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Actors' Equity opening membership to anyone who can prove professional theater gig

They say thy are trying to be anti-racist. Auditions are going to be much harder to get when they resume. There used to be some kind of standard for joining -- though of course, as someone told me, there were quite a few members of Equity who didn't belong any closer to a stage than the 2nd balcony of the auditorium.

by Anonymousreply 26July 22, 2021 9:41 PM

Anyone who's been getting work in non-Equity theater will have to give up going for non-Equity work if they join Equity. If the union becomes inundated, expect some members to call out and get expelled those who are then trying to work non-union.

by Anonymousreply 1July 21, 2021 5:26 AM

Actor's Equity is a union. They want money. (They're even making it easier to pay.) They want strength in numbers. In exchange, you get support from them in nearly all matters.

You could argue that the high barrier to membership tended to lend itself towards acquiring higher quality actors but that's not actually the point of the organization. Nor is that entirely true. The same applies to SAG/AFTRA. Yes, it's not that easy to join but there are plenty of bad actors who have their "card" and plenty of actors that aren't in the union who are excellent.

As for their reasoning, there's some truth there (plays written decades ago aren't going to necessarily change roles that were traditionally cast a certain way, unlike film and tv where that kind of thing happens these days) but at the end of the day, they're strengthening their resolve to simply protect all actors by giving all actors a chance to join as long as they've worked at a gig that paid them and can pay their fees. That still won't get them cast.

Auditions might be more crowded but it's not Equity's job to weed people out. Leave that up to the people casting the production. I'm sure we'll hear more than a few stories about people who were "discovered" only because of this rule change.

Finally, while this rule change may have been made to benefit people of color who might not have the opportunity to work on as many projects under Equity Contracts, it still applies to [italic]everyone,[/italic] no matter their skin tone. So, may the best man or woman win.

by Anonymousreply 2July 21, 2021 5:54 AM

There were plenty of times that I saw Equity shows with non-Caucasian casts where there were plenty of audition spots open. Any non-union person could have gotten seen; also Equity has a place for non-Equity actors to wait for any slots that haven't been filled by Equity actors. But I guess AEA just wants more money for dues. Is this also an attempt to get more theatres to turn union, since there are quite a few more non-union tours than there used to be.

by Anonymousreply 3July 21, 2021 6:07 AM

Well R3! Equity should have consulted you since YOU'VE SEEN THINGS!

by Anonymousreply 4July 21, 2021 1:28 PM

This is a good development. It may reverse the growing trend of non-Equity production, which has gotten more popular and has seen a rise in production value over the last 30 years, threatening union production jobs. Also, there are plenty of very talented non-union actors and plenty of not-so-talented members of AEA. Eliminating the membership eligibility loop which has made it so difficult for deserving actors to get seen will level the playing field, and allow talent to be more instrumental in casting.

However, Equity still has its head up its fucking asshole when it comes to rules surrounding low-level, independent developmental theatre, which they actively thwart. Maybe this will have a ripple effect.

by Anonymousreply 5July 21, 2021 1:53 PM

R4 Actually, Equity should have consulted its members and put it to a vote.

by Anonymousreply 6July 21, 2021 2:39 PM

This will also, inadvertently, make it easier to join SAG/AFTRA for these people in about a year since it is a sister union and thus bypasses some of the hurdles to joining.

by Anonymousreply 7July 21, 2021 2:40 PM

Unless SAG-AFTRA changes their rules to show they've actually worked an Equity contract.

by Anonymousreply 8July 21, 2021 2:54 PM

[quote]Equity still has its head up its fucking asshole when it comes to rules surrounding low-level, independent developmental theatre, which they actively thwart.

Enormous truth spoken there. Equity is a labor union. It should concern itself with commercial productions. Not only does Equity thwart the smallest productions, it keeps these opportunities to work and practice and stretch and grow out of bounds for actors.

