The Special Appearance Agreement was created as a way for Equity members to work with their local small community theatre groups, in areas beyond major market cities, on a case-by-case basis. The Agreement provides a service for Equity members to occasionally pursue artistic opportunities outside standard professional situations (hence the term "Special Appearance"); it was not intended to be a means of routine employment. Small theatre companies interested in the routine employment of Equity members should contact an Equity business representative to discuss use of a Small Professional Theatre agreement instead or review other contractual options.
WHO CAN USE A SPECIAL APPEARANCE AGREEMENT?
Equity members in “good standing” (no unresolved membership issues, such as unpaid dues or fines) may seek to work with theatre companies falling within the following seating, income and schedule limitations: - Theatres of 99 seats or less with a total potential weekly box office gross income of $10,000 or less, scheduling no more than 4 performances per week - Theatres of 199 seats or less with a total potential weekly box office gross income of $25,000 or less, scheduling no more than 5 performances per week. As long as the theatre company falls within these limitations and can satisfy prepayment and insurance coverage requirements, any theatre company may apply.
HOW MANY EQUITY MEMBERS CAN BE EMPLOYED USING A SPECIAL APPEARANCE AGREEMENT WITHIN THE SAME PRODUCTION?
A theatre company may apply on behalf of up to three Equity members for permission to use the Special Appearance Agreement. In certain territories (the greater Pittsburgh, PA area and the Buffalo/Rochester area of NY), a theatre company may apply on behalf of more than three Equity members for permissions, but such applications must include an Equity stage manager.
The online application must be submitted no later than three weeks prior to the date of first rehearsal. It may take up to four weeks to review applications after they are received, then possibly as long as another month to receive required payments and exchange contracts as described within the Special Appearance Agreement guidelines. As processing largely depends on prompt receipt of required payments, please allow sufficient lead time. Please be advised that applications received less than three weeks prior to the date of first rehearsal may be denied.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Please complete the online application, and an Equity staff member will be in touch with you for the approval decision and any next steps.
Please be aware that this online application cannot be saved. Make sure you have the information outlined below available before starting the application process.
You will need basic information about your producing organization, including the Federal ID, 501(c)3 status, educational affiliation, workers' comp and unemployment insurance information, primary and signatory contact information and how you will be handling payroll. This includes details about your paymaster, if you are using one.
Paymasters and Insurance Information
All producers must provide two basic forms of insurance coverage under the Special Appearance Agreement: Unemployment Insurance and Workers' Compensation Insurance. The Unemployment Insurance benefits must be those provided by the Unemployment Insurance Laws of the state in which the actor or stage manager works. If the theatre is exempt from paying this insurance by state law, the theatre must elect to pay either voluntary coverage in accordance with the New York or New Jersey State Unemployment Laws or use the services of a paymaster who can provide this benefit. Similarly, Workers' Compensation Insurance coverage must be obtained and maintained for all Equity members in the producer's employ and may not be waived; without such coverage, permission to use the Special Appearance Agreement will be denied. A weekly premium payment for Supplemental Workers' Compensation Insurance to extend standard coverage is also required and must be paid in addition to standard Workers' Compensation Insurance.
Paymasters can supply three essential services required by the Special Appearance Agreement:
- They can provide the production with both Workers’ Compensation Insurance coverage as well as Unemployment Insurance coverage.
- They will process the payroll for the production, including calculation and withholding of taxes listed on a statement accompanying payroll checks. (They will also send W-4 tax forms at year’s end.)
- They will issue pension/health and dues payments to Actors’ Equity Association. All payments issued by a paymaster are considered equal to certified/cashier’s checks or money orders since paymasters require payment in advance. Payroll services (such as ADP or Paychex) are not paymasters.
Paymasters function as the “Employer of Record.” If a paymaster is used, then the paymaster’s Federal ID number must be entered onto the application form, as well as the insurance policy numbers and carrier names held by the paymaster.
Equity can provide you with a list of paymasters who have worked with other theatres. Please note: Equity does not endorse any specific paymaster.
Conflict of Interest
If the person signing the contracts for the theatre company is a member of Equity, that member is an “Employer-Member” and subject to the provisions of Article VI (“Conflict of Interest”) of the Equity Constitution and By-Laws. The provisions restrict the Employer-Member from attending any Actors' Equity Association meetings. All other membership benefits (such as voting rights and pension and health benefits) are not affected by Article VI provisions.
Name of Play, Role, Production Dates and "Work Weeks" – The Equity work week runs Monday through Sunday, with no allowance for pro-rated weeks. This means that if the date of first rehearsal lands on a Sunday, that one day of rehearsal will be regarded as an entire work week. Therefore, careful scheduling is strongly advised.
