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.)
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.
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.
With my first Broadway show, Blood Brothers.
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.
Lied my way into an Equity open call for ...Charlie Brown – got the job – and got my card.
The Darien Dinner Theatre production of Carnival.
My Fair Lady at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
George C. Wolfe's revival of On The Town!
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.
Doing summer stock at Cherry County Playhouse in Muskegon, MI.
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.
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.
A maid's role with maybe three lines, tops, in an Off-Broadway production of The Broken Pitcher.
My American equity card came during Taboo.
Doing Sexual Perversity in Chicago in London.
Broadway production of Footloose when I was 19.
Doing Jane Eyre (not the musical) and Man of La Mancha at the wonderful Paper Mill Playhouse.
I did stand-up comedy and once dressed as a clown in a shopping center.
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).
Summer after my sophomore year of college - doing two one-act plays (by Frank Pugliese and Israel Horovitz) at the Gloucester Stage Company.
Max von Essen
Playing Matt Off-Broadway in The Fantasticks.
The national tour of Dreamgirls. I played the white girl.
The Tooth of Crime, Chicago, many moons ago.
Pasadena Playhouse Accomplice, 1989.
Norbert Leo Butz
Playing Nana the Dog in a production of Peter Pan.
Playing Horatio at Pioneer Theatre Co. in 1987.
Playing an innkeeper with a rapidly unsticking mustache in She Stoops to Conquer in Harrogate, England, 1992 (British Equity); Medea (American Equity).
North Shore Music Theatre doing On The Town.
Spent a summer during grad school at Pittsburgh CLO doing feature ensemble stuff. Soooo much fun!
I was in the ensemble of Bells Are Ringing at the Village Theatre in Issaquah, WA.
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Doing Rent in 2004.
[title of show] at the Vineyard!
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.
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.
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.
photo by Corey Hayes
In the Heights, baby.
The touring company of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown in 1970.
I got my Equity Card from Berkeley Rep when I was 22 years old. I was cast in David Saar's The Yellow Boat.
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.
My sophomore year of college when I did a summer season at The MUNY in St. Louis.
Flew to Oakland, California, auditioned for Promises, Promises, told them I was Equity, flew back, got the job, took the contract to Equity.
Doing my first one man show in Chicago in 1978.
Cast as Mozart in Amadeus when I was 19. The best play — I played most of the music live on a real piano-forte.
I did an Equity TV variety show when I was nine years old.
Marissa Jaret Winokur
First national tour of Tommy Tune/Jeff Calhoun's Grease. I couldn't wait to get my show jacket.
I won it at a Blackjack Table ...
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!
As an assistant stage manager/understudy for The Tenth Man at Lincoln Center.
Had a SAG card and got my Equity after I auditioned for my first show - Oh, Kay!
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Up Against the Wind at NYTW in 2001.
Lee Blessing's Blacksheep at BSC right out of school.
The Wedding Singer.
Shakespeare in the Park, Henry V.
As You Like It...Shakespeare in the Park 2005.
Photo by Robert Mannis
The Roaring Girl at The Foundry Theatre.
Ensemble at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, 1997.
Working summer stock at The Wagon Wheel Theatre in Indiana.
As a McKnight Fellow at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN.
Brought a show called The Regard of Flight to New York, to the American Place Theatre.
Joining the Mirror Repertory Company with Geraldine Page.
When I got cast in the Hairspray tour in 2005!
Working for the mouse down at Disney World.
Cast in Circle Rep's The Farm in 1976.
Sarafina! National Tour 1990.
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.
Playing Senator Roscoe Conklin in Teddy Roosevelt, a children's musical produced by P.A.R.T., now Theatreworks USA.
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!
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!!
Bus & truck company of The Wiz.
Madison Square Garden's A Christmas Carol when I was 14.
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.
The Civil War on Broadway.
Playing Lizzie in Baby at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre.
As the second messenger in Iphigenia at Aulis at the McCarter Theater in 1982.
Craig Wright's play Molly's Delicious, summer theatre at Mt. Holyoke College. Classic one-week stock.
West Side Story @ AMTSJ - love y'all.
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.'"
Playing Eva in Evita at The North Carolina Theatre when I was 20.
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
In the production of Uptown Is Hot! just out of college.
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!!)
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.
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.
Playing Sandy in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at The New Group.
Finishing the Picture at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.
Corpus Christi at Manhattan Theatre Club. Gay Jesus/Bomb Threats/Metal Detectors/Protests/Counter Protests/Equity Card.
In the road company of Sweet Charity with Juliet Prowse.
Death of A Salesman at the Guthrie.
Playing Emma in Jekyll & Hyde for Surflight Theater at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.
A production contract from The Lion King.
My Three Angels and I Hate Hamlet at Summer Theater Mount Holyoke.
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.
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!
My first job out of college, I played Judas in the musical Godspell at Paper Mill Playhouse.
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.
I did a TYA tour called Four Score and Seven Years.
I'm a spoiled brat. Next to Normal at the reading before Second Stage.
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Journey's End, 2007.
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.
I replaced "The Boy" in The Fantasticks.
As an intern with the Penn Stage Company.
Moon Under Miami, Remains Theatre, Chicago.
4th national tour of Annie.
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.
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.
Jeffrey Horowitz gave it to me when I did Midsummer for Theatre for a New Audience.
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!
Damn Yankees 2008.
I played opposite Elizabeth Stanley in Footloose at Theatre by the Sea in Rhode Island. She was terrific. I was terrible.
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.
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.
Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera in 1986... yikes.
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.
The Ritz at Studio 54.
The Book of Mormon.
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.
Playing Catherine in Pippin at Goodspeed.
I was a freshman in college, and I did a show at Disneyland that gave it to me. Toontown gave me my card. Fitting.
Measure for Measure at the Public Theater (the mobile unit).
A year after I graduated CCM, I played Queenie in The Wild Party at the New Repertory Theatre in Boston.
I played Gavroche [in Les Misérables] on Broadway in 1999. My first Broadway show.
Side by Side by Sondheim at The Muny with Colin Donnell. Ask him about it.
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.
In the chorus for a summer in stock at The Sacramento Music Circus.
1st National Tour of The Robber Bridegroom (1978).
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at Actors Theatre of Louisville. I played Tom Sawyer.
I was an EMC member for a few years before getting my card for Spring Awakening on Broadway.
When I did my first play at seventeen at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara. It was a strange little mystery called Black Chiffon.
As the understudy for Eddie Redmayne in the play Red by John Logan.
A pre-Broadway workshop of The Color Purple.
Trinity Rep, back when Oskar Eustis was there. So thank you, Oskar.
Theatreworks' The Just So Stories. I played the Leopard :-)
A summer at The Muny in St. Louis after my sophomore year of college.