I got my Equity card in March 2011, by booking a production of Forever Plaid at the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre in Arrow Rock, Missouri.
I've been based out of New York for the past two and a half years, ever since moving here at 19 to attend AMDA; I graduated in February 2010. Since then I've been lucky enough to work consistently in a variety of great venues, from the cozy confines of Musicals Tonight up at the McGinn Cazale Theatre on 77th and Broadway to the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, New Hampshire — all great jobs, all great theatres, all in roles or plays I'd been a fan of since high school, but no Equity status. Not even a paltry EMC point to be found. After I finished doing my second show with Musicals Tonight, I vowed to myself that the next job I would take had to get me my Equity card.
I wanted it for the same reasons everyone wants it: a guarantee of representation, health benefits, access to more auditions and, most importantly, the ability to use the Equity bathroom. I had been incredibly happy with my non-equity jobs, and had made a livable amount of money off them, but so much of the theatre I was interested in was entirely Equity. I wanted that guarantee that if I got there early enough I would at least be seen. I was tired of waking up at 5 a.m. and going to auditions I was passionate about only to stay there for over 12 hours and be turned away. So, not having an agent, I did the only thing a non-union actor in that situation can do, I auditioned my ass off. I counted the auditions: 35 full days spent. Some I got seen, some I didn't.
I ran into a former teacher of mine one day and talked to him about what I'd been up to. A couple of days later, I got a Facebook message from an unfamiliar profile — it was the director of Forever Plaid, who is the partner of my teacher. It was an audition that I had sent in for, but was unable to attend. They had already finished casting their season, with the sole exception of Jinx in Forever Plaid, and my teacher had recommended me for the job. I studied the script, crammed as much research as possible, dressed the part and went to audition for them, and two weeks later I got the happy news. I bit every fingernail down to the bone waiting for my contract to come in — and the second it did I filled it out, went to Equity and paid the initiation fee. I went home without a penny in my pocket, but a brand-new temporary Equity card and an upcoming job. Since then, things have only gotten better: I've been seen at every audition I've gone to, and I have a lot of new, exciting things in my future!
Being an Equity member, first off, means opportunity to me. All of a sudden the kinds of shows I've always dreamed of doing are open to me — I am guaranteed to be seen even at a huge Broadway show audition. It's no guarantee of a job, but it's an opportunity to work even harder, a step closer to the caliber of theatre that I've always wanted to participate in. In addition, I now have a partner of sorts, a friendly watcher to ensure I am always treated with humanity and respect and paid in accordance with my efforts. It's also a personal validation: I am good enough to be allowed to compete with the pros. I'm not top-seeded, probably not even in anyone's draft roster, but I'm in the league, to stretch a metaphor to its breaking point. I think, above all else, it's been part of my dream since I was a child to have that little card in my wallet, and it just makes me smile a walk into that mythical lounge, flash it like I've seen countless people before me do and audition for anything on those walls.