Ticket Pricing & Weekly Potential Box Office Gross Income (WPBO)
Together with the size of theatre and the number of weekly performances, the Weekly Potential Box Office (WPBO) figure determines if the production qualifies for either of the two categories of Special Appearance Agreement. This figure is the MAXIMUM INCOME POSSIBLE if every seat was sold at its pre-assigned face value. Formula: $ [average ticket price] X [total # of seats] X [# of performances per week] = $ [WPBO]
METHODOLOGY: The "average ticket" price is the average of different prices that vary because of schedule or location. For example, if Friday and Saturday tickets cost $20 and the same number of seats on Wednesday and Thursday cost $10, then the average is $15. If no Wednesday performance occurs, the average would become $16.66 since the average would include fewer $10 tickets. By similar calculations, balcony or other "off-price" locations can be averaged, although this is unusual in small theatres. Discounts such as student discounts or senior citizen discounts are not part of calculations since the number sold at such discounts is unknown in advance.
ACTOR & STAGE MANAGER INFORMATION
Under all other salaried Equity agreements, health contributions are required by the contract. The Special Appearance Agreement does not require health contributions (except in the state of Minnesota). However, in the event a producer elects to provide health plan credits, payments must be made for every Equity member so employed. Please note that while health benefits are not required, it is still necessary for the theatre to contribute to Supplemental Workers' Compensation insurance coverage for each actor and stage manager in its employ (see the instructions for Paymasters & Insurance Information).
Although Equity establishes minimum salaries, stage managers & actors and their employers are encouraged to negotiate above such minimums whenever possible. Current minimums are listed in the Special Appearance chart below.
Housing & Travel (Per Diem)
If actors or stage managers will not be living at their home addresses and the actors or stage managers live 50 or more miles away from the theatre, the theatres must provide the actors or stage manager with free housing and a per diem (currently $25 per day for daily out-of-town expenses, paid separately from salary). Discussing this with the artist in order to ascertain the member's tastes and needs will help ensure the best results. If local transportation is necessary from the lodging to the theatre, the theatre must provide this transportation at no cost to the member.
The theatre must also provide out-of-town stage managers and actors round-trip transportation in the form of an airline or railroad ticket or cash at least three days in advance of that person's departure for the place of engagement. All transportation costs, including but not limited to taxis, baggage handling and gratuities, must be paid.
After the request has been processed by Actors' Equity Association, you will be notified if permission has been granted and all terms meet with Equity's approval. An emailed letter stating such permission will also specify the following required material that must be sent to Equity in order for contracts to be emailed for signature.
A. An electronic payment to the “EQUITY-LEAGUE PENSION AND HEALTH TRUST FUNDS” to cover these contributions for the entire period of employment.
B. Scans or photocopies of the final two certified NET WEEKLY PAYCHECKS or MONEY ORDERS in the amount of net weekly salary, payable to the actor or stage manager, along with itemized deductions.
C. An electronic payment to “ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION” to cover the member's dues obligation.
If you are unable to submit electronic payments, please note it in the comments box at the bottom of the online application, and an Equity staff member will contact you with alternative methods of payment.
Filing Contracts, Pension/Health Cards and Programs
Upon receipt of the electronic payments to Actors’ Equity Association and Equity League Pension & Health Trust Fund, and the scans of the Equity actors’ and stage managers’ final two week’s paychecks with itemized deductions, Equity will email the following material which should be filled out, properly executed, and immediately returned to the assigned Contract Management Associate: A pdf of the fully signed contract and any applicable riders. The actor or stage manager and producer should each retain a copy and each separately file a copy with Equity.
Additionally, please send Equity a copy of the program as soon as it is printed. REMEMBER: The Equity actor(s) and stage manager(s) must be properly credited in the cast list. An asterisk must follow their name(s) with the explanation: “Appearing Courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States, appearing under a Special Appearance Contract.”
The following table applies to Special Appearance Agreements between December 21, 2021 and January 1, 2023.
| Additional Performance (1)
| Length of Run
|Maximum Potential Box Office
|Minimum Salary - Actor
|Minimum Salary - Stage Manager
|Health (MN and Optional) - includes SWC
|12-hour Rest Violation
||See Business Rep
||See Business Rep
|Contracts allowed (w/o permission)
|Actors to SM Required
|Rehearsal/Performance Hours through 1st Paid Public Performance
||20 Hours Combined
||30 Hours Combined
|Rehearsal/Performance Hours after 1st Paid Public Performance
||20 Hours Combined
||30 Hours Combined
|Out of Town
|6 or more Rehearsal Weeks
||$50/Week After 5 Weeks
||$50/Week Starting with 26th Performance
||$50/Week Starting with 21st Performance
||$50/Week Starting with 26th Performance
|1 Week Contract
|Expanded Media Fee
||Not for use in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or San Francisco
Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.