When Equity’s Open Access initiative debuted in July of 2021, we announced that the first phase, dubbed “Open Access Immediately,” would expire on May 1, 2023. As that date approaches, we are pleased to share that Equity will be opening access permanently at that time. Going forward, Equity membership will be offered to all theatre workers who can demonstrate they have worked professionally as an actor or stage manager within Equity’s geographical jurisdiction.

With this new membership policy in place, Equity will phase out the Equity Membership Candidate Program over the next three years. Current membership candidates will retain EMC status during this time, including priority access to Equity auditions, but Equity will stop admitting new applicants to the EMC program effective May 8, 2023.

During the phase out, Equity will not track EMC points, since any EMC who has worked even once may join the union through Open Access.

There is no need for current EMCs to take any action now. For the next three years, EMCs may continue to utilize EMC access to Equity auditions while working both union and non-union jobs until they opt to join Equity. Candidates still must complete any non-union theatrical acting or stage managing jobs before joining the union. Any fees candidates have paid to the union as part of the EMC program will still be credited toward their initiation fee when they choose to join.

When Open Access launched, President Kate Shindle said, “The old system had a significant flaw: It made employers the gatekeepers of Equity membership, with almost no other pathways to joining.” The extension of Open Access and phasing out of the EMC program is an important step in taking back the authority over who may join Equity from our employers.

If you are ready now to become a member of Equity, you can start the process here. Otherwise, we look forward to welcoming you to full union membership when you feel the time is right.

Is Open Access working as far as diversifying our membership?
Yes. In 2020, 26% of Equity members who shared demographic information with the union had identified as people of color. Since the launch of Open Access, roughly 38% of members joining through the initiative who self-identified were people of color. Open Access is working. And while we still believe there are other barriers worth addressing in the future, it is opening the door to many actors and stage managers who never had an employer willing to open one for them. A working group of member leaders considered many different program options, but at the end of the day, it came down to how much we are seeing our membership demographics shift in a more equitable direction.

Why is the EMC program going away?
Equity’s Open Access membership policy is being extended indefinitely. Going forward, Equity membership will be offered to all theatre workers who can demonstrate they have worked professionally as an actor or stage manager within Equity’s geographical jurisdiction. This means that anyone who would qualify to become an Equity Membership Candidate now qualifies to become a full Equity member.

I am an EMC. Does this mean I lose all the EMC points that I worked for?
You could think of it that way, or you could think of this as granting you all the remaining points you need to complete the program. Either way, you no longer need to keep track of your points – you can join the union at any time.

I am an EMC. Does this mean I can work more than 50 weeks as a non-pro?
Yes. You can join the union when you’re ready. Any fees you have paid to the union will be credited towards the initiation fee, regardless of when you choose to join.

What does this mean as far as audition access for EMCs?
Current EMCs will maintain audition access for a three-year period. As of May 8, 2026, EMCs will no longer be recognized for prioritized audition access and will be seen on the same basis as other non-Equity actors.

I’m an Equity member and had to work hard to get my card. Why are we allowing anyone to join the union?
Union membership is not and should not be a measure of talent or achievement. Equity is a labor union formed to protect and advance the rights of workers in the theatre. Every stage manager and actor deserves fair pay, safe & sanitary workplaces and all the other contractual protections that come with union membership. More union members make the union stronger for everyone.