The Stage Door Connections Blog

Lean... Be Inspired... Join The Conversation


Thursday, January 2, 2014 in The Basics|103 comments
By: Rachel Bress

During your search for auditions, you've undoubtedly come across the terms Equity and Non-Equity. What does that mean anyway? And what type of auditions should you be looking for? Don't worry! It's simple enough. Here’s how to make sense of Equity and non-Equity auditions…
What is “Equity”? 
Equity, also known as Actor’s Equity Association or AEA, is the union for stage professionals- singers, actors and dancers. All Broadway shows, in addition to many regional theaters and national tours, work under Equity contracts. Since Equity is a union, it has set up rules to protect its members including minimum salaries, length and frequency of breaks, condition of rehearsal and performance facilities, as well as benefits including insurance and 401K plans. 
If you are in rehearsals under an Equity contract, one or two members of the cast will be designated equity deputies to make sure everything is being conducted according to Equity regulations. This person will also make sure the overall treatment of the actors is professional and meets the standards set forth by Equity.
What is Non-Equity?
Singers, dancers, and actors that do not belong to Equity are Non-Equity. Non-Equity performers cannot take advantage of any of the benefits offered to Equity members, such as health insurance, credit union membership, and a retirement plan. In addition, Non-Equity productions are not obligated to adhere to Equity guidelines regarding pay and scheduling. 
How do you become Equity?
There are several ways to join Equity.
1. Book an Equity show - The easiest way to book an Equity show would be to audition for a show that is offering Equity contracts (all actors in Broadway shows are required to join the union, so land a gig on Broadway and you’re all set... sounds easy enough, right??)
2. Join EMC (Equity Membership Candidate program) – The EMC program allows performers to work at certain Equity theaters with the goal of working towards an Equity membership.  If a candidate works 50 hours, they are able to join equity.
3. Disney World offers Equity contracts for many of their main stage shows. Audition for and get cast in a main stage show at Disneyworld in Florida, and you will be able to join Equity.
4. Land a contract with a sister union like the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) or the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA).  After one year, you will have the option to join Equity!
Who can attend Equity Auditions?
Equity Audition Waiting Area, Manhattan
Equity members with an up-to-date membership can attend all Equity auditions.  For all ensemble calls, a sign up sheet will be posted at the Equity building one week prior to an audition.  Equity members can pre-sign-up for the audition to reserve a spot.  If an Equity member does not sign up on the sheet, he or she can go directly to the audition the morning of and get an audition number.  EPA (Equity Principal Auditions) calls do not use this pre-sign-up process but do require that performers show up the morning of the audition to sign up for a time slot later that day.
Non-equity performers can attend all Equity or Non-Equity auditions.  A Non-Equity performer can show up to an Equity call at least a half hour before the start time and ask the Equity monitor for the Non-Equity audition procedures for that particular call.  In many cases, you’ll sign in on a sheet and be given a time to return to audition.  Other times you will be asked to leave your headshot and resume.  The decision to see Non-Equity performers at an Equity call is left up to each show’s creative team.  Perseverance is key in this business, therefore we recommend that both Equity and Non-Equity performers attend as many Equity auditions as possible.
The Wizard of Oz is an example of a non-equity tour
Who can attend Non-Equity /Open Audition?
Non-Equity or “Open” auditions are calls that are not affiliated with any union. This means that Equity members are not able to attend. Sign in usually starts an hour before the call. Simply show up, sign on the list, and you will be seen in the order that you arrive. The good thing about these auditions are that you will be competing with people with a level of experience similar to yours. 
As a Non-Equity member, the audition process may seem frustrating, but know that there is an upside to being Non-Equity! First of all, there tends to be much more work for Non-Equity performers. You are therefore able to build your resume and gain work experience that will make you more marketable at future auditions. To gain more insight in to the benefits of auditioning as a non-equity performer, check out our GUIDE TO MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR NON-UNION STATUS article.
Now you that you have a better understanding of the meaning of Equity and Non-Equity, hop on over to the AUDITION CALENDAR to see what auditions are happening right now! Most importantly, know that whether you are pursuing a career as an Equity or Non-Equity performer, if you equip yourself with a true understanding of the business and prepare yourself for your auditions, you will find that success is possible for everyone.

Leave a Reply

Email (required):



Are you a human?

© All Rights Reserved 2015