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Before Actors’ Equity, actors and stage managers had little control over In 1916, Fred Niblo wrote in Equity Magazine, “The pride of art is really a
their careers or even their lives. Rehearsing without pay, being stranded wonderful thing…but the moment you allow it to break out and run wild,
throughout the country after shows closed on the road, paying for their it becomes a serious menace to the dinner table.” When Equity was
own costumes, and far worse abuses; this was an actor’s life before May
first formed, many actors refused to see themselves as workers. As an
26, 1913. On that day, 112 actors gathered at the Pabst Grand Circle
actor at an early membership meeting commented, “What we have
Hotel in New York City to form a union.
cannot be capitalized. What we give
William Courtleigh had suggested the
cannot be weighed and measured!”
“We hereby constitute ourselves a
name that seemed to encompass what
This has always been Equity’s struggle:
voluntary Association to advance,
they were fighting for: Actors’ Equity.
to be seen, not as self-denying ascetics
promote, foster, and benefit all those
who care only for Art with a capital “A,”
For the next several years, Equity
but as people who work for a living,
connected with the art of the theatre
proud workers who deserve the same
and particularly the profession of
producers, managers and even some of
consideration and respect as anyone
acting and the conditions of persons
its own uncertain membership. In 1917,
engaged therein…”
an agreement was reached, but very
few producers used it. When Francis
Whether it’s standing against segregation
- from the Preamble to Equity’s Constitution, 1913
Wilson, Equity’s first President, asked a
both in the audience and on stage, fightmanager when he would start to use the
ing the blacklists of the 1950s, banding
contract, the producer’s reply was very simple: “When you make me.”
together to stem the tide of AIDS, advocating for non-traditional casting,
funding for the arts, affordable housing and healthcare, collective barIn 1919, Equity made them. Broadway went dark for the first time as a gaining rights and marriage equality, the members of Actors’ Equity have
general strike was called. During a long, hot August, 37 productions were worked together for a century to earn that respect. So whenever you go
closed down at a loss of $3 million. The producers finally recognized Equity to an audition, start rehearsals, call a cue or take a bow, Equity stands
and signed a binding five-year agreement. Before the strike, Equity had
behind you. Working together for the dignity of all those connected with
2,777 members; after the strike, it had grown to 14,000.
the art of the theatre, the struggle will continue…
Actors’ Equity is the national union of over 49,000 stage actors and
stage managers working in the professional theatre (it does not have
locals, as do many other unions). Equity seeks to advance, promote and
foster the art of live theater as an essential component of our society.
Equity negotiates minimum wages and working conditions, providing
a wide range of benefits including health and pension plans. AEA is
directly chartered by the AFL-CIO and is also affiliated with Federation
Internationale Artistes (FIA), an international organization of performing
arts unions.
As a representative democracy, Equity is governed by members, for
members. Its chief policy-making and governing body–the National
Council–is elected by the membership and is composed of working
Actors and Stage Managers. Equity Officers and Councillors serve
without compensation.
Equity’s strength is founded in the unity of purpose and mutual support
of the members and common concern for the needs of the challenging
profession. In everything from equitable salary standards to safety
conditions, from pension to health to a decades-long battle against
discrimination, Equity has fought time and time again for the dignity of
the performer. As a professional, Equity is your collective voice.
Contract Benefits
• Equitable Salary Standards: The primary focus of Equity’s work for 100
years: the fundamental right of fair treatment in terms of minimum salary,
compensation for additional duties, overtime and extra performances.
• Work Rules: With ever-evolving stage technology, Equity monitors and
addresses safety issues like raked stages, smoke and haze exposure and
sanitary rules, as well as limits on rehearsal hours, media promotion
and publicity.
Dispute Resolution: Equity protects you through grievance procedures
and binding arbitration. Let Equity help!
Arts Advocacy: Equity's current affairs agenda cuts across theatre
specific issues focusing particularly on parity for theatres in government
funding for the arts and the development of universal, affordable
health insurance.
Creating Equal Opportunity: Equity has always been in the forefront
of struggles against discrimination and has led the way for decades
in the fight for non-traditional and inclusive casting. Casting policies
designed to expand opportunities for women, seniors, actors of color
and performers with disabilities are provided in all agreements.
Agency Regulations: Equity Franchised Agents are agents who have
agreed to terms set forth under the Equity Agency Regulations.
