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Friday, April 16, 2010

What To Do: Union Show Turns Non-Union

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I just got this great question from a friend who is a photographer. She writes:
My roommate who is an Equity member was in an Equity play.  New producers came in and are changing the venue and the play to non-equity.  They said they would still offer her the part if she can do a non-equity play. Can she? (without having to give up her equity card) and how to arrange if so? Equity says they can't give her a waiver because the play is under investigation right now (for trying to switch to non-equity). But unfortunately I think the producers can eventually make it non-union so doubt equity can do anything (other than get them money for the rest of their contract- buyout).  She would rather do the play.

Hi- it's so great to hear from you- though I am sorry to hear about your roommate’s situation.

Unfortunately, no- she cannot do the play unless it is covered under an Equity contract. And, because the project/producer is under investigation it is VERY important that she avoid doing the show. If they discover her working without the benefit of a contract, she could lose her Equity card and/or be fined (it violates the number one rule of not doing non-union work once you are a union member.)

If the actors have already signed a union contract and the producers try to back out, they will have some protections under Equity (usually, this would be 2 weeks salary, which the producers would have already given to Equity as a bond, to protect actors from this exact situation.) However, if the show was being produced here in NYC under the Equity Showcase Code, there would be no such protection because that code does not require producers to put up a bond. Further, the Showcase Code only guarantees that actors be reimbursed for expenses (like transportation) and are not paid a salary. So there would be nothing monetary to recover if the producer backed out of the contract. The only recourse Equity would likely have, at that point, would be to ban the producer from using Equity actors in the future.

I hope this is useful. Have your friend rely on Equity to handle all of the details about this contract- that's what the union is there for. And feel free to pass along my info if she has any further questions.

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

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