When I graduated with my degree in theatre from California State University, Fullerton in 1982, my husband of four years and I started our own production company, Griffin Productions. We produced business industrials, a full-time cabaret show, and various other ventures. Some years later, we found ourselves as the producers of a 6800-seat amphitheater in Burbank, producing concerts! We presented “Weird Al” Yankovic, The Gap Band, Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, among many others. At the end of that season, our initial funding fell through and we found ourselves bankrupt and a little broken. Being back to square one, off I went to my first professional theatre audition at the age of 27. (So old!)
The show was the first dinner theater production of A Chorus Line, directed by Danny Taylor. ACL was the first truly professional show that I ever saw as a high school student and thought, “They know! They know what is inside my heart!” At the audition, Danny saw something in this crazy non-union woman, and I was cast in the role of Bebe. The Grand Dinner Theatre in Anaheim had both union and non-union contracts, and there I was amidst all of these lovely actors who were saying, “Where the heck have you been?” “Off on other adventures” was the answer – but now I felt truly home.
It became Danny’s personal mission to get me my Equity card. He felt that it was long overdue and that I would thrive. He knew I had a professional background as a director and producer, so when Linda Talcott left the show to perform in Italy, he asked me to be the new dance captain and thus receive my Equity card. What!? So lucky!! There was never a moment of hesitation.
I had to prove myself to the other Equity members and earn their respect, which I hope I did after my first rehearsal. It was definitely a defining moment for me, and I have always been incredibly grateful to Danny Taylor for believing in me. And just a few years later I ended up sharing the line with Donna McKechnie in the 15th Anniversary National Tour. Full Circle!
Thirty-two years later I am so proud and happy with my union status; I would never have wanted it any other way. My contracts are well-protected and I have the opportunity for medical insurance, a pension and a fairly healthy 401(k). I know too, that if I were to have any issues while working, I have the union to back me up. For me, becoming Equity meant that I had truly made it as a pro.