These regulations provide protective rules and conditions such as a
commission schedule, termination agreements, as well as a host of
other terms. Equity members may access the directory of Franchised
Agencies in the Member Portal section of the Equity website. Personal
Managers differ from Agents in that they are not franchised/regulated
by Equity.
Member Responsibilities
• Never rehearse or perform without a signed Equity contract.
• Pay your dues on time (May and November).
• Keep your contact information up-to-date and register for the
Member Portal section of the website.
• Give your best possible performance.
• File a copy of your contract with Equity no later than first rehearsal.
• Guaranteed Paycheck: Equity requires most producers to post a
bond to ensure payments. This means that even if a show closes or a
producer defaults, you still get paid and you still get home.
• Make no unauthorized changes in performance, costume, make-up
or hairstyle.
• Audition Access: Equity has negotiated required auditions for principal
and chorus performers. Audition notices are posted on Equity’s website
and on Casting Hotlines in various Liaison cities. Annually, over 1,300
audition calls are held in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, while
hundreds more are held in other cities.
• Notify the stage manager before half-hour if you are ill or unable to
reach the theatre in time.
• Pension And Health Plans: Since 1960, Equity has required producers
to contribute to pension and health trust funds.
Equity is there for you: From unemployment and workers
compensation claims to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
(VITA), Equity has always been in the forefront in helping with the
struggles of actors and stage managers.
• Be on time for rehearsals and the scheduled half-hour.
• Equity is member-driven. BE INVOLVED!
Did you know that...
Fifteen percent of our members work primarily as Stage
Managers, coordinating the production during rehearsal and
performance periods and maintaining the artistic intentions of
the director after the opening of the show. They maintain the
prompt book, cue sheets and other records that are essential
to the running of a show, and they are a vital part of AEA.
Equity negotiates agreements with employers on behalf of its members.
Prior to Equity, most actors worked without contract or security of any
kind. Denouncing this state of affairs, AEA founder Frank Gilmore said
bitterly, “Ours is not a profession. It isn’t even a trade. It hasn’t even the
dignity of a vocation. It’s only a job! And half the time we don’t get
paid for it!” Equity’s purpose has always been to change this: to create
a binding contract that
would provide security for
When should I file my contract?
the actor, stage manager
A copy of your contract should be
and the employer. Today,
filed with Equity no later than first
Equity negotiates and
administers more than
35 national and regional
contracts which cover jobs in three categories: Principal, Chorus
and Stage Manager. The Principal contract (sometimes referred to
as a “white contract”) is used for all principal actors and most stage
managers. The Chorus contract (sometimes referred to as the “pink”
contract) is used for those actors who are primarily performing
chorus work.
Throughout the history of Equity, single strong voices have often made
the difference. Equity is a member-driven organization: from committees
to Regional Boards, from Council to the President, members run the
show! Once you earn your Equity membership, there are many ways
you can become involved:
• Let Your Voice Be Heard: The website and Equity News often become
a forum on issues facing Union members. Equity officials are quick to
reply to questions and concerns.
• Attend An Equity Meeting: Attend a membership meeting in an office
or liaison city.
• Vote: It is the right and duty of all Equity members (age 12+) to vote
in annual elections.
• Join A Committee: There are national and regional committees
dealing with issues from chorus affairs, to stage managers, young
performers, contract areas, EEO, filming and taping, agency regulations
and more. If your city is one of the 27 Liaison areas join your Liaison
Committee and participate in local events.
• Run For Office: Equity is governed by its members. Elections are held
on an annual basis. Elected Officers, Councillors, and Board members
receive no compensation for their many hours of service.
Equity is completely funded by members’ initiation fees and dues.
After earning your membership, Equity’s initiation fee must be paid
in full within a two-year period. Equity dues are paid in two ways:
basic dues are paid each May and November; working dues, a
percentage of your gross salary income (which does not include
contractually-mandated per diem) is automatically deducted from
your paycheck by your employer on your behalf.
Whenever you decide that the time is right to earn your Equity
membership, you will be joining a long line of theatrical artists who
have shown the world that acting is not only a job, but a profession
of influence and dignity.
