: "How I Got My Equity Card"; Over 100 Actors Respond

By Playbill Staff
July 25, 2013

Actors' Equity Association celebrated its centennial on May 26; to mark that milestone the editors of Playbill.com have combed through the past seven years of our popular Cue & A feature to revisit how several of our favorite actors got their Equity Cards. Responses from over 100 actors follow.



(Clicking on a name bolded in blue will take readers to that actor's entry in the Playbill Vault.)

Julie White
Got my Equity card thanks to Stephen Schwartz and Joseph Stein casting me in a Chicago production of The Baker's Wife. I was 21 years old. Thank you guys!

Laura Bell Bundy
I think I got it from doing Ruthless at age 10.

Martha Plimpton
I think it was doing a workshop of Runaways at The Public in 1979. It was a looooooooong time ago.

John Gallagher, Jr
If I remember correctly, it was through the workshop I did of David Marshall Grant's Current Events months before I made my New York stage debut in the same show at MTC.

Kerry Butler
With my first Broadway show, Blood Brothers.

Karen Ziemba

Harriet Harris
I got a job with the Acting Company. It is a wonderful organization run by my dear friend Margot Harley. I spent three very valuable years performing every night in a touring repertory company. We worked with great directors and designers. I don't think any of us knew how lucky we were.

Chip Zien
Lied my way into an Equity open call for ...Charlie Brown – got the job – and got my card.

Nancy Opel
The Darien Dinner Theatre production of Carnival.

Karen Ziemba
My Fair Lady at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson
George C. Wolfe's revival of On The Town!

Susan Blackwell

Susan Blackwell
When I finished grad school, I joined the acting company of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. For the next two years, I appeared in lavish productions of obscure 19th-century German translations. Classy.

Kate Reinders
Doing summer stock at Cherry County Playhouse in Muskegon, MI.

Ron Bohmer
I was in three summer stock shows at the American Music Theatre (sadly, it is no more) in new London, CT. I was Horatio in Kiss Me, Kate (Ron Raines was Petruchio/Fred). I also was chorus in Music Man (Rebecca Luker was Marian) and How to Succeed.

Judy Kaye
I was hired to do chorus at the long gone Melodyland Theater, across the street from Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. I performed small roles and whatnot chorus stuff in a season of summer stock.

Marylouise Burke
A maid's role with maybe three lines, tops, in an Off-Broadway production of The Broken Pitcher.

Euan Morton

Euan Morton
My American equity card came during Taboo.

Hank Azaria
Doing Sexual Perversity in Chicago in London.

Matthew Morrison
Broadway production of Footloose when I was 19.

Laura Benanti
Doing Jane Eyre (not the musical) and Man of La Mancha at the wonderful Paper Mill Playhouse.

Alan Cumming
I did stand-up comedy and once dressed as a clown in a shopping center.

Mandy Gonzalez

Mandy Gonzalez
Eli's Comin' Off-Broadway at the Vineyard.

Anikia Noni Rose
I got my Equity card in Robert O'Hara's Insurrection Holding History at the Geary Theater. Embarrassingly, I got it again for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, because after traveling the damn globe for a year, a few things lapsed on me...oops.

Mary Beth Peil
The King and I (with that wine lover Yul Brynner).

Lily Rabe
Summer after my sophomore year of college - doing two one-act plays (by Frank Pugliese and Israel Horovitz) at the Gloucester Stage Company.

Mamie Gummer
Mr. Marmalade.

Max von Essen

Max von Essen
Playing Matt Off-Broadway in The Fantasticks.

Heidi Blickenstaff
The national tour of Dreamgirls. I played the white girl.

Amy Morton
The Tooth of Crime, Chicago, many moons ago.

Michael McKean
Pasadena Playhouse Accomplice, 1989.

Norbert Leo Butz
Playing Nana the Dog in a production of Peter Pan.

Shuler Hensley

Patrick Page
Playing Horatio at Pioneer Theatre Co. in 1987.

Jonathan Cake
Playing an innkeeper with a rapidly unsticking mustache in She Stoops to Conquer in Harrogate, England, 1992 (British Equity); Medea (American Equity).

Shuler Hensley
North Shore Music Theatre doing On The Town.

Aaron Lazar
Spent a summer during grad school at Pittsburgh CLO doing feature ensemble stuff. Soooo much fun!

Cheyenne Jackson
I was in the ensemble of Bells Are Ringing at the Village Theatre in Issaquah, WA.

