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    Posted May 19, 2011

Getting Carded: Equity Welcomes New Members in NYC

by Dan Holloway, National News Editor
Reprinted With Permission: www.backstage.com


Equity member Courtney Moors (Photo: Actors' Equity Association)

The Actors’ Equity Association new-member reception is one of the great unsung rituals of the New York theater world. That it’s so unsung is surprising. You’d think in a room full of that many stage actors, somebody would sing something.

Equity welcomed 50 or so of its newest at its New York office Monday for this regular rite of passage, which takes place three to four times a year. Director of outreach and career development and EMC coordinator Thomas J. Miller—who is blessed with one of the longest and thus most important-sounding titles in all of organized labor—kicked things off by having the new members introduce themselves and share where they were from. At first, the exercise seemed like a time waster, but its point soon became clear. Equity’s newest hailed from Australia, Alabama, Florida, Ontario, England, Germany, Utah, and, yes, Southern California. The unspoken message was that these folks shared a common bond. They had left their homes and come from all corners of the globe to act on stage in New York—well, all of them except for the ones from Long Island. They can still have their moms do their laundry.

Miller then turned the lectern over to Tony winner Greg Jbara, who offered advice, answered questions, and talked about how hot his wife is. Jbara advised the actors not to assume “that somebody else is going to do the work for you,” telling them that once they’re fortunate enough to have representation, they can’t stop hustling. “Anybody who sits back will not be happy,” he said. He then had the newbies recite an artist’s prayer written by the late Walter Kerr. (Before he died and had a theater named after him, Kerr was the drama critic for The New York Times. It’s funny to imagine a group of actors gathered in Equity headquarters 50 years from now reading aloud the words of Ben Brantley. Time heals all wounds.)

Miller then returned, offered a toast of sparkling cider—a profound letdown for the lone journalist in the audience—and explained the basics of collective bargaining. With the union gearing up for negotiations with the Broadway League on a new Production Contract this summer, the primer was especially timely. The actors then took a break to nosh and be photographed holding their union cards in front of the Equity banner. When they returned, staff members from the Membership, Agency, and Auditions departments offered modules on the union’s functions and responsibilities.

Courtney Moors joined Equity in December after doing a couple shows at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. “It was a very big step,” she said of getting her card, shortly before jumping in line to have her picture taken with it. “I always respected my own work and the work of my peers, but this feels like the next step.”

Again, sadly, nobody sang—but some people probably would have, had they been given the chance.

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