Michael Cerveris

I spent my first year or two out of university doing the usual showcase and non-Equity work in places like the old Cubiculo Theatre (essentially a dank basement) and way Off-Broadway (i.e. Brooklyn), gathering knowledge and experience, but not much else. However, I had the good fortune (despite my non-union status) to be freelancing with a few provisionally supportive agents. One of them sent me to an audition for the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia - perhaps just to get me out of town so I would stop pestering them. At any rate, Jiri and Blanka Zizka saw enough raw material in me to make them believe they could mold me into something like the actor they needed to play Dorian Gray in their multimedia adaptation of Joyce's story. That job meant so much to me, not least because it provided me with my Equity card. That meant I had finally graduated from dank cellars, poor conditions and low pay to, well let's be honest, slightly mildewy ground floor facilities, somewhat better conditions and generally less low pay. But now I also had the strength and support of my colleagues and peers in continually fighting to improve conditions, compensation and opportunity for all of us. I got on the train to Philly a college graduate/waiter/aspiring actor and came home a professional actor/waiter! OK, so it didn't change my daily life overnight, but it really did make a personal and professional difference having achieved the rights and responsibilities of union membership in my chosen profession. To this day, that card is in my wallet giving me pride, gratitude and a sense of validation that I am a working actor receiving and contributing to the support and betterment of my colleagues and friends.