During my junior year at Carnegie Mellon University, a classmate convinced me to fly to New York to audition for a new show that was opening on Broadway in a few months and was currently casting for its first national tour.
I had never been to a New York audition. My only trips to New York City had been the previous two spring breaks with friends from school. But I decided I might as well see what the experience was like.
My friend was already an Equity member so he just had to show up in the morning and get a time to sing later that day. There was no audition scheduled for non-union members, which meant we had to show up, line up and hope that they had time at some point during the day to see us.
I arrived at the Equity building sometime between 5 and 6am and was the fourth non-union actor in line. It turned out to be a popular audition, so we waited patiently all day as Equity members strolled by us in the hallway and flashed their union card to enter the members-only lounge. They were the cool kids while we had to take turns going to McDonald’s for bathroom breaks and food. Maybe I was a little jealous.
At 5:45pm, 15 minutes before the end of the audition day, the monitor came out and took the first five non-union members back to audition for the casting director. Once we got into the Equity lounge, he told us they only had time to see the five of us, and everyone else would be sent home. I was number four of the five people!
I sang for the casting director, was invited back to dance for the choreographer the next day and then spent my rent money to travel back to New York from Pittsburgh later that week for another callback. I couldn’t pay my rent for two months, but I got the job!!! I was cast in the First National Tour of Ragtime on a production contract and have been a proud union member since 1998.
And that’s how I got my Equity card!