If a tour is booked into a 2500 seat touring house, Equity damned well ought to be representing the actors. But in a 50 seat black box in a basement few are ever likely to see? No. The actors can capably judge for themselves if they want to be involved and if it is worth it to them. Equity certainly does not need to be paying employees to involve themselves in these tiny non-commercial projects.

by Anonymousreply 9July 21, 2021 3:00 PM

I predict this will have an opposite impact. Many actors will balk at the upfront fees, find their way with non-equity work/shows, and the number of actors willing to take non-equity work will actually grow. It's a basic macro economic disincentive. They obviously didn't consult a behavioral economist on this move. They will regret it in 3-5 years.

by Anonymousreply 10July 21, 2021 5:20 PM

It's possible some Equity members will quit and start doing non-Equity. Barry Williams of the "Brady Bunch" did a non-union tour years ago and caused a ruckus. I don't know if he was permitted to stay in the union after that.

by Anonymousreply 11July 21, 2021 5:22 PM

I retained my membership long after I quit pursuing acting. If I can leave to do a non-Equity gig and then re-join easily, why would I stay a member?

by Anonymousreply 12July 21, 2021 5:54 PM

[quote]Many actors will balk at the upfront fees, find their way with non-equity work/shows, and the number of actors willing to take non-equity work will actually grow. It's a basic macro economic disincentive. They obviously didn't consult a behavioral economist on this move. They will regret it in 3-5 years.

You obviously didn't consult what they've actually said about it.

Now you have 6 months to pay the initial $600 downpayment from your application date.

Then you have 3 years to pay the last bit up to $1700. (Or $1800 starting next year.) So they've given people another year when it was previously 2.

That's about $35.50 a month.

by Anonymousreply 13July 21, 2021 6:07 PM

Money before Principle.

We always knew they were whores.

by Anonymousreply 14July 21, 2021 6:09 PM

That's still a lot of money for actors. I hears some young actors complaining about their regular semi-annual dues (which a lot of actors rather stupidly voted to raise a few years ago -- mainly older ones thinking they'd be exempt from the hikes, which they weren't)

by Anonymousreply 15July 21, 2021 6:24 PM

"heard" that is

by Anonymousreply 16July 21, 2021 6:24 PM

Equity auditions are a zoo thanks to the hundreds of non union actors who show up and camp out in the holding area hoping to be seen.

by Anonymousreply 17July 21, 2021 6:41 PM

[quote]That's still a lot of money for actors.

I am an actor.

by Anonymousreply 18July 21, 2021 7:43 PM

yes? so... a lot of actors work survival jobs -- office, retail, restaurants, etc. Others have trust funds. Equity's initial fee is considered a good chunk of money.

by Anonymousreply 19July 22, 2021 1:59 AM

I joined Equity right before the pandemic and have 2 years to pay my initiation fee. A few weeks ago Equity sent me an email informing me that because of Covid I now have an additional 2 years to pay the fee. I really appreciate that.

by Anonymousreply 20July 22, 2021 2:10 AM

Will we see you in anything this fall, R20?

by Anonymousreply 21July 22, 2021 2:38 AM

There are 60,000 members in SAG and certainly over 100,000 members in Equity. Joining these unions used to be a significant rite of passage. You had to work really hard to get in. Nowadays any asshole with a Youtube channel or some TikTok influencer can join SAG via the new media agreement.

by Anonymousreply 22July 22, 2021 4:32 AM

R21. No. I’m white.

by Anonymousreply 23July 22, 2021 5:06 AM

Approx. 51,000 in Actors Equity, as of now.

by Anonymousreply 24July 22, 2021 5:28 AM

I know many ex actors who are still in Equity and don’t want to give up their memberships in case they attempt a comeback. A lot of them got their cards by doing children’s theatre or working in stock or through SAG.

by Anonymousreply 25July 22, 2021 2:31 PM

This is their plan?!

[quote]The union can negotiate for more audition slots in order to handle potential crowds, Shindle said. However, in the long term she hopes to see more theaters across the country become Equity venues and therefore employ more union members. … Many small theaters cannot afford to employ Equity casts due to the higher salary requirements, however Shindle said the union will continue to advocate for increased arts funding to help producers support that pay scale.

So they're hoping someone else comes along with a pile of money to solve the problem they're creating themselves?

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