After graduating college, I worked as a non-Equity stage manager by night and a theatrical electrician during the day. I finally got a break into the "big leagues" with an offer to be an ASM on A Christmas Story: The Musical at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota. This was still a non-Equity position, but it was with an Equity company, a union crew and the rest of the stage management team would be Equity; I couldn't believe my luck.
After a couple years of clambering for the non-Equity jobs at those larger theaters in the Twin Cities, I was offered a six-month contract at a summer stock theater in Utah (the dog trainer from that first production of Christmas Story was the one to recommend me for the job). The greatest part was that they were going to put me on an Equity contract for the last two weeks of the summer, thus getting me my card! But then, like so often, life happened. I had some medical problems arise that sent me home a mere five days into my contract. It was one of the most devastating moments I've had in my career. I had to give up six months of work AND my card!
Upon arriving back in the Twin Cities, feeling completely disheartened and hopeless, I started the process of lining up work for the next season. The production stage manager at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis responded with an opening in the fall for an Equity ASM. I was in complete disbelief! I had never expected the Guthrie to be the theater to get me my card, but nothing ever seems to works out the way you expect. I was finally making enough money to quit my side jobs and focus entirely on my stage management career. While the salaries and protection of the union were great, honestly, the biggest relief of joining was knowing that I had good, affordable health insurance as we headed into political uncertainty. When I was younger, I wasn't sure if I wanted to join Equity or not, but now, as a member, I can't imagine doing this as a career without it.