Hunter Bell
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Drew Lachey
Doing Rent in 2004.

Jeff Bowen
[title of show] at the Vineyard!

Hunter Bell
Total Peggy Sawyer deal. I was non-equity in the ensemble of The Boys from Syracuse at the Alliance Theatre. Jack Plotnick was one of the Dromios. He booked a pilot and left the show to go to LA. They asked me to take over. I learned the show in a day and snagged my card! So scary, so fun.

Victoria Clark
Playing the fictitious sassy neighbor of the Wright Brothers in a TYA show about the Wright Brothers. Our Northeast tour was cancelled, so we then were scheduled to perform for one hour at the 92nd St. Y, then that was cut back to 1/2 hour, so I got my card, for rehearsing for two weeks or so, and performing for half an hour. And never had to leave the city. The easiest, lowest stress story ever. I was very, very lucky.

Kelli O'Hara
My 2nd job after I moved here was a production of the Yeston/Kopit Phantom at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport CT. They gave me my card, and I loved every minute of it.

Lin-Manuel Miranda
photo by Corey Hayes

Lin-Manuel Miranda
In the Heights, baby.

Andrea Martin
The touring company of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown in 1970.

Colman Domingo
I got my Equity Card from Berkeley Rep when I was 22 years old. I was cast in David Saar's The Yellow Boat.

Peter Gallagher
Open call for the revival of Hair. I was number 2000-something in a blocks-long line of hopefuls, and this process repeated itself for weeks as the line grew shorter. I ended up in Grease after a similar open call for that show.

Leslie Kritzer
My sophomore year of college when I did a summer season at The MUNY in St. Louis.

Malcolm Gets

Joanna Gleason
Flew to Oakland, California, auditioned for Promises, Promises, told them I was Equity, flew back, got the job, took the contract to Equity.

Charles Busch
Doing my first one man show in Chicago in 1978.

Malcolm Gets
Cast as Mozart in Amadeus when I was 19. The best play — I played most of the music live on a real piano-forte.

Melora Hardin
I did an Equity TV variety show when I was nine years old.

Marissa Jaret Winokur

Marissa Jaret Winokur
First national tour of Tommy Tune/Jeff Calhoun's Grease. I couldn't wait to get my show jacket.

Christopher Sieber
I won it at a Blackjack Table ...

Jonathan Groff
Playing Nick Piazza in Fame at The North Shore Music Theater. I waited in line for 2 days to get seen for that show… I was so excited!

David Pittu
As an assistant stage manager/understudy for The Tenth Man at Lincoln Center.

Penny Fuller
Had a SAG card and got my Equity after I auditioned for my first show - Oh, Kay!

Tracie Thoms
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Tracie Thoms
Up Against the Wind at NYTW in 2001.

Daniel Breaker
Lee Blessing's Blacksheep at BSC right out of school.

Constantine Maroulis
The Wedding Singer.

Christian Camargo
Shakespeare in the Park, Henry V.

Steve Kazee
As You Like It...Shakespeare in the Park 2005.

Gavin Creel
Photo by Robert Mannis

Michael Urie
The Roaring Girl at The Foundry Theatre.

Gavin Creel
Ensemble at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, 1997.

Karen Olivo
Working summer stock at The Wagon Wheel Theatre in Indiana.

Tovah Feldshuh
As a McKnight Fellow at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN.

Bill Irwin
Brought a show called The Regard of Flight to New York, to the American Place Theatre.

Aaron Tveit

Steven Weber
Joining the Mirror Repertory Company with Geraldine Page.

Aaron Tveit
When I got cast in the Hairspray tour in 2005!

Will Swenson
Working for the mouse down at Disney World.

Jeff Daniels
Cast in Circle Rep's The Farm in 1976.

Michael McElroy
Sarafina! National Tour 1990.

Tony Yazbeck
Photo by John Fortunato

Andre De Shields
1969 production of Hair at Chicago's Shubert Theatre, directed by the late Tom O'Horgan, and choreographed by Julie Arenal.

Zach Grenier
Playing Senator Roscoe Conklin in Teddy Roosevelt, a children's musical produced by P.A.R.T., now Theatreworks USA.

Josh Grisetti
Goodspeed Opera House 2004 production of Where's Charley? — I understudied Charley and was making more money per week than I had ever made in my life. LORT B!