“What’s in a name?” As an actor, your name is everythingjust ask Edna May Gilhooley, Alphonso D’Abruzzo, or Lauren
Anne D’Ambruoso (that is, Ellen Burstyn, Alan Alda and
Lauren Ambrose). Because names are so important to an
actor, Equity cannot issue you a professional name that is
identical (or similar sounding) to that of an already current
member. If a conflict exists, you will be advised when you join.
An informed membership is a strong union; information is the lifeblood
of Actors’ Equity. Equity members catch up on the latest news from a
variety of sources:
• Equity News: Equity News offers reliable and detailed news, updates
on contract negotiations and articles placing today’s news in historical
context. Equity News serves as a forum for Council elections and
features expansive coverage of Equity members and Equity theatres
around the country.
• Actors’ Equity Website: At, Equity members can
access Casting Call 24/7 for current audition notices as well as update
their member contact and financial information. Other features include
news from each of Equity’s regions, crucial announcements, touring
and negotiation updates, important events and meetings,
an extensive document library
Don’t miss out on a gig! Make
of Equity agreements and
sure your contact information is
codes, alerts about non-Equiup-to-date. You can manage
ty productions, a year-by-year
your Profile in the Member Portal
timeline of Equity history and,
section of the website.
of course, the Gypsy Robe.
165 West 46th St.
New York, NY 10036
Area Liaison Cities
Equity’s governing and administrative structure is divided into
three regions: Eastern, Central and Western. Equity maintains
offices and staff in NYC, Chicago, LA, and Orlando. Area
Liaison cities are home to Liaison committees which provide an
outlet for area involvement and a communications link to the
regional and national offices.
Austin/San Antonio
Dallas/Fort Worth
Florida - Central
Florida - South
Kansas City
Las Vegas
Minneapolis/St. Paul
New Orleans
San Diego
San Francisco Bay Area
St. Louis
Washington DC/Baltimore
557 West Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60661
5636 Tujunga Ave.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
10319 Orangewood Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32821
“I love performance. That time when the human beings onstage interact with the human
beings in the audience and together they create the event of performance. It’s one of life’s
most civilized experiences. It has been said that an Actor must have the hide of a
rhinoceros, the courage and audacity of a lion, and most importantly, the
fragile vulnerability of an egg. Actors are survivors… “
– Robert Prosky, Equity Member for 52 years
“From the smallest summer stock playhouse to Broadway, the theatre gives our people
a strong, personal bond with the ideas and ideals of our civilization… It gives our
best creative minds a forum, and gives all of us a much-needed diversion.
Actors’ Equity, in obtaining for its members
increased recognition and dignity, has greatly
strengthened the American Theatre.”
– John F. Kennedy, on the occasion of Equity’s 50th Anniversary
Photo credits 1. AEA Strike March, 1919; 2. Eric Hoffmann, Bruce Turk, MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR/Old Globe (Craig Schwartz); 3. Kitty Lunn, Infinity Dance Theater
(Dan Demetriad); 4. Starlight Theatre, Kansas City (Mark McDonald); 5. Meghan Andrews, Lois Smith, THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL / Goodman Theatre (Michael Brosilow);
6. Atlanta AEA Members and Equity Membership Candidates; 7. PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, record-breaking performance #7486 (Joan Marcus); 8. LEAGUE OF NATIONS/Mixed Blood Theatre (Rich Ryan); 9. BLACK BROADWAY: A MUSICAL CELEBRATION, Western EEOC Black History Month Celebration; 10. SHEER MADNESS, 9000th
Performance, Kennedy Center (Scott Hammar); 11. Cape Playhouse, Dennis, MA (courtesy of Cape Playhouse); 12. Kyle Harris, Alisa Schiff, Christine Hope, Michael
Sample, DREAM A LITTLE DREAM/Florida Stage (Ken Jacques); 13. Tommy Batchelor, Gregory Jbara, Kiril Kulish, Trent Kowalik, BILLY ELLIOT, Stephen J. Falat Basket Project (John Quilty); 14. Naomi Hubert, Jarrod Emick, CONTACT/North Shore Music Theatre (Paul Lyden); 15. South Florida AEA members, Habitat for Humanity Project;
16. Jennifer Cody, Gypsy Robe recipient, SHREK THE MUSICAL (Walter McBride); 17. SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS/The Muny (Herren Photography)
created by Peter Royston, David Lotz, Tom Miller, and Tim Thayer (stage spot lights by David Ritter)
Regional Offices