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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Non Equity Actors at Equity Auditions

Recommended Reading:
Actors Organize: A History of Union Formation
Audition by Michael Shurtleff
The Color of Style...Make a Lasting Impression

I get a lot of questions about Actors Equity Association (the union of professional actors and stage managers in the US.) by actors who are not yet members. Today I was asked if it is possible for a non-Equity actor to attend an Equity audition, or would they have to wait all day and possibly not be seen.

TAE responds:

The short answer to your questions is: Yes- non-equity actors can audition for Equity projects.

Here's how the Broadway (and other Equity) auditions work in New York City. On the day of the EPA (Equity Principal Audition) the audition monitor will arrive between 30-60 minutes before the audition time to start taking sign ups. Union actors are the first to sign up, and they are assigned time slots in the order they arrive. Equity Membership Candidates (EMCs, or non-equity actors who have worked in an Equity theater and are building points towards membership) will put their name on an EMC waiting list in the order of arrival. And non-Equity/non-EMC actors will also put their name on a list, but it will be a list for non-Equity actors.

Once the auditions start, any time slot that is not filled with an Equity actor will be assigned to the people on the EMC list, until all time slots are filled. In the event that all Equity members and EMCs have gotten a slot, they will then go to the non-Equity list and fill the slots from there.

Most of the time, there are more Equity actors than there are slots, so there is a 4th list called the Alternate list. If an Equity actor shows up and there are no time slots left, they will put their name on the Alternate list. If a slot becomes available (due to no-shows or the audition running ahead of schedule), the first list they pull from is the Equity Alternate List; then the EMC list; then the non-Equity list.

So, as you can see, the non-Equity actor has a bit of difficulty in getting into auditions. That's not to say that it never happens- non-Equity actors do get seen on a limited basis. However, you can see how it might be tough for a non-Equity actor to be seen if there are so many others ahead of them. With regard to waiting: once you have your name on the list, you must be present when your name is called in order to fill a time slot. If you step away and your name is called, you forfeit your spot to the next person on the list. This is why you hear horror stories about non-Equity actors waiting all day with the possibility of never being seen.

Most producers would say that they are very happy to see non-Equity actors if there is time. I have known a few to even stay 15-20 more minutes in order to see everyone on the list. This is rare, but it does happen.

Bottom line- the only way you will get your Equity card is to work at an Equity theater, and the way most people get that job is to go to an Equity audition. I am not sure which part of New Jersey you are in, but I am sure there are local Equity auditions for theaters in your area- and those auditions tend to be a little easier for non-Equity people to get into.

Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out

8 COMMENTS - Click to READ:

Unknown said...

Thank you ever so much for writing this article. It was very informative!

Erin Cronican said...

You are so welcome! Auditioning can be so confusing, so I am glad that I have written something useful. Best of luck to you!

Unknown said...

Erin I just wanted to thank you once again for the article. I went to an EPA call Monday and though I had to wait quite awhile, I was finally seen! I am glad I went and experienced the process. Thanks!

Erin Cronican said...

Wohoo! That's what I like to hear! =)

Anonymous said...

I live in Kansas, and after seeing a post for an OPEN CALL for 3 of 6 summer show at Starlight Theatre, I made a call to try and get a time slot. I was told that all the time slots were filled by Equity people and that if I wanted to I could come at the end of auditions and take a chance that they would see me. I went and was seen with no problems. Three of my children had been to the children's auditions the week before and the director told me as I was walking out that I had a very talented family. The three kids have been asked to be in the show, now I wait to see if they can use me. How does the pecking order work with equity vs non-equity? Will they ever cast a non-equity person before an equity person?

Erin Cronican said...

Great work! And to answer your question, yes- they often do cast a non-Equity actor in an Equity slot. That's how I got my Equity card, and countless others I know. It's all about who is best for the part, as well as who has built a strong relationship with those casting the project. So, keep auditioning, keep training, and keep building those relationships and you'll get your AEA card/job soon enough!

SB said...

Question - how long do auditions take? I want to take a shot at it, but I live in Philadelphia and would be going to NY. I want to try and plan to get a bus back but don't know how long I would need to be in the city if the auditions were at 10:30

Erin Cronican said...

It depends - if it's an EPA (Equity Principal Audition) auditions are held all day, with the last appointment being around 6pm. You would show up early (by 8am) and get on the list, and depending on your AEA status you may be seen right away or you may only be seen time pending.

If you have an appointment, the length of the audition will depend on what you've been asked to prepare. A monologue/song audition may be just 5 minutes, unless they ask for a "re-direct" (give you direction) - then it can be anywhere from 5-15 minutes. If it's a scene, they may match you up with a scene partner and you could be there anywhere from 10 minutes-several hours. If you have an appointment, it is reasonable to ask how long they anticipate you being there.

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you need anything else.

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