Tony Yazbeck
Gypsy with Tyne Daly. I was 11 years old. I auditioned on the St. James stage and was immediately brought down to the basement and told I had the job and that I would be starting in 3 days!!

Lillias White
Bus & truck company of The Wiz.

Dee Hoty

Bobby Steggert
Madison Square Garden's A Christmas Carol when I was 14.

Dee Hoty
I got my Equity Card after playing 2 seasons as a paid apprentice/fellow at the Cleveland Play House. I'm very proud of that. Jack Lee was putting up The Cat and the Fiddle and they needed actors who sang. Thank you to the late Richard Oberlin.

Chad Kimball
The Civil War on Broadway.

Kate Baldwin
Playing Lizzie in Baby at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre.

Tom Hewitt
As the second messenger in Iphigenia at Aulis at the McCarter Theater in 1982.

Diana DeGarmo

Marin Ireland
Craig Wright's play Molly's Delicious, summer theatre at Mt. Holyoke College. Classic one-week stock.

Diana DeGarmo
West Side Story @ AMTSJ - love y'all.

Matt Doyle
Spring Awakening.

David Cromer
The Geography of Luck at Steppenwolf Theatre in 1988. I got to say the line, "I had my first orgasm watching you on 'The Ed Sullivan Show.'"

Lauren Kennedy
Playing Eva in Evita at The North Carolina Theatre when I was 20.

LaChanze
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

LaChanze
In the production of Uptown Is Hot! just out of college.

Eizabeth Stanley
I got my card doing summer stock at Theatre by the Sea in Rhode Island. I played Ariel opposite Matt Cavenaugh in Footloose. In that same contract, I was the swing for Smokey Joe’s Café (I even went on for the BJ track and got to sing "Hound Dog," which is what I sang in my audition for MDQ!!)

Rondi Reed
The Coarse Acting Show at Steppenwolf, Joan Allen & I both got our cards on it - in a show that one reviewer said: "All parties involved should be shot at dawn." True True True.

Karine Plantadit
The Lion King.

Mary Catherine Garrison
I actually received my Equity card with my first show here in NYC - The Man Who Came to Dinner.

Zoe Kazan

Zoe Kazan
Playing Sandy in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at The New Group.

Matthew Modine
Finishing the Picture at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

Jeremy Shamos
Corpus Christi at Manhattan Theatre Club. Gay Jesus/Bomb Threats/Metal Detectors/Protests/Counter Protests/Equity Card.

Ben Vereen
In the road company of Sweet Charity with Juliet Prowse.

Santino Fontana
Death of A Salesman at the Guthrie.

Erin Davie

Erin Davie
Playing Emma in Jekyll & Hyde for Surflight Theater at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.

Moya Angela
A production contract from The Lion King.

Maria Dizzia
My Three Angels and I Hate Hamlet at Summer Theater Mount Holyoke.

Danny Burstein
I was hired by my teacher & mentor, Edward M. Greenberg, to be in the chorus of The Music Man at the St. Louis MUNY. It starred Jim Dale and Pam Dawber. That summer at the MUNY also included Funny Girl (with Juliet Prowse and Larry Kert) and Sleeping Beauty. One of the best summers of my young life.

Hugh Panaro
I had just moved to New York and was doing my first Off-Broadway show, What's a Nice Country Like You Doing in a State Like This? at the Actors' Playhouse. There was a casting notice in Backstage for dancer/singers for a production of Chicago at the Coachlight Dinner Theater in East Windsor, CT. I actually found the casting director's home phone number in the white pages and called him to ask if they had cast the leads yet!

Joshua Henry

Joshua Henry
My first job out of college, I played Judas in the musical Godspell at Paper Mill Playhouse.

Natalie Cortez
The national tour of Cinderella starring Eartha Kitt. It was total luck, really. It was [already] cast. Cinderella was Jamie-Lynn Sigler. However, [they needed a stunt double] for the magic trick where Cinderella changes into and out of the ball gown. So they held auditions for one more girl who could do an ensemble track and who looked like Jamie-Lynn. Et Voila! I got my Equity card.

Norm Lewis
I did a TYA tour called Four Score and Seven Years.

Adam Chanler-Berat
I'm a spoiled brat. Next to Normal at the reading before Second Stage.

Stark Sands
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Stark Sands
Journey's End, 2007.

Celia Keenan-Bolger
In high school I was an understudy in an Off-Broadway play called Kindertransport at MTC. It starred Dana Ivey who I was obsessed with at the time because I was going through my Sunday in the Park With George phase. I got to go on the day after the show opened and Dana told me I did a good job. Heaven.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson
I replaced "The Boy" in The Fantasticks.

Beth Leavel
As an intern with the Penn Stage Company.

Kate Walsh
Moon Under Miami, Remains Theatre, Chicago.

Jan Maxwell

Jan Maxwell
4th national tour of Annie.

Viola Davis
Playing Mattie Campbell in Joe Turner's Come and Gone at Trinity Rep in Providence.

Robin de Jesús
Playing Henry in a workshop of Kander, Ebb and Stein's All About Us at The McCarter Theatre.

Katie Finnera
I bought it. I had my SAG card from a commercial. I moved to New York at 19. I wanted to feel like a legitimate actress and was eligible, so I took all the money I had and I bought it.

Jessica Hecht
Jeffrey Horowitz gave it to me when I did Midsummer for Theatre for a New Audience.

Rebecca Naomi Jones

Rebecca Naomi Jones
I did Caroline, or Change in LA and San Francisco with a cast primarily made up of actors who'd done the show on Broadway. I was a standby and it was the coolest gig to have to be offstage for, because those performances slayed me night after night. Sooooo good!

Sean Hayes
Damn Yankees 2008.

Matt Cavenaugh
I played opposite Elizabeth Stanley in Footloose at Theatre by the Sea in Rhode Island. She was terrific. I was terrible.

Gregg Edelman
I played Lancelot to David McCallum's King Arthur in Camelot. I was blown away to be acting with the same guy who played Illya Kuryakin on "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." When my brother and I as boys played spies, he would be Napoleon Solo and I would be Illya. Even then I liked the off-beat character rather than the leading man.

Thomas Sadoski
Mark Brokaw, Chris Burney and Carole Rothman went crazy and decided to hire me to understudy Second Stage's This Is Our Youth. A mass psychosis I will forever be grateful for.

Michele Pawk

Michelle Pawk
Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera in 1986... yikes.

Jackie Hoffman
Second City.

Michael Ball
When I was just out of my teens, I was lucky enugh to be spotted by Cameron Mackintosh when I was in a production of Pirates of Penzance. Cameron subsequently invited me to join the cast of Les Misérables when it opened in London in 1985.

Billy Magnussen
The Ritz at Studio 54.

Nic Rouleau
The Book of Mormon.

Bryan Terrell Clark

Bryan Terrell Clark
I was performing a new play by Walter Dallas at the Freedom Theater in Philly. He cast me as the lead and offered me the opportunity to get my card at that moment.

Teal Wicks
Playing Catherine in Pippin at Goodspeed.

Lesli Margherita
I was a freshman in college, and I did a show at Disneyland that gave it to me. Toontown gave me my card. Fitting.

Shalita Grant
Measure for Measure at the Public Theater (the mobile unit).

Marla Mindelle
A year after I graduated CCM, I played Queenie in The Wild Party at the New Repertory Theatre in Boston.

Gerard Canonico

Gerard Canonico
I played Gavroche [in Les Misérables] on Broadway in 1999. My first Broadway show.

Betsy Wolfe
Side by Side by Sondheim at The Muny with Colin Donnell. Ask him about it.

Andrew Keenan-Bolger
I did a tour of Music Man when I was nine. My mind exploded a little bit when our Newsies choreographer Chris Gattelli made the connection that he was Tommy Djilas opposite my Winthrop.

Howard McGillin
In the chorus for a summer in stock at The Sacramento Music Circus.

Michael McGrath
1st National Tour of The Robber Bridegroom (1978).

Hamish Linklater
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Hamish Linklater
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at Actors Theatre of Louisville. I played Tom Sawyer.

Matt Shingledecker
I was an EMC member for a few years before getting my card for Spring Awakening on Broadway.

Marlo Thomas
When I did my first play at seventeen at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara. It was a strange little mystery called Black Chiffon.

Gabriel Ebert
As the understudy for Eddie Redmayne in the play Red by John Logan.

Rutina Wesley
A pre-Broadway workshop of The Color Purple.

Lauren Molina

Ari Graynor
Trinity Rep, back when Oskar Eustis was there. So thank you, Oskar.

Lauren Molina
Theatreworks' The Just So Stories. I played the Leopard :-)

Jennifer Damiano
Spring Awakening.

Nick Adams
A summer at The Muny in St. Louis after my sophomore year of college.